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UAE warns of drone threat as it opens defense conference

The United Arab Emirates warned Sunday of the rising threat of drone attacks, such as those launched against it by Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi militia, at a defense industry conference on unmanned systems.

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“We have to unite to prevent the use of drones from threatening civilian safety and destroying economic institutions,” said Mohammed bin Ahmad al-Bawardi, the UAE’s minister of state for defense affairs.

The Unmanned Systems Exhibition (UMEX) kicked off in Abu Dhabi, with regional and Western military and industry representatives, including from the United States, Britain and France.

While the event will showcase the latest in high-tech drone technology, the host country warned that such weapons are becoming cheaper and more widespread.

They are now part of the arsenals of “terrorist groups that use the systems to terrorize civilians or to impact the global system in a negative way,” said the UAE’s minister of state for artificial intelligence, Omar bin Sultan al-Olama.

“That is a challenge that requires us to… work together to ensure that we can create a shield against the use of these systems.”

The UAE is part of an Arab coalition that has been fighting in Yemen since 2015 to support the government against the Iran-backed Houthis.

While the Emirates announced it withdrew its troops from the country in 2019, it remains an influential player, backing fighters there.

The UAE has been on heightened alert since a Houthi drone and missile attack killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi on January 17.

Authorities have since thwarted three similar attacks, including one claimed by a little-known militant group believed to have ties with pro-Iran armed factions in Iraq.

The UAE’s staunch ally the United States has deployed a warship and fighter planes to help protect the Middle East financial and leisure hub, usually a safe haven in the volatile region.

Meanwhile, France said it would bolster its defense cooperation with the UAE, mostly in securing its air space.

Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthis have recently launched hundreds of drones against Saudi Arabia, while Tehran has been accused of being behind an attack on an Israeli ship last year.

Israel’s military said its air defenses fired at a drone that had crossed into its airspace from Lebanon on Friday, the second such incident in as many days.

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US: Bodies of two of three missing kids found in Minnesota lake

The bodies of two young children have been recovered from a Minnesota lake, and searchers are still looking for a third they fear may have been intentionally drowned.

Meanwhile, the father of the children died at a different location hours earlier, and their mother is missing. Names have not been released.

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The chain of events began Friday morning when the father was found dead at a mobile home park in the town of Maplewood, near Minneapolis. Police determined that the woman had left with the children, and a search began.

Maplewood Police Lt. Joe Steiner said the woman’s car was found near Vadnais Lake around 4 p.m. Friday. The shoes of the children were found on the shore.

A search of the lake found one child’s body Friday evening. A second body was found overnight. Searchers from several organizations were busy Saturday looking for the third, as well as the mother.

Authorities believe all three children were under the age of 5.

“There’s nothing more tragic than the loss of young children,” Ramsey County Sheriff Bob Fletcher said at a news conference on Friday. He called the deaths a “likely triple homicide.”

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

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Foreign firefighters arrive in Greece for summer wildfire season

Several dozen Romanian and Bulgarian firefighters took up their posts in Greece on Saturday, the first members of a European force being deployed to the country to provide backup in case of major wildfires during the summer.

More than 200 firefighters and equipment from Bulgaria, France, Germany, Romania, Norway and Finland will be on standby during the hottest months of July and August in Greece, where a spate of wildfires caused devastation last summer.

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A group of 28 Romanian firefighters with eight vehicles, and 16 firefighters from Bulgaria with four vehicles, were the first to arrive for the two-month mission, financed and coordinated under the European Union’s civil protection mechanism.

“We thank you very much for coming to help us during a difficult summer for our country, and for proving that European solidarity is not just theoretical, it’s real,” Greek Civil Protection Minister Christos Stylianides said on Saturday as he welcomed the members of the Romanian mission in Athens.

“When things get tough, you will be side by side with our Greek firefighters so we can save lives and property.”

The Bulgarian firefighters have been stationed in Larissa, in central Greece.

Last summer’s wildfires ravaged about 300,000 acres (121,000 hectares) of forest and bushland in different parts of Greece as the country experienced its worst heatwave in 30 years.

Following sharp criticism of its response to the fires, the Greek government set up a new civil protection ministry and promised to boost firefighting capacities.

In Greece’s worst wildfire disaster, 102 people were killed when a blaze tore through the seaside town of Mati and nearby areas close to Athens during the summer of 2018.

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One killed, six injured in shootout between migrant groups in Serbia

One migrant was killed and at least six others, including a teenage girl, were injured Saturday in a shootout between migrant groups in Serbia near the Hungarian border, the state-run RTS television reported.

The 16-year-old girl sustained life threatening injuries in the incident that occurred in a forest in the outskirts of Subotica, some 160 kilometers (100 miles) north of Belgrade, where the injured were hospitalized, RTS reported.

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Police, who made no immediate comment, blocked access to the forest where the incident took place, only around a kilometer from the Hungarian border.

Interior Minister Aleksandar Vulin rushed to the scene.

The injured, aged between 20 and 30, have no documents, Subotica mayor Stevan Bakic told local media.

It is not known what triggered the incident, he added.

Local media reported that the shootout occurred between Afghan and Pakistani migrants most likely over human trafficking from the area to European Union member Hungary.

Serbia lies on the so-called Balkans route used by migrants heading towards Western Europe as they flee war and poverty in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

Although the route is nowhere as busy as it was during Europe’s migrant crisis in 2015, tens of thousands of illegal migrants still cross the region annually.

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