China Coastguard Says it Warns off Japanese Ships in Disputed Waters

File Photo: Photo nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
File Photo: Photo nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
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China Coastguard Says it Warns off Japanese Ships in Disputed Waters

File Photo: Photo nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)
File Photo: Photo nearby Ukedo fishing port in Namie town, northeastern Japan, Thursday, Aug. 24, 2023. (AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

The Chinese coastguard said its vessels warned off Japanese ships that "illegally intruded" into waters around disputed East China Sea islets on Tuesday.

The Chinese vessels "took necessary control measures", the coastguard added, without going into details. There was no immediate comment from Japan, Reuters reported.

China urged Japan to immediately cease all "illegal activities" in the area and ensure that similar incidents do not recur, the coastguard added.

The waters around Diaoyu Islands, which Japan calls the Senkaku Islands, are disputed and claimed by both China and Japan. The two sides have faced off in the waters, deploying patrol boats and urging the other to leave the area.



US House Passes $95 Billion Ukraine, Israel Aid Package

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. Reuters
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. Reuters
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US House Passes $95 Billion Ukraine, Israel Aid Package

Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. Reuters
Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson. Reuters

The US House of Representatives on Saturday with broad bipartisan support passed a $95 billion legislative package providing security assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan, over bitter objections from Republican hardliners.
The legislation now proceeds to the Democratic-majority Senate, which passed a similar measure more than two months ago. US leaders from Democratic President Joe Biden to top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell had been urging embattled Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson to bring it up for a vote.
The Senate is set to begin considering the House-passed bill on Tuesday, with some preliminary votes that afternoon, Reuters reported. Final passage was expected sometime next week, which would clear the way for Biden to sign it into law.
The bills provide $60.84 billion to address the conflict in Ukraine, including $23 billion to replenish US weapons, stocks and facilities; $26 billion for Israel, including $9.1 billion for humanitarian needs, and $8.12 billion for the Indo-Pacific, including Taiwan.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy expressed his thanks, saying US lawmakers moved to keep "history on the right track."
"The vital US aid bill passed today by the House will keep the war from expanding, save thousands and thousands of lives, and help both of our nations to become stronger," Zelenskiy said on X.
The Biden administration is already finalizing its next assistance package for Ukraine so it can announce the new tranche of aid soon after the bill becomes law in order to meet Ukraine’s urgent battlefield needs, a White House official said.

It was unclear how quickly the new military funding for Ukraine will be depleted, likely causing calls for further action by Congress.
Biden, who had urged Congress since last year to approve the additional aid to Ukraine, said in a statement: "It comes at a moment of grave urgency, with Israel facing unprecedented attacks from Iran and Ukraine under continued bombardment from Russia."
The vote on passage of the Ukraine funding was 311-112. Significantly, 112 Republicans opposed the legislation, with only 101 in support.
"Mike Johnson is a lame duck ... he's done," far-right Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene told reporters afterward.
She has been a leading opponent of helping Ukraine in its war against Russia and has taken steps that threaten to remove Johnson from office over this issue. Greene stopped short of doing so on Saturday, however.
During the vote, several lawmakers waved small Ukrainian flags as it became clear that element of the package was headed to passage. Johnson warned lawmakers that was a "violation of decorum."


US Military to Begin Plans to Withdraw Troops from Niger

The US will begin plans to withdraw troops from Niger. AP
The US will begin plans to withdraw troops from Niger. AP
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US Military to Begin Plans to Withdraw Troops from Niger

The US will begin plans to withdraw troops from Niger. AP
The US will begin plans to withdraw troops from Niger. AP

The United States will begin plans to withdraw troops from Niger, US officials said Saturday, in what experts say is a blow to Washington and its allies in the region in terms of staging security operations in the Sahel. The planned departure comes as US officials said they were trying to find a new military agreement.

