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Ecuador protests: Army moves into capital Quito to combat increased violence | World News

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The capital of Ecuador has been placed under military curfew after masked protesters attacked the national audit office and a TV station, which they tried to break into as terrified employees cowered inside.

President Lenin Moreno ordered troops on to the streets of Quito after a major escalation in demonstrations over a recent rise in fuel prices, with a newspaper headquarters among the sites targeted.

Anti-austerity protests have taken place across Ecuador throughout the week, with people unhappy about a sudden surge in the cost of fuel.

GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR - OCTOBER 12: Police launch tear gas to disperse protesters  during the protests against the economic measures taken by President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno on October 12, 2019 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ecuador faces the 10th day of protests to repeal the government's measure to end a four-decade fuel subsidy. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have escalated leaving five people dead. President Moreno has refused to overturn the measure and protest organizers, now led by indigenous communities, have agreed to dialogue with the president. (Photo by Eduardo Maquilon/Agencia Press South/Getty Images)
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Police launch tear gas to disperse protesters

But the marches were hijacked by dozens of masked men on Saturday, who broke into the national audit office and started a fire inside.

More than 20 masked men swarmed the offices of private TV station Teleamazonas, setting fires on the grounds and trying to break in, and security guards at the newspaper El Comercio were seized and tied up.

The president has blamed the violence on drug traffickers, organised crime and backers of predecessor Rafael Correa, who has denied allegations he is trying to topple the government.

Mr Moreno was the vice president to the left-wing Mr Correa before taking the top job and the two men went through a bitter split because the former wanted to introduce sweeping measures to tackle public debt.

The rise in fuel prices formed part of an International Monetary Fund-backed austerity package, angering indigenous people who had expressed a willingness to negotiate before the violence escalated.

Mr Moreno appeared on national television to insist he did not blame the indigenous protesters for the violence, but said the army would not hold back in its bid to bring the ugly scenes to an end.

QUITO, ECUADOR - OCTOBER 12: Demonstrators  burn tires to protect against gas during the protests against the economic measures taken by President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno on October 12, 2019 in Quito, Ecuador. Ecuador faces the 10th day of protests to repeal the government's measure to end a four-decade fuel subsidy. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have escalated leaving five people dead. President Moreno has refused to overturn the measure and protest organizers, now led by indigenous communities, have agreed to dialogue with the president. (Photo by Ricardo Landera/Agencia Press South/Getty Images)
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Demonstrators burn tyres to protect against gas

Soldiers have used tear gas since being deployed in Quito, which has been littered with makeshift barricades, and have been tasked with restricting movement.

The president added: “I have ordered the Armed Forces Joint Command to immediately undertake all the necessary measures and operations. We are going to restore order in all of Ecuador.”

Despite the curfew, leading indigenous protest group Conaie has said its demonstrations will continue – but it acknowledged that proposed talks with Mr Moreno were now at risk.

In a statement posted on Twitter, the group said: “There’s no real dialogue without guarantees for the safety of indigenous leaders.

“We’ll carry out approaches to try to repeal the decree, but we will hold protest actions nationally, exhorting the government to provide necessary guarantees.”

GUAYAQUIL, ECUADOR - OCTOBER 12:  A demonstrator is arrested by the police in the middle of the disturbances during the protests against the economic measures taken by President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno on October 12, 2019 in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Ecuador faces the 10th day of protests to repeal the government's measure to end a four-decade fuel subsidy. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have escalated leaving five people dead. President Moreno has refused to overturn the measure and protest organizers, now led by indigenous communities, have agreed to dialogue with the president. (Photo by Eduardo Maquilon/Agencia Press South/Getty Images)
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More than 1,000 people have been arrested

Mr Moreno, 66, has not indicated when the curfew in Quito might end, but has said a “good part” of the capital has been returned to calm since the army arrived.

He has not said when talks with indigenous leaders might now take place, but has indicated he would be willing to try and reach a compromise – including requiring private companies to pay employees a monthly $20 bonus.

Before the demonstrations, which have resulted in more than 1,100 arrests, he had been reluctant to reconsider his austerity policies, having signed a $4.2m loan deal with the International Monetary Fund.

QUITO, ECUADOR - OCTOBER 12: Women from different parts of Ecuador march through the streets of Quito to ask for peace and to eliminate the economic measures taken by President of Ecuador Lenin Moreno on October 12, 2019 in Quito, Ecuador. Ecuador faces the 10th day of protests to repeal the government's measure to end a four-decade fuel subsidy. Clashes between demonstrators and security forces have escalated leaving five people dead. President Moreno has refused to overturn the measure and protest organizers, now led by indigenous communities, have agreed to dialogue with the president. (Photo by Jorge Ivan Castaneira Jaramillo/Getty Images)
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The demonstrations had been mostly peaceful until now

The scale of the unrest – which has also led to five deaths, more than 1,000 people being injured and the closure of some oil wells – has forced him to change tact.

