Attempted coup in Venezuela?
A Venezuelan police helicopter was reported to have strafed the Supreme Court and a government ministry in Venezuela on Tuesday, escalating the OPEC nation's political crisis in what President Nicolas Maduro called an attack by "terrorists" seeking a coup. The aircraft fired 15 shots at the Interior Ministry, where scores of people were at a social event, and dropped four grenades on the court, where judges were meeting. There were no reports of injuries. Maduro said "Sooner rather than later, we are going to capture the helicopter and those behind this armed terrorist attack against the institutions of the country,". The 54-year-old socialist leader had faced three months of protests from opposition leaders who decried him as a dictator who had wrecked a once-prosperous economy. There had been growing dissent too from within government and the security forces. At least 75 people had died, and hundreds more been injured and arrested, in the anti-government unrest since April. Demonstrators had been demanding general elections, measures to alleviate a brutal economic crisis, freedom for hundreds of jailed opposition activists, and independence for the opposition-controlled National Assembly legislature. Maduro said they were seeking a coup against him with the encouragement of a U.S. government eager to gain control of Venezuela's oil reserves, the largest in the world. Venezuela's government said in a communique the helicopter was stolen by an investigative police pilot called Oscar Perez, who declared himself in rebellion against Maduro. A video posted on Perez' Instagram account around the same time showed him standing in front of several hooded armed men, saying an operation was underway to restore democracy. Perez said in the video he represented a coalition of military, police and civilian officials opposed to the "criminal" government, urged Maduro's resignation and called for general elections. "This fight is ... against the vile government. Against tyranny," he said. Opposition leaders had long been calling on Venezuela's security forces to stop obeying Maduro. Opposition to Maduro had come not just from Venezuelan opposition parties but also from the chief state prosecutor Luisa Ortega and one-time government heavyweights such as former intelligence service boss Miguel Rodriguez. Rodriguez criticized Maduro for not holding a referendum before the Constituent Assembly election, as his predecessor Chavez had done in 1999. The government said pilot Perez was linked to Rodriguez.
A fresh date for Scottish independence vote
Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon had postponed preparations for a second independence referendum, after a British general election in which her secessionist party suffered major losses. “We will not introduce the legislation for an independence referendum immediately,” the Scottish National Party leader told Scotland’s parliament in Edinburgh. Sturgeon said she would “reset” the timetable for holding a referendum by spring 2019, when Britain was expected to leave the European Union. She said she would look at the plan again in autumn 2018 when the outlines of the deal that Britain was to strike in the Brexit negotiations became clear. She said the recent election “has re-opened the possibility, however narrow, of averting a hard Brexit and retaining membership of the single market”,. Scotland voted by 55 percent against independence in a 2014 referendum. But Sturgeon had argued that the Brexit referendum last year — in which Scotland voted to stay but Britain as a whole opted to leave — justified her demand for a second independence vote. Prime Minister Theresa May, whose permission would be required for another independence ballot, had told her that “now is not the time” for a referendum.
Iraqi PM sees victory soon
Iraqi forces had pushed towards the river side of Mosul's Old City, their key target in the eight-month campaign to capture Islamic State's de-facto capital, and Iraq's prime minister predicted victory very soon. Iraqi forces, battling up to 350 militants dug in among civilians in the Old City, said federal police had dislodged IS insurgents from the Ziwani mosque and were only a few days away from ousting militants completely from the Old City. "The victory announcement will come in a very short time," Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on his website on Monday evening. "The operation is continuing to free the remaining parts of the Old City," Lieutenant General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi of the Counter Terrorism Service (CTS) told a Reuters correspondent near the frontline in the heart of the Old City. Iraqi forces had about 600 meters (2,000 ft) of ground left to cover before reaching Mosul's Corniche road along the western bank of the Tigris, federal police commander Lieutenant General Raed Shaker Jawdat told Iraqi State TV. "In a few days our forces will reach Corniche and bring the battle to its conclusion," said Jawdat. The fall of the northern Iraqi city would mark the end of the Iraqi half of the "caliphate" proclaimed by Islamic State, though the militant group remained in control of large areas of both Iraq and Syria. The army's 16th infantry division seized on Tuesday the al-Mashahda quarter, in the northwestern corner of the Old City, and federal police took al-Bayd and Ras al-Jadda, in the southwestern quarter according to military statements.
Sheikh Hassan Nasrullah cautions Israel
The leader of the Hezbollah, Shiekh Hassan Nasrullah had warned Israel against attacking Lebanon or Syria, saying “hundreds of thousands” of Arab and Muslim fighters would be ready to strike back. He said “The Israeli enemy should know that if it launches an attack on Syria or Lebanon, it’s unknown whether the fighting will stay just between Lebanon and Israel, or Syria and Israel,”. He said he was not saying that countries would intervene directly -- but it would open the door for hundreds of thousands of fighters from all around the Arab and Islamic world to participate in this fight -- from Iraq, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan.