Revealed: David Miliband called off SAS strike on Iranian General Qassim Soleimani in 2007

The SAS planned to assassinate Iranian military chief Qassim Soleimani during the Iraq War but were stopped by a personal intervention from Labour foreign secretary David Miliband.

The Daily Telegraph has learnt that British special forces were ready to kill Soleimani in 2007 when he was identified as the man running the campaign against UK troops in the southern port city of Basra.

The SAS had him in their “crosshairs”, sources said, but Mr Miliband called off the operation, meaning Soleimani survived until he was killed on Friday morning in a US drone strike.

It emerged that Boris Johnson was given no advance warning of Friday’s US rocket attack in Baghdad despite Britain having hundreds of…

Six dead in Czech hospital shooting, health minister says

Six people have been killed after a shooting at a Czech hospital, the country’s health minister has said. Police are hunting for the suspect, who remains at large.

The gunman opened fire in an outpatients waiting room, according to local media.

Czech police have said they are hunting a "dangerous armed offender" who is in a silver Renault Laguna on the registration number 9T57401.

The force initially released a photograph of a man wearing a red coat they believed to be a suspect, but minutes later they removed the picture from its social media feeds and insisted the man was a witness they wanted to talk to.

The hospital has been evacuated, as has a nearby university, according to reports. 

Aktuální informace na místě je 6 mrtvých a 2 zranění. pic.twitter.com/2ULrc1rgjM

— Policie ČR (@PolicieCZ) December 10, 2019

Police were first called to the shooting at 7.19am on Tuesday. The first patrol arrived five minutes later at 7.24am. 

A spokesman said: "We are currently performing actions to identify the offender and ensure safety around the scene of the event."

More to follow.

How the demand for summary justice for rapists will backfire on India’s poorest citizens

The gruesome rape and murder of a 26-year-old woman, within the city limits of Hyderabad on November 27, has set off a furious debate in India on crimes against women. 

There are growing demands for summary justice, including public lynching of rapists. Have people lost faith in the law and in the criminal justice system? Or does this represent growing lawlessness and demands for retribution and revenge that have come to dominate public discourse in India?

In 2012, when a 23-year-old woman was brutally raped by six men in New Delhi, there was nationwide outrage and demands for a change in the law. 

It was changed in 2013 to introduce the death penalty. Policemen refusing to note rape complaints…

Protest and boycotts as Austrian author accused of supporting Milosevic to receive Nobel prize

Protesters from the Balkans and worldwide are expected to descend on Stockholm today as the Nobel Prize for Literature is handed to an Austrian author accused of supporting the genocidal Serbian regime of Slobodan Milosevic. 

The awarding of this year’s top literature accolade to Peter Handke has prompted an uproar in the region where the wars of the 1990s still cause discord.

The ambassadors of Kosovo, Albania and Turkey have vowed to boycott the ceremony, and a 58,000 strong petition has called for the award to be revoked. 

Mr Handke, now 77, was in his prime as an author when war broke out between the constituent republics of the former Yugoslavia.

He claimed the coverage of the war unfairly demonised Serbs as a people over Croats, Bosniaks and Albanians. 

Since then, Mr Handke has continued to make statements presenting events from the point of view of Serbian nationalist politicians. In 2006, Mr Handke spoke at the funeral of Milosevic, who died while on trial in the Hague over war crimes.

Emir Suljagic leads the Srebrenica Memorial Center, devoted to the memory of the over 8,000 men and boys killed by Bosnian Serb forces in a single day in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica.

He is a survivor of the genocide himself, and flew to Stockholm to join a group that will protest at Tuesday’s ceremony. “I am in Stockholm to protest the award being given to a man who negates my suffering and the suffering of so many others.”

Mr Handke has declined to address the controversy, telling a press conference on Friday that he would not answer " empty and ignorant questions".

The downplaying of war crimes is still an issue among the states that emerged from the Yugoslav conflict, with both political elites and influential voices trying to minimise their country’s role in the war by pointing fingers at the other. 

The majority Muslim Bosniaks in Bosnia and Herzegovina are particular targets of this revisionism.

“Awarding this to Peter Handke sends a message that the suffering of Bosniaks or those believed to be Muslims is not something people in Europe today really take seriously,” said Mr Suljagic.

Mr Handke has his supporters. For residents of the sleepy village of Velika Hoca in Kosovo, the former Serbian province where ethnic tensions still dominate interactions between the ethnic Serb minority and the ethnic Albanian majority, Mr Handke is seen as a hero.

“He was one of the few voices who said something in defense of the Serbs in the West,” says Ljubisa Djuricic, a winemaker in this secluded village known for its wine production and its medieval Serbian Orthodox churches. The Nobel laureate donated about 100,000 euros to the village and said he wanted to enter monkhood there. “Handke is my personal hero.”

