Portland, Aug 18 (AP/UNB) — Police arrested at least 13 people and seized metal poles, bear spray and other weapons Saturday as hundreds of far-right protesters and anti-fascist counter-demonstrators swarmed downtown Portland, Oregon.
Authorities closed bridges and streets to try to keep the rival groups apart. They were largely successful.
"This was a dynamic event with demonstrators frequently moving from one part of the city to another," Mayor Ted Wheeler said at an evening news conference.
As of early afternoon, most of the right-wing groups had left the area via a downtown bridge. Police used officers on bikes and in riot gear to keep black-clad, helmet- and mask-wearing anti-fascist protesters — known as antifa — from following them.
But hundreds of people remained downtown and on nearby streets, and there were skirmishes throughout the day. Police declared a gathering of mostly left-wing protesters near Pioneer Courthouse Square a "civil disturbance" and told people to leave.
Police spokeswoman Lt. Tina Jones at one point said there were about 1,200 on the streets, but that number fell throughout the day. Six people suffered minor injuries.
The events began late Saturday morning. Flag-waving members of the Proud Boys, Three Percenters militia group and others gathered downtown, some also wearing body armor and helmets. Police said they had seized the weapons, including shields, from multiple groups as they assembled along the Willamette River, which runs through the city.
More than two dozen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, including the FBI, were in the city for the right-wing rally. Portland Police said all of the city's 1,000 officers would be on duty for the gathering that was hyped on social media and elsewhere for weeks.
President Donald Trump weighed in early Saturday, writing on Twitter that "Portland is being watched very closely ... Hopefully the Mayor will be able to properly do his job."
He also wrote that "major consideration is being given to naming ANTIFA an 'ORGANIZATION of TERROR.'"
But it wasn't immediately clear what he meant by that as there's no mechanism for the United States government to declare a domestic organization a terror group.
Wheeler responded to the president's tweet in an interview with CNN, saying, "frankly, it's not helpful."
At the evening news conference Wheeler tied the demonstrations to "a rising white nationalist movement."
"We're certainly seeing that play out. ... Portland being a very progressive community is always going to be at or near ground zero of this battle," Wheeler said.
The self-described anti-fascists had vowed to confront the right-wing rally, while leaders from the far right urged their followers to turn out in large numbers to protest the arrests of six members of right-wing groups in the run-up to the event.
Patriot Prayer's Joey Gibson, who organized similar rallies in 2017 and 2018 that erupted in clashes, surrendered Friday on an arrest warrant for felony rioting. He was at a confrontation that broke out on May 1 outside a bar where antifa members had gathered after a May Day demonstration.
In a video he livestreamed on Facebook, Gibson accused the police of playing politics by arresting him but not the masked demonstrators who beat up conservative blogger Andy Ngo at a June 29 rally that drew national attention.
A video of that attack went viral and led the Proud Boys, who have been designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, to organize Saturday's event.
Police continue to investigate several incidents from clashes on May 1 and June 29 and are politically neutral, Jones said.
Authorities had asked residents not to call 911 unless it's a life-threatening emergency and to stay away from the heart of downtown.
Portland Police Chief Danielle Outlaw said authorities tried to keep everyone safe and allow people to exercise their free speech rights.
"Today was a long and arduous day," Outlaw said at the news conference. "The disruptions were held to a very small area of downtown Portland."
Afghanistan, Aug 18 (AP/UNB) — The death toll from a suicide bombing at a wedding in Afghanistan's capital is at least 63, including women and children, officials said Sunday, as Kabul reeled from its deadliest attack this year.
Another 182 civilians were wounded in the Saturday night explosion, government spokesman Feroz Bashari said. Interior Ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi confirmed the toll.
The Taliban have condemned the attack and denied any involvement in the blast that carried the hallmarks of an assault by the local affiliate of the Islamic State organization.
The blast occurred in a western Kabul neighborhood that many in the minority Shiite Muslim Hazara community call home, and the Islamic State affiliate has claimed responsibility for some attacks against the community in the past.
Rahimi said the attacker set off explosives among the wedding participants.
The blast occurred near the stage where musicians were and "all the youths, children and all the people who were there were killed," witness Gul Mohammad said. One of the wounded, Mohammad Toofan, said that "a lot of guests were martyred."
"There are so many dead and wounded," said Ahmad Omid, a survivor, adding that about 1,200 guests had been invited to the wedding for his father's cousin. "I was with the groom in the other room when we heard the blast and then I couldn't find anyone. Everyone was lying all around the hall."
Outside a local hospital, families wailed. Others were covered in blood.
The blast at the Dubai City wedding hall in western Kabul shattered a period of relative calm. On Aug. 7, a Taliban car bomb aimed at Afghan security forces detonated on the same road, killing 14 people and wounding 145 — most of them women, children and other civilians.
Kabul's huge, brightly lit wedding halls are centers of community life in a city weary of decades of war, with thousands of dollars spent on a single evening.
"Devastated by the news of a suicide attack inside a wedding hall in Kabul. A heinous crime against our people; how is it possible to train a human and ask him to go and blow himself (up) inside a wedding?!!" Sediq Seddiqi, spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said in a Twitter post.
The wedding halls also serve as meeting places, and in November at least 55 people were killed when a suicide bomber sneaked into a Kabul wedding hall where hundreds of Muslim religious scholars and clerics had gathered to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The Taliban denied involvement in an attack that bore the hallmarks of the Islamic State affiliate.
Saturday night's explosion came a few days after the end of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha, with Kabul residents visiting family and friends, and just before Afghanistan marks its 100th independence day on Monday under heavier security in a city long familiar with checkpoints and razor wire.
The blast comes at a greatly uncertain time in Afghanistan as the United States and the Taliban near a deal to end a nearly 18-year war, America's longest conflict.
The Afghan government has been sidelined from those discussions, and presidential spokesman Seddiqi said earlier Saturday that his government was waiting to hear results of President Donald Trump's meeting Friday with his national security team about the negotiations. Top issues include a U.S. troop withdrawal and Taliban guarantees not to let Afghanistan become a launching pad for global terror attacks.
Union Vale, Aug 18(AP/UNB) — New York state police say a plane crashed into a home near Poughkeepsie, setting a massive fire and killing one resident and one person on the aircraft.
The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why the Cessna 303 plunged Sunday afternoon in Union Vale, 15 miles southeast of Poughkeepsie.
State police spokesman Steven Nevel says three men were on the plane; one died, two were injured. Of three people in the home, one died, another was seriously hurt and the third is missing.
Two puppies and a grown dog escaped the flames that engulfed the house.
The names of the victims were not immediately released.
The Federal Aviation Administration says the Cessna left Sky Acres Airport in Lagrangeville, one mile from the crash, and was headed to Republic Airport on Long Island.
Bangkok, Aug 17 (AP/UNB) — An 8-month-old dugong nurtured by marine experts after it was found lost near a beach in southern Thailand has died of what biologists believe was a combination of shock and ingesting plastic waste, officials said Saturday.
The female dugong — a large ocean mammal — was named "Marium" and became a hit in Thailand after images of biologists embracing and feeding her with milk and seagrass spread across social media. Veterinarians and volunteers had set out in canoes to feed Marium up to 15 times a day while also giving her health checks.
Last week, she was found bruised after being chased and supposedly attacked by a male dugong during the mating season, said Jatuporn Buruspat, director-general of the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources.
She was brought in for treatment in the artificial sea on Libong Island in Krabi province.
"We assume she wandered off too far from her natural habitat and was chased and eventually attacked by another male dugong, or dugongs, as they feel attracted to her," Jatuporn said Saturday.
An autopsy showed a big amount of plastic waste in her intestine, which could also have played a part in her death as it led to gastritis and blood infection, he said.
"She must have thought these plastics were edible," Jatuporn said.