The prime minister of Niger, appointed by the ruling military junta, Ali Lamine Zeine, and US deputy secretary of state Kurt Campbell, agreed on Friday that the two nations would begin to plan the withdrawal of American troops, the US State Department told The Associated Press in an email Saturday.

A US official said there was no timeline for withdrawal besides talks set to start in the coming days about next steps. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to detail the private diplomatic discussions. An American delegation to coordinate the details of the withdrawal process will be dispatched soon.

Niger plays a central role in the US military’s operations in Africa’s Sahel region, an area on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Washington is concerned about the spread of violence, where local groups have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and ISIS groups. Niger is home to a major US air base, in the city of Agadez, about 920 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital, Niamey, using it for manned and unmanned surveillance flights and other operations. The US has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013.

But relations have frayed between Niger and Western countries since mutinous soldiers ousted the country’s democratically elected president in July. Niger’s junta has since told French forces to leave and turned instead to Russia for security. Earlier this month, Russian military trainers arrived to reinforce the country’s air defenses and with Russian equipment to train Nigeriens to use.
There was an attempt on the behalf of the US to revise the military agreement with Niger that would allow them to stay, US officials told the AP. But the agreement between Zeine and Campbell shows that the effort has failed.
A separate senior US State Department official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about sensitive diplomatic talks, told the AP on Saturday that Niger's junta made a decision that they don't want any foreign forces in the country, including the US and that the security partnership was ending for the time being. The junta told the US that Russia's presence was to train Nigeriens on how to operate the equipment. The official said that the US had valid concerns about some of the choices the junta was making, specifically about the potential for Russian and American troops to be colocated.

The loss of access to air bases in Niger is a major setback for the US and its allies in the region because of its strategic location for security operations in the Sahel, said Peter Pham, former US special envoy for the Sahel region.

The United States will begin plans to withdraw troops from Niger, US officials said Saturday, in what experts say is a blow to Washington and its allies in the region in terms of staging security operations in the Sahel. The planned departure comes as US officials said they were trying to find a new military agreement.

The prime minister of Niger, appointed by the ruling military junta, Ali Lamine Zeine, and US deputy secretary of state Kurt Campbell, agreed on Friday that the two nations would begin to plan the withdrawal of American troops, the US State Department told The Associated Press in an email Saturday.

A US official said there was no timeline for withdrawal besides talks set to start in the coming days about next steps. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to detail the private diplomatic discussions. An American delegation to coordinate the details of the withdrawal process will be dispatched soon.

Niger plays a central role in the US military’s operations in Africa’s Sahel region, an area on the edge of the Sahara Desert. Washington is concerned about the spread of violence, where local groups have pledged allegiance to al-Qaeda and ISIS groups. Niger is home to a major US air base, in the city of Agadez, about 920 kilometers (550 miles) from the capital, Niamey, using it for manned and unmanned surveillance flights and other operations. The US has also invested hundreds of millions of dollars in training Niger’s military since it began operations there in 2013.

But relations have frayed between Niger and Western countries since mutinous soldiers ousted the country’s democratically elected president in July. Niger’s junta has since told French forces to leave and turned instead to Russia for security. Earlier this month, Russian military trainers arrived to reinforce the country’s air defenses and with Russian equipment to train Nigeriens to use.
There was an attempt on the behalf of the US to revise the military agreement with Niger that would allow them to stay, US officials told the AP. But the agreement between Zeine and Campbell shows that the effort has failed.
A separate senior US State Department official, who also spoke on condition of anonymity to speak about sensitive diplomatic talks, told the AP on Saturday that Niger's junta made a decision that they don't want any foreign forces in the country, including the US and that the security partnership was ending for the time being. The junta told the US that Russia's presence was to train Nigeriens on how to operate the equipment. The official said that the US had valid concerns about some of the choices the junta was making, specifically about the potential for Russian and American troops to be colocated.

The loss of access to air bases in Niger is a major setback for the US and its allies in the region because of its strategic location for security operations in the Sahel, said Peter Pham, former US special envoy for the Sahel region.