Mr Moreno has been delivering his addresses from the coastal city of Guayaquil, having moved his government base from the capital as a result of the protests.

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Grace Millane’s former partner: She asked me to choke her during sex | World News

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British backpacker Grace Millane belonged to BDSM dating sites and allowed a former partner to choke her during sex, a court has heard.

An ex-boyfriend of the university graduate from Essex said they had used a system of safe words and signals to make sure she was never in danger.

A statement from the man, whose identity is protected, was read to the jury at the trial of a 27-year-old New Zealander accused of strangling Grace to death at the end of a Tinder date.

Grace Millane entering hotel after date with alleged killer
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Grace Millane entering hotel after date with the man accused of murdering her

The defendant, who also cannot be named for legal reasons, says Miss Millane died accidentally during consensual sex at his apartment in Auckland last December after she asked him to put his hands on her neck during rough sex.

Miss Millane’s former partner said in a statement read to Auckland High Court: “When we researched it we knew the word was asphyxiation.

“Grace and I discussed keeping hands wide and on the side of the neck, never on the front.

“Grace and I would have a safe word most of the time which we had discussed, something like “turtle” or something ridiculous. Grace and I used a tapping practice too. If Grace tapped me three times then it would stop.

“Grace would tap out maybe one in four times.

“Grace would be sure to do this and I trusted that anytime it was too much for Grace she would do this. Grace and I were careful to discuss not only the physical but the psychological aspects to practising BDSM.”

The suspect cannot be identified for legal reasons
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The suspect cannot be identified for legal reasons

Statements from police revealed that Miss Millane had been active on BDSM dating site Whiplr an hour before meeting the defendant outside a central city casino.

Defence barrister Ron Mansfield told the jury: “All the evidence shows that Miss Millane was a loving, bright, intelligent young woman and she was.

“That is her reputation and that should be her reputation and her memory at the start of this trial and at the conclusion if it.

“The fact that we need to discuss with you what she liked to do in the bedroom should have no impact on he reputation at all.”

But, he said: “It’s important that we are fully informed. It’s not the time for embarrassment or immaturity.

“If this couple engaged in consensual sexual activity which included pressure being applied to her neck with her consent and that went wrong, that is not murder.

“Death through this mechanism may thankfully be rare but it does happen and sadly it happened here.”

Mr Mansfield said the defendant admits Grace died from pressure he placed on her neck but said expert evidence was consistent with his account that it was consensual, not violent.

In a police interview, the trial heard last week, he said he only realised Grace was dead when he found her lying on the floor but admits then cramming her body into a suitcase which he buried in a shallow grave in the woods.

Mr Mansfield said his failure to call for help, disposal of Grace’s body and lies to police were due to panic.

“He may have thought he wouldn’t be believed,” Mr Mansfield told the jury, “but don’t prove him right.”

Grace Millane's parents David and Gillian arrive at Auckland High Court
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Grace Millane’s parents David and Gillian have been at the trial in Auckland

The court also heard that Miss Millane had drunk so much that night that her heart may have gone into a “terminal tailspin” when she was choked during sex.

Pathologist Dr Fintan Garavan, appearing as a defence witness, told the jury a combination of obstruction of the blood flow, pressure on her nervous system and being drunk meant she might have died quickly.

There were no signs of her having struggled and her plight “would not be obvious to a person nearby unless you know what you are looking for,” he said.

Defence barrister Ian Brookie said Miss Millane had drunk four mango cocktails, one tequila shot, two whisky cocktails herself and shared three half litre jugs of margheritas and sangria with her alleged killer during their night out.

Dr Garavan said the alcohol, in conjunction with the choking, was “an iceberg making its way into the shipping lane”.

“It very likely has become an important indirect player in causing death,” he said, explaining that being drunk could turn off a “safety valve” which would normally trigger someone to fight for breath.

Dr Garavan, who examined hundreds of photographs of Grace’s body, agreed the primary cause of death was asphyxiation, which he said would have required just one kilogram of pressure.

But he said the absence of deeper haemorrhages in the neck muscles, fractures or scratches to the skin “would favour consensual” choking.

The trial continues.

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Protesters in Iran warned of ‘decisive’ action if unrest continues | World News

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Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have warned of “decisive” action if protests in the country continue.

At least five people have been killed in the unrest, which began on Friday after the announcement of fuel rationing and a 50% hike in the price of petrol.

At least 100 banks, buildings and cars were torched, according to state media.

Iranian authorities shut down the internet on Saturday but videos shared online before then contained sounds of gunfire and images of badly injured people.

In a statement, the country’s main security force said: “If necessary we will take decisive and revolutionary action against any continued moves to disturb the people’s peace and security.”

Fars, a semi-official news agency in Iran, said there had been more than 87,000 protesters across the country and that around 1,000 had been arrested.

The streets were reportedly calmer on Monday and General Gholamreza Soleimani, head of the Basij, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, insisted security forces had acted with “restraint and patience”.

