North Korea’s secretive missile program

North Korea is believed to have more than 1,000 missiles of varying capabilities, including long-range missiles, which could one day strike the US. Pyongyang’s programme has progressed over the last few decades from tactical artillery rockets in the 1960s and 70s, to short­-range and medium-range ballistic missiles in the 1980s and 90s. Systems capable of even greater ranges are now understood to be under research and development.

Missile ranges

Short range: 1,000km or less

Medium range: 1,000-3,000km

Intermediate range: 3,000-5,500 km

Intercontinental range: Greater than 5,500km

Source: Federation of American Scientists

Short-range missiles

North Korea’s modern missile programme began with Scuds, with its first batch reportedly coming via Egypt in 1976.

By 1984, it was building its own versions called Hwasongs.

It is believed to have a variety of these short-range missiles which could target neighbouring South Korea. Relations between the two Koreas are fraught and they remain, technically, in a state of war. The Hwasong-5 and Hwasong-6, also known as Scud-B and C, have ranges of 300km and 500km respectively, according to the US Center for Nonproliferation Studies. These missiles can deliver conventional warheads, but may also have biological, chemical and nuclear capabilities. Both these missiles have been tested and deployed, and the Hwasong-6 has also been sold to Iran.

Intercontinental ballistic missiles

North Korea is believed to be developing its longest-range missile, a road-mobile weapon which observers have dubbed the KN-08 or Hwasong-13. One of the first signs of this development was in September 2016, when the country tested a new rocket engine which some said could power an intercontinental ballistic missile. The US Pentagon believes North Korea has at least six KN-08s in its possession, which could be capable of reaching much of the United States. North Korea is believed to have also developed an upgraded version called KN-14. Neither missile has been publicly tested before.
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Massive damage at California dam

Aerial photos reveal massive damage at the Oroville Dam site in California as outflow is stopped to allow for cleanup. The true extent of the damage to the crumbling Oroville Dam spillway was revealed this week as authorities shut off the water flow and exposed the gaping hole left by the erosion. Authorities this week started the huge clean-up process, with tons of rubble needing to be removed from the bottom of the spillway in order to get the Hyatt hydro-electric power plant back in operation. Up to a million cubic yards of debris from the crumbling, concrete chute that takes water down from the top of the dam will need to be removed by barges and excavators over the next seven days.

Fighting to survive hunger in Somalia

 A week after his inauguration, President Mohamed Abdullahi Farmajo declared a state of disaster in his drought-stricken country of Somalia, where the lives of 6.2 million people are now at risk. Even as the ongoing war against al-Shabab continues and African Union forces (AMISOM) fight to assist the fragile government, the looming famine has become a priority. The drought will be a trial for all those involved in Somalia’s struggles. It will test the international community’s response, the government’s ability to assist, and the strength of security provided by the African Union forces.
In the far north of Somalia, three years with little rain has had increasingly disastrous effects for a population reliant on the land. The parched earth has failed to produce food for the camels and goats that the people depend on for their income, meat, and milk for their children. Local leaders in Puntland estimate the pastoralists have already lost 65 percent of their animals. While the men accompany the remaining livestock in the hunt for grazing land, the women and children are migrating towards towns on main roads in search of alternative sources of food. Displaced people have been setting up tents along the roads in hope of receiving aid from passing vehicles. It’s there the women, children, and elderly wait for assistance in the heat and dust. In the coming months, if the word famine is used to describe the crisis in Somalia, it will mean that help never came.

Mount Etna Erupts and It’s Beautiful

Mount Etna, Europe’s largest volcano, erupted in Sicily overnight, and with no immediate danger, people are taking a moment to get some remarkable photos of the event. The eruption threw out jets of lava into the sky and was visible from further afield locations, such as the city of Catania, Euronews reports. Catania airport remains open.The eruption is not thought to be dangerous. Mount Etna is considered Europe’s most active volcano, and spectacular photos of the eruption have circulated online.

Iraq forces fight muddy street battle against IS in Mosul

ISIL fighters have launched several fierce counterattacks against Iraqi forces on the eastern outskirts of Mosul city, underscoring the intense battle ahead as government troops and their allies push into densely populated neighbourhoods. An ISIL suicide car bomber targeted Iraqi troops in the city’s eastern Qadisiya neighbourhood early on Saturday, setting off heavy fighting that involved mortar rounds, gunfire, and rocket-propelled grenades. Iraqi officers told the AFP news agency that fighting was also under way in the adjoining Arbajiya area. “The fighting is intense this morning. We’re trying to fortify our positions in Arbajiya before continuing our attack into al-Bakr,” Colonel Muntadhar Salem, of the counterterrorism unit, said.

Brutal street battle for Mosul

 
Terrified civilians flee fighting, often under Islamic State militant fire, as Iraqi forces battle their way within range of the city’s government…Baghdad’s forces have overwhelming firepower and numbers in Mosul, but the Islamic State group has a vast city in which to launch ambushes, plant bombs and try to make the battle as slow and costly as possible. More than two months into the operation to retake the city, Iraqi forces have recaptured a large chunk of east Mosul, but IS still holds parts of it as well as all of its western side. In southeastern Mosul, a small explosion sounds behind the front line, sending a member of Iraq’s elite Rapid Response Division falling to the mud-covered ground, his legs wounded by shrapnel. Security forces members train assault rifles and machine guns skyward, unleashing a barrage of fire at the small white drone that apparently dropped the explosive device.