China’s FM Says Major Powers Should Avoid Rivalry in South Pacific

 People step off gangway after their visiting Chinese Navy Shijianzhuang destroyer during a media tour organised by Chinese Navy at a port in Qingdao, China's Shandong province on April 20, 2024. (AFP)
People step off gangway after their visiting Chinese Navy Shijianzhuang destroyer during a media tour organised by Chinese Navy at a port in Qingdao, China's Shandong province on April 20, 2024. (AFP)
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China’s FM Says Major Powers Should Avoid Rivalry in South Pacific

 People step off gangway after their visiting Chinese Navy Shijianzhuang destroyer during a media tour organised by Chinese Navy at a port in Qingdao, China's Shandong province on April 20, 2024. (AFP)
People step off gangway after their visiting Chinese Navy Shijianzhuang destroyer during a media tour organised by Chinese Navy at a port in Qingdao, China's Shandong province on April 20, 2024. (AFP)

China's foreign minister Wang Yi on Saturday said the South Pacific region should not become an arena for major power rivalries and that its assistance to countries there is free of political conditions.

The Pacific has become a source of intense competition for influence between Washington, which has traditionally viewed it as its backyard, and Beijing, which has targeted Taiwanese diplomatic allies there.

Wang made the comments at a joint press conference with his Papua New Guinea counterpart during a visit to country.

"The South Pacific region should not become an arena for great powers to play games, and no country should treat the island countries as its own 'backyard' or engage in zero-sum games and exclusionary arrangements," Wang said.

He said any attempt to provoke confrontation in the South Pacific region does not serve the needs of its people.

"China's engagement and cooperation with the South Pacific island countries is dedicated to mutual support and assistance to achieve common development, without any geopolitical self-interest," Wang said.

He added that China is willing to maintain high-level exchanges with Papua New Guinea and open negotiations for free trade agreements as soon as possible.

State media Xinhua reported Wang saying that all parties should respect the choice of the people of Solomon Islands and refrain from interfering in their internal affairs.

The Solomon Islands' pro-China Prime Minister Manasseh Sogavare has retained his seat in a national election, local media reported late on Friday.

Wednesday's election was the first since Sogavare struck a security pact with China in 2022 and drew the Pacific Islands nation closer to Beijing, in moves that concerned the US and Australia because of the potential impact on regional security.


Satellite Image Analyzed by AP Shows Damage after Iranian Attack on Israeli Desert Air Base

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows Israel's Nevatim air base on Friday, April 19, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows Israel's Nevatim air base on Friday, April 19, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
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Satellite Image Analyzed by AP Shows Damage after Iranian Attack on Israeli Desert Air Base

This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows Israel's Nevatim air base on Friday, April 19, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)
This satellite photo taken by Planet Labs PBC shows Israel's Nevatim air base on Friday, April 19, 2024. (Planet Labs PBC via AP)

An Iranian attack on an Israeli desert air base last week as part of Tehran's unprecedented assault on the country damaged a taxiway, a satellite image analyzed by The Associated Press on Saturday shows.

The overall damage done to Nevatim air base in southern Israel was minor despite Iran launching hundreds of drones, ballistic missiles and cruise missiles. Israeli air defenses and fighter jets, backed by the US, the United Kingdom and neighboring Jordan, shot down the vast majority of the incoming fire.

But the Iranian attack last weekend showed Tehran's willingness to use its vast arsenal of ballistic missiles directly against Israel as tensions remain high across the wider Middle East over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip. An apparent Israeli retaliatory attack Friday on Isfahan, Iran, and Tehran's low-key response to it suggest both countries want to dial back their long-running shadow war for now — though risks of a wider conflagration in the region remain.

The Planet Labs PBC image, taken Friday for the AP, shows fresh blacktop across a taxiway near hangars at the southern part of Nevatim air base, about 65 kilometers (40 miles) south of Jerusalem. The daily newspaper Haaretz, which published lower-resolution images of the site Thursday, identified the hangars nearby as housing C-130 cargo aircraft flown by transport squadrons.

