Archive | February, 2011

Dublin: Drugs Worth €300k Seized By Gardai

28 Feb

GARDAÍ seized a quantity of herbal cannabis and arrested a woman in her 40s following an operation by detectives from the Garda National Drugs Unit, Pearse St Drugs Unit and Revenue Customs Service.

The drug, with an estimated street value of €300,000, was seized on Saturday evening in guest accommodation in Dublin.

Separately, a man in his 40s remains in custody at Ashbourne Garda Station following an operation in north Co Dublin yesterday.

Advertisements

Burnley, Lancashire: Bad Heroin Batch Blamed For Spate Of Deaths

28 Feb

Police are investigating the deaths of three men who died separately in heroin-related incidents in just over an hour.

Heroin blamed for spate of deaths Enlarge photo
 
The bodies of Robin Ferguson, 53, Emlyn Hodgkinson, 36, and Zaheer Chaudrey, 32, were all discovered late on Friday night.

Detectives fear that a strong batch of heroin could be in the supply chain on the streets of north-east Lancashire where the deaths happened.

Mr Ferguson was found at a house in Tennis Street, Burnley, at 11.15pm on Friday. Nearly 20 minutes later, police were called to Oak Street, Colne, where they discovered Mr Hodgkinson.

Then, at about 12.20am, the body of Mr Chaudrey was discovered at a house in Eagle Street, Nelson.

Post-mortem examinations have yet to take place on all three bodies, however it is thought that drugs may have been a factor in their deaths.

Det Ch Insp Stuart Dixon said: “At this current stage we are treating the deaths of these men as unexplained. Drugs could possibly have been a factor and once the post-mortem examinations take place and we know the outcomes then we will be in a position to understand exactly how these men have died.

“From our inquiries today we believe that there may be a strong batch of heroin in the area and I would urge anyone who uses this drug to contact their local drug support agency. There could be an increased risk in taking stronger heroin and users should seek help and advice if concerned.

“Anyone who has any information around the supply of drugs should come forward and contact police or people can call Crimestoppers anonymously with information.”

Anyone with information should contact Burnley police on 01282 425001 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

Dublin: Kenny Leads Fine Gale To Election Victory As FF & Green Vote Collapses

27 Feb

 
Fine Gael is poised to lead the next government and secure its best election result after the coalition parties in the outgoing government suffered an electoral meltdown.

Fine Gael has secured 68 seats of the 150 seats filled so far.  Labour is on 35  Fianna Fáil 17, Sinn Féin 13, ULA four and  Independents 13. There are just 16 seats left to be filled in four constituencies.

Fine Gael is likely to fall short of an overall majority in the 166-seat Dáil.

For Fianna Fáil, the result is its worst since the foundation of the party, while  the Labour Party has enjoyed its best result in a general election to date. Sein Féin looks set to triple its number of TDs, while the Green Party has lost all six of its seats.

The share of first preference votes was: Fine Gael 36.1 per cent, Labour 19.4 per cent, Fianna Fáil 17.4 per cent, Sinn Fein 9.9 per cent, Independents 15.2 per cent and Green Party 1.8 per cent. The turnout was 70.1 per cent.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny, who was elected on the first count in Mayo, said the people of Ireland had given his party a “massive endorsement” to form the next government. “We now stand at a transformative moment in Ireland’s history. We stand on the brink of fundamental change in how we regard ourselves, how we regard our economy and how we regard our society,” Mr Kenny told supporters in a Dublin hotel.

The Fine Gael leader, who himself led a ticket of four successful Fine Gael candidates in Mayo, said he would also lead a government “worthy of the trust of the people”.

In an interview with RTÉ, Mr Kenny said it was too early to tell if Fine Gael would be in power alone or in coalition with Labour. He said his priority would be to rebuild Ireland’s economy. “This little country will be seen to be the best in the world by 2016, to do business, raise a family and to grow old with dignity and respect,” he said.

Labour leader Eamon Gilmore, who was elected on the first count in Dún Laoighaire, said today his party is willing to enter into talks with Fine Gael about forming a coalition. However, he said there has been no contact regarding such a deal so far.

Fianna Fáil suffered a number of high profile casualties, including Mary Coughlan, Mary O’Rourke, Mary Hanafin, Sean Haughey, Barry Andrews and Conor Lenihan. The party has been particularly badly hit in the Dublin area, where Brian Lenihan was the only Fianna Fáil candidate to take a seat. It now has no women TDs.

Taoiseach Brian Cowen conceded last night it had been a “difficult day for Fianna Fáil” but insisted his party took tough but necessary decisions while in office to stabilise the country’s finances. He congratulated Fine Gael and Mr Kenny on “an outstanding performance”.

Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin, elected on the first count in Cork South Central, said the overall result was “disappointing” for the party. “We were aware that we had a huge challenge in this election for a variety of reasons,” he said.

Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams said today he would not countenance going into government with Fine Gael. He said a good government requires a good opposition and vowed his party would oppose the “swingeing, anti-citizen, economically-illiterate measures” being proposed by the establishment parties.

Former tánaiste Mary Coughlan was eliminated on the seventh count in Donegal South West, where Sinn Féin’s Pearse Doherty was comfortably returned on the first count.

Fine Gael’s Micheal Noonan, elected on the first count in Limerick City, said Labour would be his favoured option as coalition partners. He said he was not inclined to do business with Independents, “because they are high maintenance”.

Labour’s Joan Burton became the first TD to be elected yesterday,, topping the poll in Dublin West. Fine Gael’s Leo Varadkar, became his party’s first winner when he was elected behind Ms Bruton on the second count. The United Left Alliance’s Joe Higgins was elected on the third count in the constituency and Brian Lenihan got through on the fourth count without reaching the quota.

“Labour has had a very good day,” Ms Burton said, adding that she expected a large number of seats to go down to the wire late tomorrow.

Sinn Féin has also made significant gains. All its sitting TDs were returned, Seán Crowe regained the seat in Dublin South West he lost in 2007 and it has won a number of new seats.

The Green Party has been wiped out. Party leader John Gormley, who was eliminated in Dublin South East after the fifth count, said tonight it was a sad day for the party, which had six TDs in the last Dáil. “We have suffered a major defeat, but the party will regroup, we will continue. We’re a party with a set of beliefs and values and a vision for the future,” he said.

Former Fianna Fáil Ceann Comhairle and minister for justice John O’Donoghue was eliminated on the third count in Kerry South.

Independent Senator Shane Ross topped the poll in the five-seater Dublin South. He was elected on the first count, having exceeded the quota by nearly 5,000 votes.

In Wexford, Independent candidate Mick Wallace was elected on the first count, while Independent Luke ‘Ming’ Flanagan took a seat in Roscommon South Leitrim. Former Fine Gael minister Michael Lowry, who is now running as an Independent, topped the poll in Tipperary North.

Berlin: Hundreds More Rescued By Secret German and British Special Forces Missions Into Libya

27 Feb

 

Evacuees stand on the deck of the "SNAV Toscana" as it arrives at the harbor in Valletta, Malta, Sunday, Feb. 27, 2011. The ship evacuated  1749 citiz
 AP – Evacuees stand on the deck of the ‘SNAV Toscana’ as it arrives at the harbor in Valletta, Malta, Sunday, …

Libya Slideshow:Libya  

By KIRSTEN GRIESHABER and SYLVIA HUI, Associated Press Kirsten Grieshaber And Sylvia Hui, Associated Press :

Video: Brit Forces Save 150 In Second Libya Mission

BERLIN – British and German military planes swooped into Libya’s desert, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites, as thousands of other foreigners are still stuck in Tripoli by bad weather and red tape.

The secret military missions into the turbulent North Africa country signal the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya’s territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens.

Three British Royal Air Force planes plucked 150 stranded civilians from multiple locations in the eastern Libyan desert before flying them to Malta on Sunday, the British Defense Ministry said in a statement.

The rescue follows a similar secret commando raid Saturday by British Special Forces that got another 150 oil workers from the remote Libyan desert.

Separately, Germany said its air force had evacuated 132 people also from the desert during a secret military mission on Saturday.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said Sunday that two German military planes landed on a private runway belonging to the Wintershall AG company and evacuated 22 Germans and 112 others and flew them to the Greek island of Crete.

Another 18 German citizens were rescued by the British military in a separate military operation Saturday that targeted remote oil installations in the Libyan desert, Westerwelle said. He said around 100 other German citizens are still in Libya and the government was trying to get them out as quickly as possible.

“I want to thank the members of the Germany military for their brave mission,” Westerwelle said

German military missions abroad need approval by parliament, and Westerwelle said he had spoken to all party leaders in parliament Friday to tell them about the upcoming military mission. He said the coalition government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel had evaluated the situation in Libya as “very dangerous” and therefore ordered an immediate evacuation by the air force.

The German foreign ministry refused to name the exact location of the company and the site where the evacuation took place.

The head of Wintershall, Rainer Seele, thanked the government.

“We are all relieved and grateful,” he was quoted as saying by the DAPD news agency.

