Manila, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — The Philippine Navy extricated one of its largest warships from the shoal where it ran aground last week near a hotly disputed region in the South China Sea.
Two Philippine security officials told The Associated Press on Tuesday that tugboats were used to pull the BRP Gregorio del Pilar from the shallow fringes of Half Moon Shoal, which the Philippines calls Hasa Hasa, before midnight.
The frigate, which was being towed back to a Philippine port, ran aground during a routine patrol Wednesday night, damaging some of its propellers. Its more than 100 crewmen were unhurt.
The barren shoal is on the eastern edge of the disputed Spratly archipelago, where tensions have run high in recent years after China built seven disputed reefs into man-made islands and reportedly installed missile defense systems.
Philippine defense officials notified their Chinese counterparts after the accidental grounding of the Philippine Navy frigate at the shoal, which Beijing claims, to avoid any misunderstanding, said the two Philippine officials, who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the issue publicly.
Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana said last week that China offered to help but that the Philippines would handle it.
A Chinese frigate ran aground on the shoal in 2012 and was pulled away by Chinese military ships.
Half Moon Shoal lies about 110 kilometers (68 miles) from the southern tip of the western Philippine island of Palawan and south of the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, where a Philippine navy transport ship was intentionally grounded in 1999 and has since served as a Philippine military outpost.
China has repeatedly demanded the now-rusty BRP Sierra Madre be removed from Second Thomas Shoal, which is claimed by the Philippines and China.
A military report seen by the AP said the propellers of the BRP Gregorio del Pilar were damaged by the grounding. The crew reported, however, that the frigate was not taking in water.
At least four Philippine Navy and Coast Guard ships were deployed to secure the BRP Gregorio del Pilar and provide food and other supplies to its sailors. Tugboats were hired to extricate the ship, military spokesman Col. Noel Detoyato said.
The frigate is one of three former U.S. Coast Guard cutters acquired by the Philippine military and are the Philippines' largest warships.
The United States and Asian governments which have claims in the disputed sea, including the Philippines, have raised alarms over China's island building and militarization of the strategic territory.
The Philippines has been one of the most vocal critics of China's assertive moves in the disputed waters. In 2016, it largely won a complaint it lodged before an international tribunal, which invalidated Beijing's sweeping territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, however, took steps to revive once-frosty ties with China after he took office in 2016 as he sought infrastructure funding and more trade and investment from Beijing.
Tokyo, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Heavy rain and crashing surf were striking western Japan as a powerful typhoon neared its Pacific coast Tuesday, disrupting train service and air travel.
Typhoon Jebi, heading north, was forecast to make landfall later in the day and cross the main island of Honshu. The Japan Meteorological Agency said it had sustained winds of 160 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour) with gusts to 215 kph (130 mph).
More than 600 domestic flights have been cancelled, according to Japanese broadcaster NHK. High-speed bullet train service was suspended between Osaka and Hiroshima cities.
In Osaka, the Universal Studios Japan theme park and U.S. consulate were both closed. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe cancelled a scheduled trip to Kyushu, Japan's southernmost main island, to oversee the government's response to the typhoon, Kyodo News service said.
Jerusalem, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, who once compared himself favorably to Adolf Hitler, paid a solemn visit to Israel's national Holocaust memorial on Monday, branding the Nazi leader "insane" as he lamented the genocide of 6 million Jews.
The comments marked a dramatic turnaround for Duterte, who just two years ago had compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and said he would be "happy to slaughter" 3 million addicts. He later apologized.
Duterte, known for his profane outbursts and accused of committing widespread human rights abuses, spoke quietly and respectfully during his stop at the Yad Vashem memorial. He said the Holocaust should never be repeated and that "despots" have no place in the modern world.
"I could not imagine a country obeying an insane leader, and I could not ever fathom the spectacle of the human being going into a killing spree, murdering old men, women and children. I hope this will not happen again," he said.
"There is always a lesson to learn: that despots and leaders who show insanity, they should be disposed of at the first instance," he said.
Duterte, the first Philippine president to visit Israel, has received a warm welcome from the government, despite criticism that it is embracing a leader accused of rights abuses in his deadly crackdown on drug dealers.
The agenda reportedly is expected to include an arms sale to the Philippines. Israel agreed in the past to sell assault rifles to the Philippines national police force.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu remarked Monday on the countries' long friendship. He said the Philippines took in Jewish refugees after World War II and was the only Asian nation to vote for Israel's establishment. He noted that Filipino health aides now assist the elderly in Israel, including Netanyahu's father.
