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.

— 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.

Nigerian table tennis players wrongfully arrested in Croatia and forced across border into Bosnia 

Two Nigerian table tennis players who traveled to Croatia for a sports competition were arrested by police, bundled into a van and forced over the border into Bosnia, it has emerged.

When they protested that they were not illegal migrants and had legitimate visas, Croatian police allegedly threatened to shoot them.

Police in the Balkans are regularly accused of pushing migrants and refugees back over national borders, four years after the Balkan migration route was all but shut down by countries in the region.

Thousands of migrants are stranded in camps, enduring sub-zero temperatures and squalid conditions.

Abia Uchenna Alexandro and Kenneth Chinedu flew from Nigeria to Zagreb last month and then traveled to the Croatian town of Pula to compete in a global student games contest called the World InterUniversities  Championships.

Migrants face freezing conditions in camps in Bosnia Credit: Anadolu

Having taken part in the contest they returned to Zagreb on November 17, checked into a hostel and went for a stroll.

They were due to fly home to Nigeria, via Istanbul, the next day. But they were stopped by police, who demanded to see their documents – which they had left in their hostel.

The Nigerians were arrested and taken by road to a forest near the town of Velika Kladuša, on the border with Bosnia-Herzegovina.

“They put us in a van. They were laughing at us. They said ‘you go to Bosnia’. I said I flew on Turkish Airlines to Zagreb. I’ve never been in Bosnia. He said ‘no, you go to Bosnia’,” Mr Chinedu told Žurnal, a Balkan news website.

“After a while, the van stopped and we were pushed into the bushes. I refused to go into the woods. The policeman told me if I didn’t move he was going to shoot me.”

Migrants face a struggle for existence in camps like Vucjak in Bosnia Credit: Anadolu

They were forced over the border, with police telling them never to return to Croatia. Police allegedly tried to force them to sign documents that they did not understand.

“I said ‘I will not sign’. The officer hit me. The other one brought out his gun – if I didn’t sign he said he would shoot me. They forced me to sign. It was not in English so I didn’t understand it. I was scared. I started crying,” said Mr Chinedu.

As they were pushed over the border into Bosnia, a Pakistani migrant told them they were all being sent to a migrant camp.

“I said ‘camp’? I’m not going to a camp. I have a valid visa,’” said Mr Chinedu. Once in the camp, they had their money taken away – $210 and €100. “They took everything, we had no means to eat, nothing.”

They have been in the Miral camp, run by the International Organisation for Migration, for the last three weeks.

The organisers of the sports event are trying to help the Nigerians get back to Croatia and return home.

The students had valid visas and should never have been arrested, Alberto Tanghetti, an organiser, told Žurnal.

“These two students were in the competition, they had Croatian visas and return plane tickets from Zagreb to Istanbul and from Istanbul to Lagos.”

Dragan Mektić, Bosnia-Herzegovina’s minister of security, told Al Jazeera: “Those people are victims of illegal acts of the Croatian side. Respecting legal procedures, we now have to take them back to Croatia. It is obvious that they have Croatian visas, that they are in Bosnia and Herzegovina illegally. Croatian police forcibly displaced them and we have to bring them back there.”

Humanitarian organisations say at least 6,000 migrants face freezing temperatures in camps in north-west Bosnia, close to the border with Croatia.

“The situation is particularly concerning around the cities of Bihać and Velika Kladuša, where more than 3,800 people choose to remain outside formal camps, sleeping rough without access to basic services,” Medecins Sans Frontieres said in a recent report.

“MSF medical teams have referred a number of patients for specialist care for injuries caused by violence allegedly committed by Croatian and Slovenian border authorities. Teams have also treated patients who have reported being pushed back from the border.”

Cyprus farmers warn of halloumi shortages over EU protection plans

Grilled and golden brown, it’s become a much-loved staple of British barbeques and summer salads, but all is not well in the hallowed world of halloumi.

In Cyprus, which claims to be the true home of the distinctive squeaky cheese, a battle has broken out over whether to tighten up the rules that govern how it is produced.

On one side is the Cypriot government, which is pushing for the island’s rubbery “white gold” to be given an EU badge of authenticity known as Protected Designation of Origin.

The objective is to protect Cypriot halloumi from foreign imitators – lookalike products on the market such as “grilloumi” and “white grill cheese”.

On the other side are cow herders and cheese producers, who say the new regulations are so exacting that they cannot be met and warn that the island’s halloumi sector will be brought to its knees.

A Turkish Cypriot turns over pieces of Halloumi, a local cheese, in Ledra Street in central Nicosia, the world's last divided capital Credit: AFP

They say the proposed rules are not only too tough, they are in some cases farcical.

There would be a requirement, for instance, for sheep, goats and cows to eat five specific types of plants as they graze – but three of those are protected species.

There is a stipulation that milk should come from certain Cypriot breeds of sheep and goats – but they are now in short supply after local herds were culled following an outbreak of scrapie disease a decade ago.

Round discs of halloumi – produced specifically for barbeques and known as “burger halloumi” – would not be allowed because they are not deemed to be traditional.

“If the new designation is adopted, it will be a disaster for halloumi makers,” Giorgos Petrou, the president of the Cyprus Dairy Producers Association, told The Telegraph.

“It would cut exports by 60 per cent because there will be a lot less halloumi being produced.”