Prior to their secret missions in Libya, the British government had been embarrassed by earlier botched attempts to rescue its citizens stranded by the uprising in this North African nation. Its first rescue flight broke down and became stuck on a London runway on Wednesday.

But on Sunday, newspapers could not gush enough about the “daring and dramatic” military operation by two RAF Hercules planes that brought stranded citizens to Malta.

“SAS swoops in dramatic Libya rescue,” the Sunday Telegraph headline read, in reference to the storied Special Air Service.

The mission was risky because Britain sent the planes in without obtaining prior Libyan permission, Foreign Secretary William Hague said.

The UK frigate HMS Cumberland also returned to the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi from Malta to evacuate more people.

“We are working intensively to establish who is still in Libya and where they are,” Hague told the BBC.

One evacuee said his military plane was supposed to carry around 65 people out of Libya, but quickly grew to double that.

“It was very cramped but we were just glad to be out of there,” Patrick Eyles, a 43-year-old Briton, said at Malta International Airport.

As thousands finally made it to safety on the Greek island of Crete, two ships trying to ferry foreigners out of Libya were still struggling to leave Tripoli, delayed by officialdom and rough seas. A Russian-chartered ferry arrived at a Libyan port further east to pick up more than 1,000 people.

On Crete, three more ships arrived from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi early Sunday carrying about 4,200 passengers, mostly Chinese but also 750 Bangladeshis and 200 Vietnamese, authorities said. Air China planned four flights Sunday from Crete, carrying about 1,200 Chinese back to their homeland.

Another ferry from Benghazi with 2,000 more Chinese was expected to reach Crete on Monday night, shipping agents said.

The sheer numbers of foreigners leaving Libya as Moammar Gadhafi‘s regime battles anti-government protesters has been staggering. At least 20,000 Chinese, 15,000 Turks and 1,400 Italians had been evacuated, most working in the construction and oil industries.

In addition, some 22,000 people have fled across the Libyan border to Tunisia and another 15,000 crossed the border into Egypt, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council.

Italy’s San Giorgio military ship arrived in Sicily on Sunday, carrying about 250 people, half of them Italian.

“Having come back to Italy is a miracle to us, we couldn’t wait to get back,” Francesco Baldassarre, an Italian evacuated with his father Gino, told the ANSA news agency.

One cruise ship carried some 1,750 evacuees — mostly from Vietnam and Thailand — from Libya to Malta early Sunday, and another ship reached the Athens port of Piraeus carrying 390 evacuees, chiefly Brazilians, Portuguese and British.

In Tripoli, Henri Saliba, managing director of Virtu Ferries, said the ferry San Gwann was accepting anyone and was almost at capacity with more than 400 passengers. The Maria Dolores ferry has been chartered by a private company and has some 90 passengers on board.

They started taking passengers on Saturday evening but Libyan police only let people board in a trickle. Then bad weather on Sunday morning prevented their departure. Saliba said the ferries hope to leave Tripoli on Sunday evening and arrive in Valletta, Malta, on Monday.

He said conditions at Tripoli’s port were safe and calm.

The Interfax news agency, citing Russia’s Emergencies Ministry, said the St. Stephan ferry had docked in the central Libyan port of Ras Lanuf, where it was taking aboard 1,126 evacuees, including 124 Russians.

Two Turkish frigates evacuating more than 1,700 people were expected to arrive in Turkey’s Mediterranean port of Marmaris late Sunday. Four other Turkish civilian ships — escorted by the Turkish navy — were also on their way to evacuate more people from three Libyan ports — Tripoli, Misrata and Ras Lanuf.

Turkey had up to 30,000 citizens mostly working in construction projects in Libya before the trouble began. It was not clear how many more needed to be evacuated.

A plane carrying 185 evacuees also landed Sunday at Boryspil Airport in Kiev.

___

Hui reported from London. Associated Press writers across Europe contributed to this story.

DUBLIN: Sinn Fein Trebles Its Dail Seats To 15 In General Election Victory

27 Feb

Sinn Fein is on course to treble its seats in the Dail to 15 with party president Gerry Adams topping the poll in Louth after giving up his Westminster seat for West Belfast.

Their success in the south was extended with seats right around the border including two TDs in Donegal.

Mr Adams secured his seat in Louth on the first count with more than 15,000 votes.

This is Mr Adams’ first bid for election success in the Republic.

The declaration followed his dramatic decision to resign the West Belfast Westminster seat he first won in 1983, and to step down from the Northern Ireland Assembly, in order to enter southern Irish politics.

The Sinn Fein president, who was hoisted on to the shoulders of jubilant supporters, said his party was set to make significant gains in the election.