"We remember our friends, and that friendship has blossomed over the years and especially over the last few years," Netanyahu told Duterte. "There has been a remarkable phenomenon in Israel where thousands and thousands of families have taken heart from the support given by Filipino caretakers for the elderly."
Duterte thanked Israel for hosting some 28,000 Filipino workers and for assisting his country in times of need.
"We share the same passion for peace. We share the same passion for human beings. But also we share the same passion of not allowing our country to be destroyed by those who have the corrupt ideology, who know nothing but to kill and destroy," he said at a joint appearance with Netanyahu. "And in this sense, Israel can expect any help that the Philippines can extend to your country."
The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1957. Netanyahu has worked to cultivate new allies in Asia, Africa and Latin America, where many countries have historically sided with the Palestinians in their conflict with Israel, to help chip away at the number of anti-Israel votes at the United Nations.
But Netanyahu has come under fire for embracing Duterte, a 73-year-old former government prosecutor whose forces are accused of killing thousands in anti-drug raids since he took office in 2016.
Duterte drew outrage that year when he compared his anti-drug campaign to the Holocaust and himself to Hitler. More recently, he forcibly kissed a woman on stage and said there would be many rape cases in a Philippine city "if there were many beautiful women."
In its lead editorial Monday, the liberal Haaretz daily accused Netanyahu of selling out Israeli values for dubious allies.
"Under the shadow of Duterte's visit, Israel once again proves it's willing to overlook leaders' human rights violations for the sake of opportunities for arms deals and defense contracts," the newspaper said.
Duterte, who calls U.S. President Donald Trump a friend and in 2016 cursed President Barack Obama for alleged meddling, offered the former occupant of the White House an apology of sorts.
"I said, 'Son of a bitch, Obama you can go to hell. You son of a bitch.' I said that because he was not a civilized person," Duterte said in Israel. "It would be appropriate also to say at this time to Mr. Obama that, 'You are now a civilian and I am sorry for uttering those words.'"
Duterte has been criticized for a brutal crackdown on the Philippine drug trade. Reports of extrajudicial slayings of alleged dealers surfaced during Obama's presidency.
Official Philippine police tallies put the number of suspects killed in police-led drug raids at more than 4,500 since Duterte took office.
International human rights watchdogs have cited far higher death tolls. Duterte denies condoning extrajudicial killings, but has openly threatened drug dealers with death.
His visit to Israel was to include a stop at a monument commemorating the Philippines' rescue of Jews during the Holocaust.
Islamabad, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — The founder of Afghanistan's much-feared Haqqani network, a former U.S. ally turned fierce enemy, has died after years of ill health, a Taliban spokesman said Tuesday. Jalaluddin Haqqani was 72.
Haqqani died Monday inside Afghanistan, Zabihullah Mujahed told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. The elderly founder of the outlawed Afghanistan-based organization, once hailed as a freedom fighter by U.S. President Ronald Reagan, had been paralyzed for the past 10 years.
In announcing his death Tuesday, Mujahed called Haqqani a religious scholar and exemplary warrior.
Because of his infirmity, Haqqani's network has been led by his son Sirajuddin Haqqani, who is also deputy head of the Taliban. Considered the most formidable of the Taliban's fighting forces, the Haqqani network has been linked to some of the more audacious attacks in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani joined the Taliban when they overran Kabul in September 1996, expelling feuding mujahedeen groups, whose battles left the capital in ruins.
Since then, the network has been among the fiercest foes fighting U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan. The elder Haqqani's death is not expected to impact the network's military might or strategy.
Haqqani was among the Afghan mujahedeen, or holy warriors, the United States backed in the 1980s to fight the former Soviet Union's invading army, sent to Afghanistan in 1979 to prop up the pro-Moscow government. Haqqani was praised by the late U.S. Congressman Charlie Wilson as "goodness personified." After 10 years, Moscow negotiated an exit from Afghanistan in an agreement that eventually led to the collapse of Kabul's communist government and a takeover by the mujahedeen.
In 2012 the United States declared the Haqqani network a terrorist organization. Haqqani had not been heard from in several years and reports of his death were widespread in 2015.
Declassified U.S. cables called Haqqani a "moderate socialist" who did not embrace the Taliban's strict rules that denied girls education. "Haqqani functions more in the military area, and is not a force in setting Taliban political or social issues," the cables read.