The satellite image corresponds to footage earlier released by the Israeli military, which showed construction equipment working on the damaged taxiway. A hangar in the background of the video mirrors those seen nearby.

Other images released by the Israeli military showed a crater in the sand and damage under what appeared to be a wall that it said came from the Iranian attack. The little visible damage seen at the air base in the satellite image directly contradicts Iran's efforts to portray the attack as a great victory to a public alienated by Tehran’s cratering economy and its heavy-handed crackdowns on dissent in recent years.

“This operation became a sign of the power of the Islamic Republic and its armed forces," Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi said Friday. “It also showed the steely determination of our nation and our wise leader, the commander of all forces.”

However, it does show Iran's arsenal has the ability to reach Israel, as the April 13 attack marked the first direct military assault on the country by a foreign nation since Iraqi ruler Saddam Hussein launched Scud missiles at Israel in the 1991 Gulf War.


Venezuela’s Main Opposition Bloc Agrees on Candidate to Challenge Maduro in Presidential Election

HANDOUT - 16 April 2024, Venezuela, Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a virtual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Photo: Marcelo Garcia/Prensa Miraflores/dpa
HANDOUT - 16 April 2024, Venezuela, Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a virtual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Photo: Marcelo Garcia/Prensa Miraflores/dpa
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Venezuela’s Main Opposition Bloc Agrees on Candidate to Challenge Maduro in Presidential Election

HANDOUT - 16 April 2024, Venezuela, Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a virtual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Photo: Marcelo Garcia/Prensa Miraflores/dpa
HANDOUT - 16 April 2024, Venezuela, Caracas: Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro speaks at a virtual meeting of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC). Photo: Marcelo Garcia/Prensa Miraflores/dpa

Venezuela's main opposition coalition agreed Friday to unite behind former diplomat Edmundo González as its challenger to President Nicolás Maduro in this summer's election, acting one day before the deadline to formalize its candidate.
The decision was reached unanimously by the 10 parties in the Unitary Democratic Platform, Omar Barboza, the coalition's executive secretary, said after a five-hour meeting that included discussions of other possible candidates, The Associated Press said.
The bloc had been allowed to provisionally register González on March 26 after the government came under a wave of criticism when opposition leaders said they were blocked from registering their candidate of choice. Saturday was the deadline to make his candidacy final.
The opposition group needed to replace its first candidate, María Corina Machado, who easily won a primary organized by the bloc in October but was barred by the government from running after the ruling party-controlled State Comptroller's Office disqualified her from holding public office for 15 years.
Maduro’s administration has cracked down on the opposition before the July 28 presidential election despite promises to pave the way to fair elections in exchange for sanctions relief. The Biden administration on Wednesday reimposed crushing oil sanctions, criticizing Maduro's moves.
The governments of Colombia and Brazil also have expressed concern, and Guatemalan President Bernardo Arévalo accused Maduro’s government of “consolidating an anti-democratic system.”
Venezuelan Foreign Minister Yvan Gil has called the criticism a “gross interference in matters that only concern Venezuelans.”
Maduro, a self-proclaimed socialist leader. officially launched his candidacy last month for a third term that would last until 2031.
The election is likely to have more than 10 candidates, but except for the main opposition coalition, none are expect to pose a threat to Maduro’s power base.


