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N.Korean troops stage artillery fire competition

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North Korean mechanized troops held an artillery fire competition over the weekend as part of efforts to boost the country’s defence capabilities, state media reported on Sunday

The drills were conducted on Saturday, state news agency KCNA said, and come as North Korea increasingly complains over what it sees as a double standard where its military activities invite international criticism when similar exercises by South Korea and the United States usually do not.

Analysts say Pyongyang is seeking to normalize its defence activities, with the aim of eventually winning international acceptance of its nuclear weapons and ballistic missile arsenals, which have been sanctioned by U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Much of North Korea’s large conventional artillery force http://fingfx.thomsonreuters.com/gfx/rngs/NORTHKOREA-MISSILES/010041BR2VH/index.html is deployed along the fortified border with South Korea, where they have the range to reach as far as the heavily populated capital city of Seoul.

The drills come “at a time when the enthusiasm to undergo intensive training prevails throughout the Korean People’s Army (KPA) for ushering in a new heyday in strengthening the state defence capabilities under the banner of self-defence,” KCNA reported.

They were overseen by Pak Jong Chon, member of the Presidium of the Political Bureau and secretary of the Central Committee of the ruling Workers’ Pary of Korea, KCNA said.

Pak is a general long seen as a rising star in the country’s powerful military and a major player in its missile programme who was promoted to his current positions in September.

General Rim Kwang Il, chief of the General Staff of the KPA, and commanders of the participating units, observed the drills with Pak, KCNA said.

“As soon as the firing orders were given by the commanders of the combined units, gun barrels to annihilate the enemy competitively shelled the target to accurately hit it,” the report said.

 

(Reporting by Josh Smith; Editing by Alistair Bell)

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U.S. to revoke terrorist designation for Colombia’s FARC, add breakaway groups

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The United States will revoke its designation of the Colombian group the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia as a foreign terrorist organization on Tuesday while designating two breakaway groups as such, a senior State Department official said on Friday.

A review of the terrorist listing – required every five years under U.S. law – found that the leftist organization known by the Spanish acronym FARC should no longer be listed, The official said.

But the two dissident groups that have formed out of FARC, La Segunda Marquetalia and FARC-EP, or People’s Army, would be designated as foreign terrorist organizations, the official said.

“It’s a realignment to address these current threats,” the official said. “The FARC that existed five years ago no longer exists.”

Founded in 1964, FARC was responsible for summary executions and kidnappings of thousands of people, including Americans.

On Tuesday, Reuters reported that the United States was preparing to remove FARC from the list five years after the group signed a peace agreement with Bogota.

The State Department notified the U.S. Congress on Tuesday of its planned delisting of FARC. The Colombian government was formally notified on Wednesday.

The government of Colombia did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The decision will allow U.S. government agencies like the U.S. Agency for International Development to work on peace implementation in parts of Colombia where demobilized FARC soldiers are located, the official said.

“This is a priority for the Colombian government in the implementation of the peace agreement,” the official said.

 

(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis and Simon Lewis in Washington; Additional reporting by Oliver Griffin in Bogota; Editing by Mark Porter and Leslie Adler)

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Tunisian police say they shot, wounded extremist trying to attack them

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Tunisian police on Friday shot and wounded an extremist who sought to attack them with a knife and cleaver in the capital, authorities said.

The 31-year-old man, whose identity was not disclosed, shouted, “God is great. You are infidels,” as he ran toward police officers near the interior ministry, the ministry said in a statement.

Witnesses and local media said police shot the man in the leg and arrested him. The man, who was previously labelled an extremist by the government, was taken to hospital and is being investigated by an anti-terrorism unit, officials said.

Tunisian security forces have thwarted most militant plots in recent years and they have become more efficient at responding to those attacks that do occur, Western diplomats say.

The last major attacks in Tunisia took place in 2015 when militants killed scores of people in two separate assaults at a museum in Tunis and a beach resort in Sousse.

(Reporting by Tarek Amara; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky, Frances Kerry and Cynthia Osterman)

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At least 19 killed in bus crash in central Mexico

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At least 19 people were killed and 20 more injured on Friday when a passenger bus traveling on a highway in central Mexico crashed into a house, authorities said.

The brakes on the bus, which was heading to a local religious shrine in the state of Mexico, failed, according to local media reports. State authorities did not disclose the possible causes of the accident.

Assistant state interior secretary Ricardo de la Cruz Musalem said that the injured had been transferred to hospitals, including some by air.

The state Red Cross said 10 ambulances had rushed to the area.

 

(Reporting by Sharay Angulo; writing by Laura Gottesdiener)

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