Born in 1947 into the powerful Zardran tribe that dominates southeastern Afghanistan's Paktia, Paktika and Khost provinces, Haqqani was a close friend of Osama bin Laden, who often took refuge in his camps outside Khost.
The father of 12 sons, the ailing Haqqani — who had been suffering from Parkinson disease for several years prior to his death — had turned the day-to-day military campaign over to his son Sirajuddin.
The elder Haqqani's association with Pakistan dates back to his early years, when he studied a deeply conservative form of Islam at the Darulaman Haqqania madrassa, or religious school, in northwest Pakistan. In an earlier interview with The Associated Press, the school's top cleric Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, recalled a studious Haqqani.
It was Haqqani's rigid interpretation of Islam that launched him on the road to insurgency in the early 1970s when he returned to Afghanistan to open a madrassa, or religious school, and organized a movement against Afghanistan's monarch, King Zahir Shah, according to unclassified U.S. documents that tracked Haqqani's militant career from the early 1970s to his partnership with the Taliban in 1996.
Forced to leave Afghanistan because of his agitation against the monarchy, which was eventually overthrown, Haqqani set up a madrassa in Miran Shah, in Pakistan's North Waziristan.
During the 1980s, when Washington backed an uprising against the communist government in Kabul and its Russian allies, it was Haqqani's military prowess that brought him attention from both the United States and Pakistan. He received both money and weapons from the U.S.
While the Soviet Union poured men and money into Afghanistan to support the Communist government in Kabul, Pakistan, the United States and several Arab states including Saudi Arabia and Egypt, stockpiled weapons for the mujahedeen in neighboring Pakistan. Suitcases full of cash were delivered to the mujahedeen through Pakistan, according to a former CIA chief, who spoke on condition of anonymity. He told The AP he personally delivered suitcases full of money to Haqqani, whom he described as "one of the good ones."
It was during the 1980s that fighters from the Muslim world were recruited to fight the invading communists in Afghanistan. Bin Laden was among the first to sign up. Many of the Arab fighters gravitated toward Haqqani because he was an Arabic speaker and a ferocious warrior.
Many of the Arab fighters, who remain in Afghanistan, including the new head of al-Qaida Ayman al Zawahri, are believed to be protected by the Haqqani network, which it is believed they also help fund.
Haqqani developed close ties with Pakistan's intelligence service known by the acronym ISI as well as Pakistani militant groups, many of whom were being groomed by the ISI to fight neighbor India in the disputed Kashmir region.
After the Russians left and Afghanistan's communist government fell to the U.S.-backed mujahedeen, Haqqani served briefly as justice minister. He soon abandoned the mujahedeen government frustrated by their relentless feuding and returned to Khost where he maintained close contact with militants, including bin Laden, from Arabic speaking countries.
After taking power in September 1996, the Taliban embraced Haqqani for his military skills, according to a declassified 1998 cable from the U.S. Embassy. That cable also said Haqqani "is close buddies with many Arab and Pakistani Islamists."
In August 1998, U.S. cruise missiles targeted Haqqani's base in a failed attempt to kill bin Laden. Several Pakistani militants affiliated with the Harakat-ul-Mujahedeen group were killed in that attack.
In November 2001, when the Taliban were routed from Kabul, Haqqani was ordered by Mullah Omar to move the Arab fighters to safety.
Haqqani had proven to be among the most resilient of Afghanistan's insurgents.
Islamabad, Sep 4 (AP/UNB) — Pakistani lawmakers elected a nominee from Prime Minister Imran Khan's party to the ceremonial office of president on Tuesday, further cementing its hold on power.
Arif Alvi will replace President Mamnoon Hussain, who completes his five-year term on Sept. 9. Pakistan's elections oversight body will certify the result Wednesday.
The president is elected by lawmakers from the National Assembly, the Senate and four provincial assemblies.
Alvi, a senior member of Khan's party from the southern Sindh province, faced little challenge from Aitzaz Ahsan, from the opposition Pakistan People's Party, and Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a pro-Taliban, anti-U.S. radical Islamist. The opposition failed to unify behind a single candidate.
Tuesday's election came two weeks after Khan, a former cricket star and longtime politician, was elected prime minister. His Tehreek-e-Insaf party won the most seats in July's national elections and joined with independents to form a government.
Alvi won 212 votes in the upper and lower houses of parliament, while Ahsan got 81 and Rehman secured 131, according to the Election Commission. Alvi also got the most votes in the four provincial legislatures.