“We went out in this election, we set out our stall very, very clearly,” he said. “I think the votes across the state show a significant amount of people support the position we have taken up.”

He said he had sought only to win a seat and credited his election team with the poll-topping result.

After criticism of his performance in debating economic issues, he dismissed claims that this might resurface in the Dail.

“I don’t have any concerns at all about that,” he said. “The people who are challenging me on our economic position are the people who brought the economy to its knees.”

BREAKING NEWS: Libya: British SBS/SAS – Special Forces – Mount Daring Desert Rescue Of 150 Civilians: UPDATED

27 Feb

Protesters prepare caricatures depicting Libyan leader Gaddafi in Benghazi

Reuters – Protesters prepare caricatures depicting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, inside a burnt state security …

Libya Slideshow:Libya

Dozens of oil workers are preparing to return to the UK after being airlifted to safety from the Libyan desert in a dramatic military rescue mission by British special forces.

Rescue Drama: Special Forces Save Workers Enlarge photo

Two RAF Hercules transport planes swooped into the country and picked up 150 civilians – mostly Britons – from a number of remote landing strips amid fast-deteriorating security conditions.

It comes as the United Nations Security Council agreed unanimously a range of sanctions against Libya.

As well as the mission deep into the North African state, the final Government-chartered flight out of Tripoli delivered another 53 Britons back to Gatwick Airport late last night.

Among them were the staff of the British Embassy in Tripoli which has been closed – with representation being temporarily taken over by Turkey.

Another 68 returned home on a flight from Malta after being rescued from the Libyan second city Benghazi on board HMS Cumberland which is now returning to collect more evacuees.

It is still unclear how many UK nationals remain in Libya but evacuation plans are being co-ordinated with European and other allies.

Workers rescued by the Special Boat Service (SBS)-led operation were met by Red Cross staff and put up in Maltese hotels and are expected to return to the UK on a Foreign Office-funded flight today or tomorrow.

One, Peter Dingle, said some locals had turned to looting, stealing cars and equipment from the site and camp area and that their security guards had fled.

Local people stepped in to protect them instead, he said, adding: “It was a good job they did.”

Supporting the uprising against the world’s longest-serving leader, he said: “These are the people that have been suppressed over the years. It’s time to make a better life for themselves.”

At least 1,000 people are thought to have been killed in the bloody repression.

:: Britons requiring assistance or advice regarding the situation in Libya can call the Foreign Office’s 24 hour hotline on 020 7008 0000 from the UK, or 021 340 3644 or 45 if you are calling from Libya.

NEWS UPDATE:

By FRANK GRIFFITHS and DANICA KIRKA, Associated Press Frank Griffiths And Danica Kirka, Associated Press :

LONDON – British military planes entered Libyan air space to rescue oil workers and others from desert locations Saturday in a daring and secret mission meant to save those unable to flee escalating violence.

The C-130 Hercules planes, carrying Britons and other nationals, safely landed in Malta after picking up the civilians south of the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi, Defense Secretary Liam Fox said.

The rescue mission was bold because few planes have been able to fly through Libyan air space. It was not immediately clear if it was a British special forces mission, but the government has not ruled out using the SAS to evacuate Libyan oil fields and rescue trapped Britons.

The mission apparently took place with great secrecy. Rescued oil worker, Peter Dingle, told the BBC that workers were told to stay quiet.

“We knew this morning that the military was coming to pick us up, but we weren’t allowed to phone home — there were no lines anyway — because when you inform the families it gets out in the media, and the British military need to keep this as quiet as possible,” Dingle said.

Fox said the frigate HMS Cumberland was returning to Benghazi from Malta to evacuate any remaining “entitled persons” from there.

The mission is likely to give a boost to a government reeling from complaints in recent days about the ineptitude of its earlier efforts to evacuate citizens trapped in the chaos. Prime Minister David Cameron was forced to apologize as Britons who escaped offered televised accounts of their desperate efforts to flee amid the breakdown of law and order.

But others trying to get their employees out expressed dismay that the rescue had not been better coordinated — so that oil workers near pick up points could have gotten there in time.

“It would have been helpful to know,” Gavin De Salis, the chairman of British-based OPS International, an oil field services company.

De Salis has had to put about 450 workers on buses to pull them out of the country amid shortages of food and water.

“They have an uncomfortable six-day journey,” he said.

Fox made the announcement as the U.N. Security Council met in an urgent session to consider sanctions to punish Libya’s regime for violent attacks against anti-government protesters.

One of those who was rescued said the military plane he boarded in Libya was initially supposed to carry around 65 people, but quickly grew to more than double that.

