Tag Archives: ‘hostile

Flight PS752 shot down after being ‘misidentified’ as ‘hostile target,’ Iran’s final report says

Iran’s civil aviation authority says an error by the Iranian military was the cause of Ukrainian Airlines Flight PS752’s destruction in January 2020.

In its long-awaited final report on the incident, released today, Iranian safety investigators conclude that the Boeing 737-800 passenger plane was shot down by accident after being “misidentified” by an air defence unit as a “hostile target.”

All 176 passengers and crew members — including 138 people with ties to Canada — died in the crash.

“The … aircraft was misidentified by the air defence unit in the suburbs of Tehran and, consequently, two missiles were launched toward it,” the report reads. “The operation of the aircraft had not imposed any error to the air defence unit.

“The interference of military activity with civil aviation operations resulted in an accident.”

Investigators identified the immediate cause of the crash as the detonation of a warhead on the first of two surface-to-air missiles fired in close proximity to the plane. The explosion damaged the aircraft’s navigation systems and caused it to crash. The plane exploded on impact.

The report, conducted by Iran’s Aircraft Accident Investigation Board, bolsters the Iranian government’s claim that the plane was shot down as a result of human error — but it leaves unanswered many questions raised by the Canadian government and the families of the victims.

Canada’s Transportation Safety Board said it has received the final report and senior officials will respond at a press conference Thursday morning.

Iran denied shooting down the aircraft for three days after the crash. In response to mounting international pressure and evidence, Iran later admitted a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps “mistakenly” shot down the jet.

The Iranian military was on high alert at the time because of the assassination of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike five days earlier, and a subsequent retaliatory attack by Iran on Iraqi bases where U.S. forces were stationed.

In a video posted to Facebook, Ukraine’s foreign minister blasted the investigation as incomplete and biased.

“What we saw published today is just a cynical attempt to hide true causes of the downing of our passenger aircraft,” Dmytro Kuleba said, according to an English translation.

“This is not a report but a collection of manipulations aimed not at establishing the truth, but acquitting the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

Kuleba said the investigation violated standards set out under international law and by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).

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North Korea’s Kim threatens to expand nuclear program, citing ‘hostile’ U.S. policy

North Korean leader Kim Jong-un threatened to expand his nuclear arsenal and develop more sophisticated atomic weapons systems, saying the fate of relations with the United States depends on whether it abandons its hostile policy, state media reported Saturday.

Kim’s comments made Friday during a key meeting of the ruling party were seen as an effort to apply pressure on the incoming government of U.S. president-elect Joe Biden, who has called Kim a “thug” and has criticized his nuclear summitry with President Donald Trump.

The Korean Central News Agency said Saturday that Kim says the “key to establishing new relations between [North Korea] and the United States is whether the United States withdraws its hostile policy” from North Korea.

Kim says he won’t use his nukes unless “hostile forces” intend to use their nuclear weapons against North Korea first. But he says North Korea must further strengthen its military and nuclear capability as the danger of a U.S. invasion of North Korea increases.

Kim ordered officials to develop missiles with multiple warheads, underwater-launched nuclear missiles, spy satellites and nuclear-powered submarines.

A North Korean navy truck carries the a submarine-launched ballistic missile during a military parade in Pyongyang in April 2017. (Damir Sagolj/Reuters)

He said North Korea must also advance the precision attack capability on targets in the 15,000 kilometre-striking range, an apparent reference to the U.S. mainland, and develop the technology to manufacture smaller, lighter nuclear warheads to be mounted on long-range missiles more easily.

“Nothing would be more foolish and dangerous than not strengthening our might tirelessly and having an easygoing attitude at a time when we clearly see the enemy’s state-of-the-art weapons are being increased more than ever,” Kim said. “The reality is that we can achieve peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula when we constantly build up our national defence and suppress U.S. military threats.”

It’s unclear if North Korea is capable of developing such modern weapons systems. It is one of the world’s most cloistered countries, and estimates on the exact status of its nuclear and missile programs vary widely.

Kim’s comments came during the North’s ruling party congress that was convened for the first time in five years.

In this photo provided by the North Korean government, a ruling party congress is held in Pyongyang on Tuesday. (Korean Central News Agency/Korea News Service via AP)

It’s the Workers Party’s top decision-making body, and it is being held as Kim faces what appears to be the toughest moment of his nine-year rule due to the so-called triple blow to his already-fragile economy — pandemic-related border closings that have sharply reduced the North’s external trade, a spate of natural disasters last summer and U.S.-led sanctions.