People from Myanmar Flee into Thailand after Clashes in Key Border Town

Thai soldiers and members of the media take cover near the 2nd Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge during fighting on the Myanmar side between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Myanmar's troops, which continues near the Thailand-Myanmar border, in Mae Sot, Tak Province,  Thailand, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Thai soldiers and members of the media take cover near the 2nd Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge during fighting on the Myanmar side between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Myanmar's troops, which continues near the Thailand-Myanmar border, in Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
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People from Myanmar Flee into Thailand after Clashes in Key Border Town

Thai soldiers and members of the media take cover near the 2nd Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge during fighting on the Myanmar side between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Myanmar's troops, which continues near the Thailand-Myanmar border, in Mae Sot, Tak Province,  Thailand, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun
Thai soldiers and members of the media take cover near the 2nd Thailand-Myanmar Friendship Bridge during fighting on the Myanmar side between the Karen National Liberation Army (KNLA) and Myanmar's troops, which continues near the Thailand-Myanmar border, in Mae Sot, Tak Province, Thailand, April 20, 2024. REUTERS/Soe Zeya Tun

About 1,300 people have fled from eastern Myanmar into Thailand, officials said Saturday, as fresh fighting erupted at a border town that has recently been captured by ethnic guerillas.
Fighters from the Karen ethnic minority last week captured the last of the Myanmar army’s outposts in and around Myawaddy, which is connected to Thailand by two bridges across the Moei River, The Associated Press said.
The latest clashes were triggered in the morning when the Karen guerillas launched an attack against Myanmar troops who were hiding near the 2nd Thai-Myanmar Friendship Bridge, a major crossing point for trade with Thailand, said police chief Pittayakorn Phetcharat in Thailand's Mae Sot district. He estimated about 1,300 people fled into Thailand.
Thai officials reported people had started crossing since Friday following clashes in several areas of Myawaddy.
The fall of Myawaddy is a major setback for the military that seized power from the elected government of Aung San Suu Kyi in 2021. Myanmar’s once-mighty armed forces have suffered a series of unprecedented defeats since last October, losing swathes of territory including border posts to both ethnic fighters, who have been fighting for greater autonomy for decades, and pro-democracy guerrilla units that took up arms after the military takeover.
The clashes, involving drone attacks from the Karen forces and airstrikes by the Myanmar military, had subsided by noon Saturday compared to the morning, but Mae Sot police chief Pittayakorn Phetcharat said he could still hear sporadic gunshots. He said Thai authorities would move people fleeing into a safer area.
Footage from the Thai border showed Thai soldiers maintaining guard near the bridge with sounds of explosions and gunshots in the background. People with children walked across the bridge with their belongings and were received by Thai officials on the river bank. Several are seen taking shelter in buildings along the river bank on the Myanmar side.
Thailand’s Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin wrote on the social media platform X on Saturday that he was closely monitoring the situation at the border.
“I do not desire to see any such clashes have any impact on the territorial integrity of Thailand and we are ready to protect our borders and the safety of our people. At the same time, we are also ready to provide humanitarian assistance if necessary,” he wrote.
In March, Thailand delivered its first batch of humanitarian assistance to Myanmar for about 20,000 displaced people.
Nikorndej Balangura, a spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told reporters on Friday that Thailand is currently working to expand its aid initiative.


Moscow Says 50 Ukrainian Drones Shot Down as Attacks Spark Fires at Russian Power Stations

 Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
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Moscow Says 50 Ukrainian Drones Shot Down as Attacks Spark Fires at Russian Power Stations

 Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)
Russian rockets are launched against Ukraine from Russia's Belgorod region, seen from Kharkiv, Ukraine, on Thursday, April 18, 2024. (AP)

Ukraine launched a barrage of drones across Russia overnight, the Defense Ministry in Moscow said Saturday, in attacks that appeared to target the country’s energy infrastructure.

Fifty drones were shot down by air defenses over eight Russian regions, including 26 over the country’s western Belgorod region close to the Ukrainian border. Two people — a woman with a broken leg and the man caring for her — died during the barrage, after explosions sparked a blaze that set their home alight, Belgorod Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov wrote on social media.

Drones were also reportedly destroyed over the Bryansk, Kursk, Tula, Smolensk, Ryazan, Kaluga regions across Russia’s west and south, as well as in the Moscow region.

Ukrainian officials normally decline comment about attacks on Russian soil. However, many of the drone strikes appeared to be directed toward Russia’s energy infrastructure.

The head of the Kaluga region, Vladislav Shapsha, said Saturday that a drone strike had sparked a blaze at an electrical substation, while Bryansk Gov. Alexander Bogomaz and Smolensk Gov. Vasily Anokhin also reported fires at fuel and energy complexes.

In recent months, Russian refineries and oil terminals have become priority targets of Ukrainian drone attacks, part of stepped-up assaults on Russian territory.

Ukrainian drone developers have been extending the weapons’ range for months, as Kyiv attempts to compensate for its battlefield disadvantage in weapons and troops. The unmanned aerial vehicles are also an affordable option while Ukraine waits for more US military aid.

Meanwhile, Russia attacked Ukraine overnight with seven missiles, and air defenses downed two missiles and three reconnaissance drones, the Ukrainian air force said Saturday.

Gov. Oleh Kiper, head of Ukraine’s Odesa region, said that ballistic missiles had damaged infrastructure overnight, but did not provide further details. Previous attacks on the Black Sea city on Friday damaged port infrastructure, including two food export terminals, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said.

Russian shelling also killed a 50-year-old man in the city of Vovchansk, said Gov. Oleh Syniehubov, head of Ukraine’s Kharkiv region.

A 60-year-old woman was also injured after shelling struck a nine-story apartment block, he said.


Man Who Set Himself on Fire outside Trump Trial Dies of Injuries, Police Say

A fire extinguisher sits in a park outside of Manhattan Criminal Court where a man set himself on fire Friday afternoon on April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Getty Images/AFP)
A fire extinguisher sits in a park outside of Manhattan Criminal Court where a man set himself on fire Friday afternoon on April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Getty Images/AFP)
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Man Who Set Himself on Fire outside Trump Trial Dies of Injuries, Police Say

A fire extinguisher sits in a park outside of Manhattan Criminal Court where a man set himself on fire Friday afternoon on April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Getty Images/AFP)
A fire extinguisher sits in a park outside of Manhattan Criminal Court where a man set himself on fire Friday afternoon on April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Getty Images/AFP)

A man who doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire outside the courthouse where former President Donald Trump is on trial is on trial has died, police said.

The New York City Police Department said the man was declared dead by staff at an area hospital.

The man was in Collect Pond Park around 1:30 p.m. Friday when he took out pamphlets espousing conspiracy theories, tossed them around, then doused himself in an accelerant and set himself on fire, officials and witnesses said.

A large number of police officers were nearby when it happened. Some officers and bystanders rushed to the aid of the man, who was hospitalized in critical condition.

The man, who police said had traveled from Florida to New York in the last few days, hadn't breached any security checkpoints to get into the park.

The park outside the courthouse has been a gathering spot for protesters, journalists and gawkers throughout Trump’s trial, which began with jury selection Monday.

Through Friday, the streets and sidewalks in the area around the courthouse were generally wide open and crowds have been small and largely orderly.

Authorities said they were also reviewing the security protocols, including whether to restrict access to the park. The side street where Trump enters and leaves the building is off limits.

“We may have to shut this area down,” New York City Police Department Deputy Commissioner Kaz Daughtry said at a news conference outside the courthouse, adding that officials would discuss the security plan soon.


Russian Defense Ministry to Set Up Drone Development Center

An undated handout image of a Orlan 10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) published by the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
An undated handout image of a Orlan 10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) published by the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
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Russian Defense Ministry to Set Up Drone Development Center

An undated handout image of a Orlan 10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) published by the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS
An undated handout image of a Orlan 10 unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) published by the Russian Defense Ministry. Russian Defense Ministry/Handout via REUTERS

Russia's defense ministry will set up a science and production center for drones and "robotic complexes", Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said on Saturday, according to the ministry.
Shoigu was inspecting a testing range for firearms and drones in the Moscow military district, the defense ministry said.
The conflict in Ukraine has been characterized by drone deployment of unprecedented scale, with thousands of unmanned aerial vehicles used to track enemy forces, guide artillery and bomb targets, Reuters said.
The tiny, inexpensive FPV (first-person view) drone has proved to be one of the most potent weapons in this war, where conventional warplanes are relatively rare because of a dense concentration of anti-aircraft systems near front lines.
At the testing range, Shoigu was shown firearms for tackling such drones as well as a combat quadcopter designed to set up mines.


5 Japanese Workers in Pakistan Escape Suicide Blast Targeting their Van

A Pakistani security official stands guard as the body of an alleged terrorist, killed by security forces at the scene of a suicide bomb attack, is shifted to a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, 19 April 2024. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER
A Pakistani security official stands guard as the body of an alleged terrorist, killed by security forces at the scene of a suicide bomb attack, is shifted to a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, 19 April 2024. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER
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5 Japanese Workers in Pakistan Escape Suicide Blast Targeting their Van

A Pakistani security official stands guard as the body of an alleged terrorist, killed by security forces at the scene of a suicide bomb attack, is shifted to a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, 19 April 2024. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER
A Pakistani security official stands guard as the body of an alleged terrorist, killed by security forces at the scene of a suicide bomb attack, is shifted to a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan, 19 April 2024. EPA/SHAHZAIB AKBER

A suicide bomber targeted a van carrying Japanese nationals in Pakistan's port city of Karachi on Friday, police said. The Japanese nationals escaped unharmed but officials later said one bystander was killed.
Initially, police said the van was heading to an industrial area where the five Japanese nationals worked when it came under attack, local police chief Arshad Awan said. Police escorting the Japanese returned fire, killing a second attacker, the bomber's accomplice, he said.
“All the Japanese who were the target of the attack are safe,” Awan added.
Police had initially said the five worked at Pakistan Suzuki Motors but later corrected that statement, saying it was another factory.
Images on local news channels showed a damaged van as police officers arrived at the scene. The three passersby who were wounded in the attack were taken to the hospital, where one later died. The two others were said to be in stable condition, The Associated Press said.
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif denounced the attack in separate statements, praised police for their quick response and vowed to eliminate terrorism. They also offered prayers for the casualties.
The Foreign Ministry confirmed the Japanese nationals were unhurt and said it “strongly condemns this heinous act of terrorism. All necessary measures will be taken to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
“Pakistan remains committed to ensuring the safety of foreign nationals residing in the country," the ministry said.
The ministry said two Pakistani nationals were killed in Friday's attack, which contradicted the statements from police and hospital officials who said one of the three wounded died. The discrepancy could not immediately be reconciled.
The van was given a police escort following reports of possible attacks targeting foreigners working in Pakistan on various Chinese-funded and other projects, said Tariq Mastoi, a senior police officer. He said a timely and quick response from the guards and police foiled the attack and both attackers were killed.
No one immediately claimed responsibility, but suspicion is likely to fall on separatists or the Pakistani Taliban, who have stepped up attacks on security forces in recent years.
Insurgents have also targeted Chinese working in Pakistan on projects relating to the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor, which includes a multitude of megaprojects such as road construction, power plants and agriculture.
In March, five Chinese and their Pakistani driver were killed when a suicide bomber in northwestern Pakistan rammed his explosive-laden car into a vehicle when they were heading to the Dasu Dam, the biggest hydropower project in Pakistan, where they worked.
Karachi, Pakistan's largest city, is the capital of southern Sindh province.
Separately, an Afghan Taliban religious scholar, Mohammad Omar Jan Akhundzada, was killed on Thursday by gunmen inside a mosque in Quetta, the capital of Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, a local police officer Akram Ullah said.
No one claimed responsibility for that attack.
Many Afghan leaders and scholars lived in Quetta and elsewhere in Pakistan before the Afghan Taliban seized control of Afghanistan in mid-August 2021 as US and NATO forces withdrew. Most then went back and it was unclear why Akhundzada was still in Pakistan.