But Blend Berisha, an ethnic Albanian who comes from a village bordering Velica Hoca, says that the announcement of the Nobel prize winner made him remember a time he would rather forget.

“We are trying to get along with our Serbian neighbors despite the painful memories of the past, and this award made us remember why we started fighting in the first place.”

Disney sued over Frozen 2’s ‘monopoly’ after it was shown in 90% of South Korean cinema screens

The first instalment was the highest-grossing animated film of all time, taking $1.29 billion worldwide, and its sequel has already earned $742 million. But now there is something that could stop the runaway success of Disney’s smash-hit Frozen franchise: its own popularity.

The South Korean unit of Disney is being taken to court over the ascendancy of its latest box office hit, Frozen 2.

The Public Welfare Committee filed a complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors Office on Sunday demanding an investigation into the company, alleging that it was in breach of monopoly laws in the domestic film market.

The complaint stated that two days after the film was released on November 23, it was being shown on 88 per cent of all screens across the country and that it was shown 16,220 times on that day alone. 

“This is a case of one business occupying more than 50 per cent of the market and constitutes a violation of the antitrust law”, the complaint said. 

Frozen 2 was being shown on 88 per cent of all screens, the complaint claims Credit: DISNEY

The organisation claimed that Disney was aiming to earn a huge profit in a short space of time and, in doing so, limited consumers’ choices and broke the law. 

More than eight million South Koreans have seen the film, including 2.15 million people last weekend. According to IMDB, Frozen 2’s enormous success has already earned Disney $742 million.

South Korea’s domestic movie industry is also unhappy at Frozen 2 stealing the limelight, with the Cineastes Council for Anti-Monopoly releasing a statement last month claiming that the Disney case is “not a one-off” and calling on the government to “tackle the winner-takes-all cinema market”. 

Chung Ji-young, director of Black Money, which was knocked off the top spot at the box office by the Disney film, told a press conference that big-budget Hollywood releases should be on fewer screens for a longer period of time so as not to eat into the takings of other movies. 

South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sport and Tourism has said it will consider imposing a cap on the number of cinema screens that can be set aside solely for one film, although the operators of multiplex cinemas oppose the introduction of new regulations and say they should be permitted to meet the demands of the market. 

China readies nuclear reactor in bid to harness ‘Sun in a box’ technology 

China has completed the construction of a reactor intended for experimental nuclear fusion that has been likened to "putting the Sun in a box" as the world races to find alternatives to fossil fuel use.

Chinese state media announced that the HL-2M machine, based in a research centre in Chengdu, the capital city of southwest China’s Sichuan province, will become operational in 2020.

Nuclear fusion technology – combining rather than splitting atoms to create energy in a process that mimics the Sun – has long held the promise of a means to a never-ending supply of clean energy.

But its full realisation from fusion to efficient energy has so far eluded scientists, who have been unable to come up with a system that creates more energy than it uses. 

China is among several states and private companies who are working on projects to make nuclear fusion a reality. 

Gao Zhe, a physics professor at Beijing’s Tsinghua University, told the SCMP of mastering nuclear fusion: “There is no guarantee that all these problems will be solved. But if we don’t do it, the problems will definitely not be solved.”

Critics of nuclear technology as a replacement for fossil fuels argue that it is too expensive and impractical to make it a viable alternative, but that has not stopped a global effort to crack the solution. 

China is a member of International Thermonuclear Experimental Reactor (Iter) project along with the European Union, the US, India, Japan, South Korea and Russia, and has said it will feed its new technology into that project.

The focus of Iter, which is the world’s most expensive international science project at £15.5bn, is a nuclear fusion reactor in the south of France which has already produced energy on a small scale.

"Fusion has been one of the energies that has brought people together", said Juan Matthews, a visiting professor in nuclear energy technology at The University of Manchester’s Dalton Nuclear Institute. 

Iter is scheduled to become operational in 2025. 

Despite the collaborative approach to creating sustainable fusion technology, states and private companies have a stake in creating their own marketable elements. 

Iter and several other fusion experiments, including the HL-2M, use a doughnut shaped chamber called a tokamak – an invention first developed by the Soviets in the 1960s.

Last month the UK announced a landmark £220m investment in the development of a project to develop its own, more compact, version of the tokamak it hopes will be less expensive to build. 

"Everybody recognises the huge potential of fusion," said Ian Chapman, the CEO of the UK’s Atomic Energy Authority. "If you can make that a reality in a market competitive way then the impact on future climate change could be huge. It’s not surprising that everyone is keen."