During his opening-day speech at the congress, Kim called these difficulties the “worst-ever” and “unprecedented.” He also admitted his previous economic plans had failed and vowed to adopt a new five-year development plan.

Fractured diplomacy with Trump

Kim’s high-stakes nuclear diplomacy with President Donald Trump has remained stalled for nearly two years because of disputes over U.S.-led sanctions on the North.

When Kim abruptly entered talks with the U.S., he expressed his intent to negotiate not advancing nuclear arsenals in return for economic and political benefits. But as long as the diplomatic impasse prolongs, he’s openly pledged to expand the nuclear program that he calls a “powerful treasured sword” that can cope with U.S. hostility.

Some foreign experts say Kim from the beginning hadn’t any intention of fully relinquishing his bomb program and only attempted to use diplomacy with Trump as a way to weaken the sanctions and buy time to perfect his nuclear program.

WATCH | Biden says Trump’s approach to Kim like having a ‘good relationship with Hitler’:

The Democratic candidate criticized the president’s foreign policy approach to Kim Jong-un. 0:32

Months before his diplomacy with Trump began, Kim claimed to have acquired the ability to attack the American mainland with nuclear missiles following a torrid run of weapons tests in 2016-17.

But that run invited new rounds of crippling U.S.-led sanctions that impose a ban on key exports such as coal, seafood and textiles and a significant curtailing of oil imports. Kim’s state media have said those sanctions are “strangling and stifling our country” and are proof of U.S. hostility.

South Korea’s spy agency said Kim is worried about Biden who is unlikely to hold any direct meetings with him unless North Korea takes serious steps toward denuclearization.

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U.K. calls ship seizure ‘hostile act’ as Iran releases video of capture

Britain on Saturday denounced Iran’s seizure of a British-flagged oil tanker in the Gulf as a “hostile act” and rejected Tehran’s explanation that it seized the vessel because it had been involved in an accident.

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards posted a video online showing speedboats pulling alongside the Stena Impero tanker, its name clearly visible. Troops wearing ski masks and carrying machine guns rappelled to its deck from a helicopter, the same tactics used by British Royal Marines to seize an Iranian tanker off the coast of Gibraltar two weeks ago.

Friday’s action in the global oil trade’s most important waterway has been viewed in the West as a major escalation after three months of confrontation that has already taken Iran and the United States to the brink of war.

It follows threats from Tehran to retaliate for Britain’s July 4 seizure of the Iranian tanker Grace 1, accused of violating sanctions on Syria.

British Defence Secretary Penny Mordaunt called the incident a “hostile act.” Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said he had expressed “extreme disappointment” by phone to his Iranian counterpart, Mohammad Javad Zarif. Britain also summoned the Iranian charge d’affaires in London.

A spokesperson for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, Brigadier-General Ramezan Sharif, said Tehran had seized the ship in the Strait of Hormuz despite the “resistance and interference” of a British warship which had been escorting it. No British warship was visible in the video posted by the Guards.

Iran’s Fars news agency said the Guards had taken control of the Stena Impero on Friday after it collided with an Iranian fishing boat whose distress call it ignored.

The vessel, carrying no cargo, was taken to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas. It will remain there with its 23 crew — 18 of them Indians — while the accident is investigated, Iranian news agencies quoted the head of Ports and Maritime Organisation in southern Hormozgan province, Allahmorad Afifipour, as saying.

In a letter to the UN Security Council, Britain said the tanker was approached by Iranian forces when it was in Omani territorial waters exercising its lawful right of passage, and the action “constitutes illegal interference.”

“Current tensions are extremely concerning, and our priority is to de-escalate. We do not seek confrontation with Iran,” the letter said. “But it is unacceptable and highly escalatory to threaten shipping going about its legitimate business through internationally recognized transit corridors.”

Oil prices up

Zarif told Hunt that the ship must go through a legal process before it can be released, Iran’s ISNA news agency reported.

The strait, between Iran and the Arabian peninsula, is the sole outlet for exports of most Middle Eastern oil, and the seizure sent oil prices sharply higher. The United States, which tightened sanctions against Iran in May with the aim of halting its oil exports altogether, has been warning for months of an Iranian threat to shipping in the strait.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he also discussed the situation with Hunt, his British counterpart.

