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Sudan civilian bloc reject post-coup crisis talks with army

Sudan’s civilian bloc on Monday rejected UN-facilitated talks with the army to resolve a crisis sparked by last year’s military coup, saying the meetings did not tackle the problem.

The United Nations, along with the African Union and regional IGAD bloc, have been pushing for Sudanese-led talks to solve the impasse since army chief Abdel Fattah al-Burhan led a military power grab in October, ousting the civilian Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC).

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The FFC said it received an invitation from the UN-AU-IGAD trio for a technical meeting with the military on Wednesday, but “conveyed its apologies” and said they would not attend.

The October coup derailed a fragile transition to civilian rule that had been established following the 2019 ouster of president Omar al-Bashir.

The meeting “does not address the nature of the crisis” and any political process should work on “ending the coup and establishing a democratic civilian authority,” the FFC said in a statement.

“This cannot be done by inundating the political process with parties representing the coup camp or linked to the former regime,” it added.

Anti-coup protests broke out in several parts of Khartoum on Monday, with crowds demanding civilian rule.

They were met by a heavy deployment of security forces, firing a barrage of tear gas canisters, witnesses said.

Since the coup, Sudan has been rocked by near-weekly protests and a violent crackdown that has killed nearly 100 people, according to pro-democracy medics.

Last week, Burhan week lifted a state of emergency in force since the coup to set the stage for “meaningful dialogue that achieves stability for the transitional period.”

Military officials have agreed to launch “direct talks” between Sudanese factions. Authorities have in recent weeks also released multiple civilian leaders and pro-democracy activists arrested since the coup.

However, the FFC on Monday said that other activists still remain in prison and the iron-fisted suppression of protests continues.

On Saturday, the UN human rights expert Adama Dieng, on his second visit to Sudan since the coup, denounced the killing of protesters and “the excessive use of force” by security forces.

On Sunday, US Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Molly Phee arrived in Sudan to “support the Sudanese-led process to resolve the crisis.”

Sudan, one of the world’s poorest countries, was already reeling from a plunging economy due to decades of international isolation and mismanagement under Bashir.

But the turmoil has intensified since the coup amid international aid cuts.

Read more: Sudanese protester shot dead in Khartoum after state of emergency lifted: Medics

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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

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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