An Iranian man checks a scorched gas station that was set ablaze by protesters during a demonstration against a rise in gasoline prices in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, on November 17, 2019
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A petrol station in Eslamshahr, near the Iranian capital of Tehran, was targeted

Iran is home to the world’s fourth-largest crude oil reserves and cheap oil is almost seen as a birthright but even this has not saved the economy from difficulty.

Since US President Donald Trump withdrew his country from the 2015 nuclear deal last year and imposed sanctions instead, jobs have become scarce and the currency has collapsed.

When the nuclear deal was put on ice, Iran’s rial was trading at 32,000 to $1 but this has worsened to more than 123,000 to $1.

Sky News diplomatic editor Dominic Waghorn said: “Iran’s government had claimed US sanctions were uniting the people behind them but these scenes [of the protests] suggest a different story.”

Parliamentary elections are due in February and the unrest, the worst since 2017, will be another challenge for President Hassan Rouhani.

Mr Rouhani had said the petrol price rises would help raise money for handouts to 18 million families struggling families, which begin this week.

US Secretary Of State Mike Pompeo said he was monitoring the protests and was deeply concerned by reports of fatalities.

But Iran’s foreign minister Mohammad Javad Zarif hit back with: “A regime that impedes food and medicine to ordinary people, including the elderly and the sick, by economic terrorism can never get away with the obscene claim of supporting the Iranian people.”

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Trump administration announces softer US stance on Israeli settlements in West Bank | UK News

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Mike Pompeo has said the US is softening its position on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank – the latest move from the Trump administration to anger Palestinians.

The US Secretary of State rebutted a 1978 State Department legal opinion that held that civilian settlements in the occupied territories are “inconsistent with international law”.

The move weakens Palestinian claims to statehood and puts the US at odds with other nations working to end the conflict.

Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law
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Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration does not consider Israeli settlements in the West Bank a violation of international law

However the latest US backing of Israel came as a victory for Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who is struggling to remain in power after two inconclusive elections this year.

Mr Pompeo said US statements regarding the settlements – which Israel captured during a 1967 war – had been inconsistent.

He said Democrat President Jimmy Carter found they were not consistent in 1978, and that Republican President Ronald Reagan said he did not view them as inherently illegal in 1981.

Mr Pompeo said that legal questions about the issue should be addressed by Israeli courts.

He added: “Calling the establishment of civilian settlements inconsistent with international law has not advanced the cause of peace.

“The hard truth is that there will never be a judicial resolution to the conflict and arguments about who is right and who is wrong as a matter of international law will not bring peace.”

His announcement was praised by Mr Netanyahu but condemned by Palestinian officials.

Tear gas fumes are fired during a demonstration by Palestinian journalists alongside Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank
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Tear gas fumes are fired during a demonstration by Palestinian journalists alongside Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank
A Palestinian journalist carries away a child as other photojournalists assist a falling woman as they walk amidst tear gas canisters
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Palestinian journalists help a child and a falling woman as tear gas is fired around them

The US also issued a warning to Americans in the region to exercise greater vigilance because those opposing the move “may target US government facilities, US private interests and US citizens”.

Mr Netanyahu said the US decision “rights a historical wrong” and called on other countries to take a similar stance.

A statement from Mr Netanyahu’s office said: “Israel is deeply grateful to President Trump, Secretary Pompeo and the entire US administration for their steadfast position supporting truth and justice, and calls upon all responsible countries who hope to advance peace to adopt a similar position.”

Meanwhile Palestinians voiced outrage.

A spokesman for Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas condemned Mr Pompeo’s announcement, claiming settlements are illegal under international law.

Trump's move might have been designed to help Benjamin Netanyahu as he struggles to stay in power
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Trump’s move might have been designed to help Benjamin Netanyahu as he struggles to stay in power

“The US administration has lost its credibility to play any future role in the peace process,” spokesman Nabil Abu Rdeneh said.

Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erekat said the Trump administration was threatening “to replace international law with the ‘law of the jungle'”.

Ayman Safadi, Jordan’s foreign minister, said the US policy change would have “dangerous consequences” for the prospects of reviving peace talks. He called settlements “a blatant violation of international law and United Nations Security Council resolutions.”

Past Trump administration pro-Israeli moves include President Donald Trump’s decision to recognise Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, as well as the movement of the US Embassy to Jerusalem and the closure of the Palestinian diplomatic office in Washington.



Video from a traffic camera in central Israel captured the moment on Tuesday when a rocket strikes a major highway only metres from several passing vehicles.







Gaza-fired rocket lands on Israel highway

Mr Pompeo said the move was not intended to prejudge the status of the West Bank, which the Palestinians hope will become part of an eventual Palestinian state in a wider resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This is for the Israelis and the Palestinians to negotiate,” he said, adding that the US decision was not meant “to compel a particular outcome nor create any legal obstacle to a negotiated resolution”.

Mr Pompeo’s announcement is likely to please evangelical Christians – an important part of Mr Trump’s political base – which he is relying on to help him win re-election in 2020.

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