Watch: Iran captures British oil tanker

“We talked about what they’ve seen, what they know, and how they’re beginning to think about how they will respond,” Pompeo said in an interview with the Washington Examiner that was published on Saturday by the State Department. “Iran is in a place today that they have taken themselves.”

Another oil tanker, the Mesdar, was also boarded by Iranian personnel on Friday and temporarily forced to divert toward Iran, but later was allowed to continue on its route through the strait. On Saturday Algeria’s APS news agency said the Mesdar was owned by Algeria’s state oil company Sonatrach.

France, Germany and the European Union joined Britain in condemning the seizure.

The three big European countries are signatories to a 2015 nuclear deal between Tehran and world powers that Washington undermined by quitting last year, setting Iran’s already fragile relations with the West on a downward spiral.

Under the pact, Iran agreed to restrict nuclear work in return for lifting sanctions. The European countries opposed the Trump administration’s decision to abandon the agreement last year, but have so far failed to fulfill promises to Iran of providing alternative means for it to access world trade.

‘Extreme disappointment’

“Just spoke to … Zarif and expressed extreme disappointment that having assured me last Saturday Iran wanted to de-escalate situation, they have behaved in the opposite way,” Hunt wrote on Twitter. “This has to be about actions not words if we are to find a way through.”

Earlier he said London’s reaction would be “considered but robust” and it would ensure the safety of its shipping.

On Friday, Hunt said the solution would be found via diplomacy and London was “not looking at military options.” Britain’s government said it had advised British shipping to stay out of the Hormuz area for an interim period.

During the past three months of escalation, the United States and Iran come as close as ever to direct armed conflict. In June, Tehran shot down a U.S. drone and President Donald Trump ordered retaliatory air strikes, only to call them off just minutes before were to have been carried out.

The vessel had been heading to a port in Saudi Arabia and suddenly changed course after passing through the strait.

The United States has blamed Iran for a series of attacks on shipping around the Strait of Hormuz. Tehran has rejected the allegations. Washington also said it had this week downed an Iranian drone near where the Stena Impero was seized.

The United States is sending military personnel and resources to Saudi Arabia for the first time since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

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Ebola outbreak could spiral out of control as health workers deal with armed insurgents, hostile locals

Welcome to The National Today newsletter, which takes a closer look at what's happening around some of the day's most notable stories. Sign up here and it will be delivered directly to your inbox Monday to Friday.


  • Health workers fear an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is at risk of spiralling out of control.
  • The intense celebrity showdown between Taylor Swift and Kanye West has turned political.
  • Got questions about the cannabis legalization plan? We're taking questions from Canadians to the experts.
  • Missed The National last night? Watch it here.

Ebola outbreak

The latest Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of Congo is at risk of spiralling out of control, as health workers try to contend with both armed insurgents and hostile locals.

The latest World Health Organization figures, released this morning in Geneva, tally 200 cases and 125 deaths since this outbreak in north-eastern DRC began Aug. 1. That was just a week after the previous cluster of infections in the western part of the country had finally been declared vanquished.

The most pressing worry is that the rate of new, confirmed and suspected cases has more than doubled over the past month. It's a clear indication that efforts to contain the spread of the virus are failing, particularly in the city of Beni, the epicentre of the new outbreak.

Health workers walk with a boy suspected of having the Ebola virus at a treatment centre in Beni, Eastern Congo, on Sept. 9. The outbreak in northeastern Congo is larger than the previous one in the northwest, and more complicated for health officials due to insecurity from rebel groups. (Al-hadji Kudra Maliro/Associated Press)

"Insecurity that has increased in the city is one of the reasons why we are seeing these new cases coming up," Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman, told reporters. "On a daily basis, we can't go for a couple of hours to some areas because there is either a shooting going on, or there is a protest."

Beni, in North Kivu province along the border with Rwanda and Uganda, is home to 1.3 million people and smack in the middle of an active war zone.

The UN estimates that more 100 armed groups are involved in a protracted conflict with the Congolese Army, and the fierce fighting has seen half-a-million people forced from their homes in 2018 alone.

The daily violence has slowed relief efforts and made it difficult, if not impossible, to track and monitor those who have come in contact with Ebola sufferers. The WHO is convinced that there are likely many more cases than it has been able to confirm.