The dugong is a species of marine mammal similar to the American manatee and can grow to about 3.4 meters (11 feet) in length. Its conservation status is listed as vulnerable.
Natural Resources and Environment Minister Varawut Silpa-arcpha said Marium's death saddens the whole nation and the world.
"Her death will remind Thais and people all over the world not to dispose trash into the oceans," Varawut said at a news conference.
South Korea, Aug 16 (AP/UNB) — North Korea on Friday bluntly criticized South Korean President Moon Jae-in for continuing to hold military exercises with the US and over his rosy comments on inter-Korean diplomacy, and said Pyongyang has no current plans to talk with Seoul.
The statement by an unidentified government spokesman came hours before South Korea's military detected two projectiles North Korea fired into the sea to extend a torrid streak of weapons display that's apparently aimed at pressuring Washington and Seoul over their joint drills and slow nuclear negotiations.
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff said the projectiles launched from the North's eastern coast flew about 230 kilometers (143 miles) on an apogee of 30 kilometers (18 miles) before landing in waters between the Korean Peninsula and Japan. The U.S. and South Korean militaries were analyzing the launches but didn't immediately say whether the weapons were ballistic missiles or rocket artillery.
The North has ignored South Korean calls for dialogue recently and is seen as trying to force Seoul to make stronger efforts to coax major concessions from Washington on its behalf.
Moon, in a televised speech on Thursday, said a momentum for dialogue remains alive despite the series of "worrying actions taken by North Korea recently." He called for Pyongyang to choose "economic prosperity over its nuclear program."
The spokesperson of the North's Committee for the Peaceful Reunification of the Country said Moon's comments would make a "boiled head of a cow (fall into) a side-splitting laughter."
"A sure thing is that the (South) Korean chief executive is (such a) funny man as he just reads what was written by his juniors," the statement said, while avoiding calling Moon by his name.
The statement also criticized South Korea's recent acquisition of advanced U.S.-made fighter jets and said it would be "senseless" for Moon to believe that inter-Korean dialogue will automatically begin after the end of the ongoing U.S.-South Korean drills.
"We have nothing to (talk about) any more with (South) Korean authorities nor have any (plans) to sit with them again," the statement said.
The North had recently said it would talk only with Washington and not Seoul, and that inter-Korean dialogue won't resume unless the South offers a "plausible excuse" on why it keeps hosting military drills with the United States. Seoul's Unification Ministry, which deals with inter-Korean affairs, criticized the North Korean statement, saying it wouldn't help efforts to improve relations.
Pyongyang has also been demanding that Seoul turn away from Washington and restart inter-Korean economic projects held back by U.S.-led sanctions against the North.
The United States has so far rejected North Korea's demands for sanctions relief in exchange for piecemeal deals toward partially surrendering its nuclear capabilities and urged Pyongyang to commit to completely relinquishing its nuclear and missile program.
Friday's launches were North Korea's sixth round of tests since late July, when it stepped up its weapons demonstrations while expressing frustration over stalemated nuclear negotiations with the United States as well as the U.S.-South Korean drills that the North sees as an invasion rehearsal.
South Korea's presidential office said national security adviser Chung Eui-yong presided over an emergency National Security Council meeting and Moon was briefed on the launches. The Blue House called for the North to stop launches that risk raising military tensions on the peninsula.
The weapons the North tested in recent weeks included a new rocket artillery system and what security analysts say are two new short-range mobile ballistic missile systems that would potentially expand its ability to strike targets throughout South Korea, including U.S. bases there.
Experts say President Donald Trump's downplaying of the North's launches allowed the country more room to intensify its testing activity and advance its short-range weaponry while it seeks to build leverage ahead of a possible resumption of negotiations, which could happen sometime after the end of the allied drills later this month.
Japan's Defense Ministry said the North Korean projectiles did not reach the country's territorial waters or its exclusive economic zone. The White House said it was aware of reports of the launches and was consulting with Seoul and Tokyo.