‘High Five’ rapists jailed for sickening nightclub attack

Two men have been jailed following a landmark rape case which is thought to be the first in the country in which charges were brought without a "clear allegation" from the victim.

Italian nationals, Ferdinando Orlando, 25, and Lorenzo Costanzo, 26, were caught on CCTV giving each other a ‘high five’ and hugging after attacking a 23-year-old woman in a Soho nightclub and then abandoning her in the toilet in extreme pain.

Despite the victim being too drunk to remember the attack, or be in a position to make an allegation, police pursued the case, using CCTV footage and medical evidence.

The officer who led the case, Detective Sergeant Rebecca Woodsford, urged any woman who found herself in a similar situation to come forward, saying: "If you do not know, we will still try to help."

Ferdinando Orlando and Lorenzo Costanzo carried out the attack at a nightclub in London

The attack took place in a cupboard in the Toy Club nightclub in Soho in February 2017.

The victim had been celebrating a friend’s birthday and was described as being very drunk when she was approached by hyer two attackers on the dancefloor.

CCTV showed them taking it in turns to kiss the victim on the dance floor before escorting her to a cupboard.

Police and prosecutors argued the woman’s condition meant she was unable to consent to sex with the men.

About 16 minutes later the three re-emerged, with the defendants rearranging the victim’s clothing before they walk her to the female toilets and abandon her.

The two men then ran outside and high-fived each other, before watching back footage of the attack on a mobile phone.

The victim was found an hour later by a security guard in the toilet with severe injuries which required surgery. She lost 300ml of blood in the brutal attack.

Ferdinando Orlando was jailed for seven and a half years

The men were identified because the nightclub operated a system that scanned and stored the IDs of those entering.

The pair escaped justice for more than a year after the attack, by returning to Italy, but were eventually caught when Costanzo returned to the UK to watch an Arsenal versus Milan football match.

Orlando subsequently gave himself up and returned to the UK.

They were both jailed for seven and a half years yesterday following a trial at Isleworth Crown Court.

Lorenzo Costanzo was jailed for seven and a half years

In a victim impact statement, the woman said the rape had left her in "constant fear" and unable to relax or enjoy drinking with friends when she goes out.

She added: "When I found out more than one man was involved I felt violently ill with the thought that two men did something this horrible … to me."

Ms Woodsford said: “The CCTV evidence was key in this case.  The high fiving and hugging simply shows that what they thought of what they had done, The proud celebratory behaviour really demonstrates exactly how they felt about it. 

The maintenance cupboard where the attack took place

"I thought it was really shocking footage. I have not seen footage like that before but I really think it demonstrates the thought process and how they felt about the whole incident.”

She added: “It is the first time I have seen a prosecution result in a conviction in a case where there is no clear allegation in relation to sexual crime.

"It proves our commitment to victims of rape and people who believe they are victims of rape and that we will investigate what has 

happened.

“One of the big messages we want to give is that if you do not know, we will still try and help.”

Chinese bishop ‘on the run’ after refusing to join state-sanctioned church

A Catholic bishop in China is believed to be on the run from state security after refusing to bring his church under a government-sanctioned religious association.

Guo Xijin, 61, has fled the custody of state agents and has gone into hiding, reported Catholic Asia News, a website, and cannot be immediately reached for comment. 

Mr Guo is part of a group of bishops that many religious and human rights experts feared would be persecuted after the Vatican inked a deal with Beijing last year on the ordaining bishops. 

China has long insisted that it approve appointments, clashing with absolute papal authority to pick bishop. The agreement broke that standoff, and could help pave the way for formal diplomatic ties, but also stoked worries that the Chinese state would have too much power to regulate religion. 

Since Communism took hold in China, there have been in practice two Catholic churches – one sanctioned by the government, and an underground one loyal to the Vatican, and it remains unclear what would happen to bishops who refused to fall in line wiht the government.

China’s officially atheist Communist Party – has engaged in a widespread crackdown on religion in the last few years. Authorities have banned Arab-style onion domes on mosques and other buildings – even if merely decorative.

The UN estimates more than a million Muslims have been detained in chilling “re-education” camps, where former detainees have told The Telegraph they were subject to physical torture, psychological intimidation and political indoctrination.

The government has shut down churches not sanctioned by the Party, detaining priests and members of various congregations. And houses of worship, including Buddhist temples, are now mandated to have pictures of Xi Jinping, the leader of the Party. 

Chinese authorities claim that people have freedom of religion – provided that they worship in state-sanctioned temples, churches, and mosques. The government has said that all religious believers must “be subordinate to and serve the overall interests of the nation and the Chinese people,” making it explicit that they must also “support the leadership of the Chiense Communist Party.” 