Soldiers from the Armed Forces of the Democratic Republic of the Congo (FARDC) gear up as gunfire erupts close by on Oct. 7 outside Oicha. Attacks on FARDC bases by the ADF have increased in recent weeks. (John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

The fighting is also complicating efforts to vaccinate both front-line health care workers and members of the public who are known to have come in contact with the disease.

Another wild card in this outbreak is the hostility that some locals are showing to aid workers.

Earlier this month, three volunteer members of a hazmat-suited Red Cross "safe and dignified" burial team were attacked by an angry crowd in the city of Butembo as they tried to dispose of a body. Two of the relief workers were seriously wounded. In September, another Red Cross burial volunteer was injured when her vehicle was showered with stones.

The WHO says that such "community refusals" have happened on at least 32 occasions since the beginning of the outbreak, including the seizure of a body by an angry mob earlier this week. All of which poses a significant problem, since Ebola is often spread from the dead to the living.

Medical workers check on an Ebola patient in a biosecure emergency care unit (CUBE) on August 15 in Beni. (John Wessels/AFP/Getty Images)

There have also been reports of some patients refusing treatment. At least one person who fled hospital remains at large.

The rapidly deteriorating situation has spooked several of the aid agencies that are working in the region.

"The current spike in Ebola cases and deaths is extremely worrying," Michelle Gayer, the director of emergency health at the International Rescue Committee, said yesterday.

"This is a sign not only that the outbreak is not under control, but that without full engagement from the community, things could get a lot worse … Each time the Ebola response is interrupted, lives are at risk."

A Congolese health worker administers vaccine to a woman who had contact with an Ebola sufferer in the village of Mangina in North Kivu province of the Democratic Republic of Congo, on Aug. 18. (Olivia Acland/Reuters)

Cases of Ebola have already been detected in an area school, she noted, opening up a new pathway for the disease.

To date, there have been no reports of new Ebola cases in other regions of the DRC, or in neighbouring nations. But the World Health Organization believes that it is only a matter of time until the outbreak spreads.  

Late last month, the UN agency revised its risk assessment from "high" to "very high."

The last major Ebola outbreak, in West Africa in 2014, sickened 28,000 people and killed more than 11,000.

The Pop Panel

On The National tonight, The Pop Panel looks at how the Trump era has changed Taylor Swift and Kanye West.  

It's hard to imagine a celebrity beef more intense and intensely watched than the one between Taylor Swift and Kanye West.  

Ever since West interrupted Swift's victory speech at the MTV Video Awards in 2009, the world has watched the two repeatedly square off and seemingly reconcile, with neither coming off particularly well at times.  

Kanye West, left, takes the microphone from Taylor Swift as she accepts the 'Best Female Video' award during the MTV Video Music Awards in New York on Sept. 13, 2009. (Jason DeCrow/Associated Press)

This week, the latest chapter in the saga took things to a new level.  

Last weekend, Swift broke her traditional silence on politics. She urged her 112 million Instagram followers to vote, and endorsed Democratic candidates in her home state of Tennessee.  

It's a marked departure for the pop megastar. In 2012, she told Time Magazine that, "I don't talk about politics because it might influence other people. And I don't think that I know enough yet in life to be telling people who to vote for."

Her Instagram post this weekend enraged many on the far right who had convinced themselves Swift was one of them.

Singer Taylor Swift arrives at the 2018 American Music Awards on Oct. 9 in Los Angeles. (Valerie Macon/AFP/Getty Images)

And what of Kanye, her nemesis?

To the head-spinning disbelief of his fans who saw him denounce President Bush's handling of the devastation of Hurricane Katrina ("George Bush doesn't care about black people"), West has now gone full MAGA with his embrace of Donald Trump.

The rapper met with the President in the oval office yesterday and once again praised Trump, saying the Make America Great Again hat made him feel like "Superman."

Kanye West says his Make America Great Again hat makes him feel like Superman 0:57

He's even walked back his 2005 criticism of George W. Bush, blaming it on a "welfare mentality."

It's a topsy-turvy world, with politics and pop culture colliding in unprecedented ways. Joining Ian Hanomansing in The National's studio for The Pop Panel tonight are Sportsnet staff writer Donnovan Bennett, Flare magazine's senior editor Ishani Nath, and freelance writer and author Stephen Marche.

(Oh, and if you want a view of the panel taping, we'll have a livestream going on Facebook, YouTube and Periscope starting at 4:15 p.m. ET today.)

Hope you'll join us!