“It was very cramped but we were just glad to be out of there and getting on the flight,” Patrick Eyles, a 43-year-old Briton who arrived on one of the C-130s, said at Malta International Airport.

Britain has been among the countries pushing for tougher sanctions, including an arms embargo and travel ban on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, who is under pressure by the international community to halt the crackdown on his people.

Other Britons returning to London from Libya after being evacuated spoke of the chaos enveloping the North African country.

“Gangs of young Libyans had knives and machetes,” said 51-year-old Paul Ellis, who works on the Great Man-Made River Project in Libya. “What they wanted was any valuables — money, laptops and mobiles. We just gave them those and the keys to cars and they just left us alone to some extent.”

Mediterranean ports, meanwhile, overflowed with thousands of evacuees from Libya, and thousands more foreigners were still scrambling to flee the North African nation by sea, air or land as the security situation around the capital Tripoli deteriorated.

More than 2,800 Chinese workers landed in Heraklion on the Greek island of Crete aboard a Greek ship. Further to the west, another 2,200 Chinese arrived in Valletta, the capital of Malta, after a long journey from the eastern Libyan port of Benghazi. Hours earlier, in the dark of night, a U.S-chartered ferry dropped off over 300 passengers in Valletta who spent three days waiting to leave Libya’s chaotic capital.

The sheer numbers of foreigners leaving Libya as Gadhafi’s regime attacks anti-government protesters has been staggering. As of Saturday, at least 16,000 Chinese, 15,000 Turks and 1,400 Italians had been evacuated, most working in the construction and oil industries.

In addition, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon told the Security Council that some 22,000 people have fled across the Libyan border to Tunisia and another 15,000 crossed the border into Egypt.

Col. Malek Mihoub, a Tunisian security forces official, said that “despite the good intentions of those present,” aid groups like the Red Crescent, local authorities and the Tunisian army have become overwhelmed by the flow of people fleeing Libya.

Meanwhile, France’s Foreign Ministry said Saturday that the French embassy in Tripoli has been closed temporarily due to the unrest. It said a French Air Force flight took 122 people — including the entire embassy staff among the 28 French nationals on board — to France on Saturday.

In an accord with Russia, France said it is temporarily conferring its interests in Libya to the Russian Embassy in Tripoli, the ministry statement said.

___

Mark D. Colson in Luqa, Malta and Jamey Keaten in Paris contributed to this report.

Tripoli, Libya: Britons Urged To Flee As Bloody Repression Of Anti-Government Protests Intensifies

26 Feb

Any Britons remaining in the Libyan capital Tripoli have been urged to head for the airport to get on the final Government-chartered rescue flight as the bloody repression of anti-regime protests intensifies.

Video: Gaddafi Urges Followers To Defend Libya

Video: Libya: Gaddafi Forces ‘Open Fire’ In Tripoli

Video: Libya: Gaddafi Rages As World Talks Continue

Remaining Britons urged to flee Enlarge photo
 
Foreign Secretary William Hague said it was “very important” for anyone still caught up in the violent chaos to get on board if possible – as some of those landing back in the UK on Friday night last night described the violence as a “living hell”.

Mr Hague also insisted that “a lot of work” was under way on plans to extract up to 170 UK oil workers stranded in remote and highly vulnerable desert locations across the North African state.

“There are now very few British nationals remaining in Tripoli. It’s very important that those that remain go to the airport, that they do so at first light,” he said.

The advice came as the international community was urged by the UN Secretary Ban Ki-moon to act quickly to prevent further bloodshed in Libya – at the start of a Security Council meeting to discuss sanctions against Muammar Gaddafi‘s regime.

Britain is pushing for an arms embargo, a travel ban and asset freeze and a war crimes investigation into the crackdown on demonstrators which appears to be reaching new heights of brutality – with the UN Secretary suggesting 1,000 or more had died.

“The loss of time means more loss of lives”, he said. Security Council talks will resume on Saturday with a vote possible before the close of play. The US has announced it will impose sanctions.

The UN Human Rights Council in Geneva also passed a resolution calling for an unprecedented suspension of Libya from its membership. Mr Hague and foreign counterparts including US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are due to discuss the situation at the HRC but not until Monday.

Libyan protesters were reported to have come under a hail of gunfire – some from anti-aircraft guns – after Mr Gaddafi issued a fresh rallying cry to his supporters, this time from the ramparts of a historic fort in the capital.

One of his sons, Saif, said their only plan was “to live and die in Libya”. He also told foreign journalists invited in by the regime that trouble was restricted to two western cities, denied reports of artillery being used against protesters and said he hoped dissent could be dealt with “peacefully”.