Sydney residents urged to stay indoors as Australian bushfire smoke blankets city

Strong winds stoked more than 100 fires across Australia’s east coast on Tuesday, blanketing Sydney in hazardous smoke and prompting health warnings for the country’s most populous city.

Australia is prone to bushfires in its dry, hot summers, but fierce blazes have been sparked early, in the southern spring, by a long drought and soaring temperatures.

Wildfires have so far this month claimed at least four lives, burnt about 2.5 million acres (1 million hectares) of farmland and bush and destroyed more than 300 homes.

Powerful winds fanned around 130 fires that have been burning across New South Wales and Queensland states for several days, and pushed smoke south to form a thick haze over Sydney, home to around 5 million people.

Officials said the air quality above parts of the harbour city was measured at 10 times hazardous levels on Tuesday and advised people to stay indoors as much as possible as the smoke lingers over coming days.

Smoke shrouds the Sydney Opera House Credit: Cassie Trotter/Getty

"We know that heatwaves cause severe illness, hospital admission and even deaths, and that people are more sensitive to heatwaves early in the season," Richard Broom, director of environmental health at NSW Health said In an emailed statement.

"The combination of heat and poor air quality adds to the risk."

In NSW, firefighters were scrambling to strengthen fire containment lines ahead of forecast higher temperatures for much of the rest of the week.

"More than 1,300 firefighters are working on these fires, undertaking backburning operations and strengthening containment lines ahead of forecast hot, dry and windy weather, with seven areas under a total fire ban," the NSW Rural Fire Service said in a statement.

An image taken from an aeroplane shows smoke haze blanketing Sydney Credit: REUTERS

The current bushfire crisis has mostly been contained to the east coast of NSW and Queensland states, but officials in South Australia warned on Tuesday that forecast near-record temperatures raises the risks in that state.

Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology said temperatures in Adelaide, the capital of South Australia, will hit 42 degrees Celsius (107.6 degrees Fahrenheit) on Wednesday, which coupled with strong winds will create "catastrophic" fire danger conditions. 

French general rebuked after telling Notre Dame architect to ‘shut his mouth’ after renovations

The French army general charged with the rebuilding of Paris’ fire-ravaged Notre-Dame was rebuked by the government Thursday after telling the chief architect to "shut his mouth" in a sign of tension over the cathedral’s future appearance.

General Jean-Louis Georgelin lost his cool with architect Philippe Villeneuve in a dispute over whether to replace the spire – which was toppled in the April 15 blaze – with an exact replica or mix things up with a modern twist.

"As for the chief architect, I have already explained that he should shut his mouth," Georgelin said to gasps of astonishment at a meeting of the cultural affairs committee of the lower house National Assembly late Wednesday.

Culture Minister Franck Riester tweeted Thursday that Georgelin’s outburst was "not acceptable".

"Respect is a cardinal value in our society. As public officials, we must be exemplary," he said.

Notre-Dame lost its gothic spire in a major blaze in April Credit: REX

President Emmanuel Macron – who appointed Georgelin to head the massive reconstruction project – has said he is in favour of adding a "contemporary" touch to the spire.

But Villeneuve insists it must be redone exactly as it was before.

Georgelin, a former army chief of staff, suggested that "we move ahead in wisdom so that we can serenely make the best choice for Notre-Dame, for Paris, for the world".

He said the final option will be decided in 2021, and called in the meantime for the "hustle and bustle" over the issue to stop.

Georgelin confirmed the five-year timeframe set by Macron for rebuilding the cathedral – a deadline some experts see as too ambitious.

Villeneuve, however, has said the target could only be met if the spire is rebuilt to resemble its former self.

Notre-Dame, part of a UNESCO world heritage site on the banks of the River Seine in Paris, lost its gothic spire, roof and many precious artefacts in the blaze.

Paris prosecutors said in June a poorly stubbed-out cigarette or an electrical fault could have started the fire and opened an investigation into criminal negligence.

Last month, the culture ministry said nearly one billion euros ($1.1 billion) had been pledged or raised for the gargantuan reconstruction.

The cathedral is still enveloped in scaffolding and plastic sheeting.

Georgelin told MPs Notre-Dame "remains in danger".

"The phase of securing the edifice is not over. It will be done when the scaffolding around the spire has been dismantled," he said, and warned of winter gales threatening to "destabilise" the temporary, protective structure.

On the positive side, Notre-Dame "no longer seems to be emitting lead" – a major concern shortly after the disaster that saw hundreds of tonnes of lead in the roof and steeple melt.

Villeneuve, the cathedral’s architect since 2013, last month said: "Either I restore it identically, it will be me, or they make a contemporary spire and it will be someone else."