– Tarannum Kamlani

  • WATCH: The Pop Panel tonight on The National on CBC Television and streamed online

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National Conversation on Cannabis

On Sunday, The National will air a town hall on cannabis. The show will pose pressing questions from Canadians to Bill Blair, the Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction, president of the Canadian Medical Association Dr. Gigi Osler, and Kirk Tousaw, a lawyer and consultant for Canopy Growth Corp.

It's hard to say how many stories The National has done on cannabis in the years leading up to Wednesday's legalization, but with so much on the line it still feels in some ways as though the conversation is just getting started.

As a national issue, this one touches many aspects of our society — from health to business, to education to parenting, to law and policing. And from what we've heard from Canadians, there are lots of questions yet to be answered.

Take Josie, a 23-year-old from Toronto. She began smoking pot at age 14, and since then she has struggled with what she describes as "intense" paranoia and hallucinations. She now considers herself a marijuana addict and says she is seeking treatment.

Josie, a self-described pot addict, asks the National Conversation on Cannabis whether the government plans to back research into the long-term impact of the drug on young people. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

When we asked Josie what questions she has about Canada's legislation, she said she doesn't want to "demonize" cannabis use. Instead, she wants to know what the government has planned in terms of promoting responsible use of the drug, and whether they'll back research into its long-term impact on young people.

As part of our National Conversation on Cannabis, airing Sunday on The National, Josie and others have put their questions to a panel of experts, including Bill Blair, Minister of Border Security and Organized Crime Reduction.

In response to Josie's question, Minister Blair, who is in charge of the federal government's cannabis file, pointed out the need for revenue generated from the taxes on cannabis to be invested in research. So far, he said, "in a criminal, prohibitive environment, research has been very, very challenging."

However, he did not say how much funding the government would be considering or if there is any plan in place to follow through with that commitment.

Minister Bill Blair talks about measures to deal with mental health issues connected to cannabis use. 0:53

Another panelist, Dr. Gigi Osler, head of the Canadian Medical Association, said she was "heartened" by his suggestion that more resources would be put into counselling and addiction services.

"I think it's vitally important to have that in place as a promise to Canadians," she said.

The fact that cannabis remains such uncharted territory is why it continues to hold people's focus across the country. According to an exclusive CBC News poll looking at attitudes around legalization, 55 per cent of Canadians believe the government is unprepared.

At the same time, excitement around this new market is palpable. Our poll shows that 36 per cent of Canadians feel there will be less stigma around cannabis after legalization than before.

While the debate over legalization is over — like it or not, cannabis will be legal on Oct. 17 — there remains much to discuss. Tune in Sunday for the National Conversation on Cannabis on CBC Television and streamed online.

– Sarah Bridge, Lara Chatterjee, Nicole Brewster-Mercury, Ghazala Malik

Quote of the moment

"Only a few feet of separation prevented this from possibly becoming the worst aviation accident in history. Over 1,000 people were at imminent risk of serious injury or death."

Bruce Landsberg, vice-chairman of the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, on a July 2017 incident in San Francisco when an Air Canada flight tried to land on a crowded taxiway. The agency's final investigative report, released this morning, says pilot confusion, fatigue, and a shortage of air traffic controllers all contributed to the near miss.

Video shows Air Canada plane narrowly missing several planes as it attempts to land on taxiway instead of runway 1:16

What The National is reading

  • Michaëlle Jean loses Francophonie re-election bid (CBC)
  • Turks tell U.S. that they have audio, video of Khashoggi killing (Washington Post)
  • Trump administration plans crackdown on protests outside White House (Guardian)
  • Montreal's historic Molson brewery up for sale (CTV)
  • Turkish court lifts travel ban on U.S. pastor (Deutsche Welle)
  • How bees reacted to the 2017 solar eclipse (Quartz)
  • Crew member dies after fall on set of Mr. Rogers movie (AP)
  • Usain Bolt scores first two pro-soccer goals (Sydney Morning Herald)

Today in history

Oct. 12, 1978: The many faces of Billy Van

This face of the late Canadian comedic actor Billy Van is wearing sunglasses inside the studio for Paul Soles' After Dark chatfest. They talk about Van's appearances on Party Game (look it up kids) and the Sonny & Cher Show, and of course the eight different characters he played on The Hilarious House of Frightenstein. All while Hollywood B+ lister Angie Dickinson tries to figure out what the hell they're talking about.

Actor and comedian Billy Van talks about his work past and present with Canada After Dark host Paul Soles. 14:36

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