The White Helmets of Syria (Syrian Civil War)

The White Helmets, officially known as Syria Civil Defence is a paid volunteer civil defense organisation that currently operates in parts of rebel-controlled Syria. The White Helmets should not be confused with the Syrian Civil Defence Forces which have been a member of the ICDO (International Civil Defence Organization) since 1972, unlike the White Helmets.
The rescue teams that later became SCD emerged in late 2012, when the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad began to lose significant amounts of territory to the Free Syrian Army in the Syrian Civil War. This led to a shift in tactics in which Syrian government forces began to target opposition-held civilian communities with systematic and indiscriminate surface-to-surface and aerial bombardment by the Syrian Army and the Syrian Arab Air Force. In response, small groups of civilian volunteers from affected communities, particularly in Aleppo and Idlib, self-formed to assist neighbors injured in bombardment or trapped under the rubble of destroyed buildings. Very quickly, training, funding and support from a broad, international array of partners – including donor governments in Europe, the US and Japan; the Turkish AKUT Search and Rescue Association; and a variety of NGOs, private individuals, public fundraising campaigns, and charities – became a key factor in the development of the organisation.
Local and provincial councils joined with ARK’s stabilisation consultant and ex-British Army Officer, James Le Mesurier, and AKUT to create the first training programme in early 2013. ARK would facilitate entry of volunteers to Turkey, where they would be trained by AKUT. Early training courses include trauma care, command and control and crisis management. Over the next two years, the number of independent civil defense teams grew to several dozen as graduates of the early trainings such as Raed Saleh established new centers; the national organisation of SCD was founded on 25 October 2014 at a conference of independent teams.
SCD has grown to be an organization of over 3,000 volunteers operating from 111 local civil defence centers across 8 provincial directorates (Aleppo, Idlib, Latakia, Hama, Homs, Damascus, Damascus Countryside, and Daraa). In October 2014, these self-organised teams came together and voted to form one national organization: Syria Civil Defence. As of January 2017, the SCD claims to have rescued over 80,000 people since they began to keep count in 2014 from the effects of the civil war. According to The Economist, approximately one in six SCD have been killed or badly wounded, “many by “double-tap” Russian and Syrian airstrikes on the same site as they search for bodies.” The SCD was nominated for the 2016 Nobel Peace Prize and was a recipient of the 2016 Right Livelihood Award, the “Alternative Nobel Prize”.
On 14 December 2016, as the Syrian Armed Forces were recapturing eastern Aleppo, Raed Saleh requested safe passage of SCD operatives to rebel controlled countryside around Aleppo. Syria Civil Defence joined the Syrian Network for Human Rights, Independent Doctors Association and the Violations Documentation Center to accuse Russian forces of war crimes in eastern Aleppo, jointly submitting a report to the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic.
SCD’s stated mission is “to save the greatest number of lives in the shortest possible time and to minimize further injury to people and damage to property.” Their work covers the 15 civil defense tasks as laid out in international humanitarian law (IHL); the bulk of their activity in Syria consists of urban search and rescue in response to bombing, medical evacuation, evacuation of civilians from danger areas, and essential service delivery. The most prominent role of SCD was rescuing civilians from strikes with barrel bombs, improvised explosive devices dropped from by SAAF helicopters. Following the intervention of Russia in Syria on September 30, 2015, much of the work of SCD has been responding to attacks by Russian Air Force attack aircraft. As well as providing rescue services, SCD undertakes repair works such as securing damaged buildings and reconnecting electrical and water services, clearing roads, teaching children about unexploded ordnance hazards, as well as firefighting and winter storm relief. Sometimes described as the most dangerous job in the world, SCD operations involve risk from a wide variety of war-zone threats. 159 White Helmets have been killed since the organization’s inception. As of 2015, SCD had an annual budget of $30 million provided by a mix of state donors and public fundraising. Volunteers who work full-time receive a $150 monthly stipend.

Iraqi forces advance deeper into Mosul

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces push further into the Islamic State-held western half of Mosul, capturing a damaged bridge which could link up their units on either side of the Tigris river.  

Thousands more Iraqis flee Mosul battles with livestock

 

Nearly 130,000 out of 1.5 million Iraqis have been displaced from Mosul and its surrounding areas owing to the fighting, the spokesman added at a news briefing. Approximately 50,000 children have been affected by the conflict. The UN refugee agency described the humanitarian situation as “dire” with food stockpiles dwindling and the price of staples spiralling, boreholes drying up or turning brackish from over-use and camps and emergency sites to the south and east reaching maximum capacity. In a report published last week, the agency said as many as one million people are estimated to be out of reach of humanitarian assistance.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mobs in South Africa, attack immigrants

More than 300 suspects have been arrested in South Africa in connection with deadly attacks on foreigners that have forced thousands to flee, the government said Sunday. “We once again unequivocally condemn the maiming and killing of our brothers and sisters from other parts of the continent,” the government said. “No amount of frustration or anger can justify these attacks and looting of shops.” Thousands sought refuge in temporary shelters after mobs with machetes attacked immigrants in Durban. The attacks in Durban killed two immigrants and three South Africans, including a 14-year-old boy, authorities said. Heavily armed police have scrambled to stop clashes after local residents accused immigrants from other African nations of taking their jobs. The government praised law enforcement agencies for stopping further bloodshed in Durban. “We believe that their commitment to duty has prevented injuries and even deaths that could have happened if they security forces had not acted,” it said.