That’s because under the PDO proposal, halloumi will be required to contain 50 per cent goat and sheep milk, rather than the 20 per cent currently stipulated.

Cyprus produces less goat and sheep milk than cows’ milk, meaning that the quantity of halloumi that the island can produce will decline, while leaving a large surplus of unused cows’ milk.

The row has pitched cattle farmers against sheep and goat farmers, with the latter broadly in favour of the designation because their milk will be in high demand.

Women prepare traditional halloumi cheese at a house in the Cypriot village of Astromeritis, located some 30 km west of the capital Nicosia Credit: AFP

But it could have a profound impact on a sector that is worth nearly €200 million a year and which employs around 12,000 people.

Britain is the biggest market, buying around 40 per cent of exports – more than three times as much as the next biggest importer, Sweden.

Business is booming across the board, with worldwide exports doubling in the past four years.

But halloumi producers have warned that half of the island’s cheese factories could close down as a result of the push for PDO.

Producers fear that if Cyprus can no longer satisfy its export markets, foreign makers of imitation halloumi will jump in to fill the gap.

The battle over halloumi has been dragging on since 2014, when Cyprus first submitted its request for official EU recognition.

The EU scheme ensures protection for food and drink that have strong links to the territory on which they are produced, from Champagne and Gorgonzola to Melton Mowbray pork pies.  

Kalimata olives, for instance, must be produced in the region of Kalamata in Greece, using only olives that come from that area.

Cypriot cheese makers say the agriculture ministry ploughed ahead with the PDO application without consulting them closely enough, with the result that the application has been gathering dust in Brussels for years.

“The decision to register the PDO would be a suicidal decision for the halloumi industry,” Nikos Papkyriakou, of the Pan Cyprian Organisation of Cattle Breeders, told the Cyprus Mail.

“And we would not even be allowed to sell our halloumi, because it does not comply with the file specs.”

Costas Kadis, the agriculture minister, was unavailable for an interview but has insisted that the government should press ahead with PDO status.

The agriculture ministry said that should happen “as soon as possible”.

The objections of cheese makers had been examined but “rejected”, the ministry said.

“The position of the ministry is that the best way for the halloumi to be protected is the approval of the PDO file by the European Commission,” a spokesman said.

Nicos Anastasiades, the president of Cyprus, has given all sides a month to try to resolve their differences and to decide whether PDO status should be pursued or withdrawn.

“We’re still in discussion. We’re waiting to see what the government’s next move is,” said Mr Petrou of the Dairy Producers Association.



Indian coffee chain in hot water over facial recognition technology

One of India’s largest cafe chains has sparked a privacy furore after installing facial recognition technology that signs customers up for a loyalty account without their knowledge.

Chaayos – which aims to open over 300 outlets nationwide by 2023 – is trialling a new system in its New Delhi stores where a camera takes a photograph of a customer as they make a purchase and registers them for the bonus service. 

The technology can then recognise a returning customer from their picture and automatically generates them loyalty points based on what they buy.

India does not currently have laws which forbid companies from collecting or distributing biometric data and the country has a turbulent relationship with the technology.

The government launched the Aadhaar policy in 2009 which saw the recording of fingerprints, photographs and iris scans of more than 1.2 billion people so they could more efficiently receive welfare payments.

However, the system was repeatedly hit by leaks of private data.

In one instance the names, job titles and phone numbers of 166,000 people in the state of Jharkhand were made available to the public in a security breach.

In accordance with Indian law, Chaayos says it can “disclose information to government authorities or competent authorities or credit bureaus or third persons” within its terms and conditions.

Despite the company releasing a statement assuring it would not share biometric data to any third-party its customers were not convinced.

“How is collecting facial data helping you serve better tea? Liars,” wrote one on Twitter.

“Why are you collecting photo without permission? Why is it required to sell tea or any products?” said another.

Chaayos says its customers can opt out of the facial recognition loyalty programme at any time but consumers took to social media to say they were not informed of the policy.

They also claim the photographs were taken without their permission.


British orphans rescued from Islamic State ‘in good spirits’ as they return home

British orphans rescued from Syria have had an emotional reunion with relatives in the UK and appear to be in “good spirits” after four years trapped in Islamic State’s caliphate.

The children were greeted by family members at the airport in London and slept in the car on the way home, said to be tired after a long journey. 

The children, whom The Telegraph is not identifying for legal reasons, boarded a plane from Erbil in Iraqi Kurdistan to London on Thursday night, escorted by officials from the Foreign Office.

A day earlier they were retrieved from Syria with the help of British special forces.

“They immediately recognised the family members and family home on their arrival,” according to an account provided to a court hearing an order relating to their case.

They had breakfast with their families on Friday and seemed to be upbeat.

“They have settled into the home and appear to be as happy as they possibly could be given the circumstances of their return,” it was heard. 

They were discovered earlier this year alone in a camp for the families of suspected Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) members.

Speaking mostly in Arabic, they remembered little about their family and could not give their surname.

Their parents and siblings were killed earlier this year in air strikes on the last of Isil’s territory in eastern Syria.

The repatriation marked the first by the Government of British nationals out of the war-torn country and followed pressure by the US and partner forces on the ground. It is not yet clear whether any further evacuations will follow, however, dozens of British women and their children remain stranded in camps across Kurdish-held north-east Syria.

Speaking during a campaign stop in Workshop, Prime Minister Boris Johnson appeared to indicate that he was open to more repatriations, where possible. 

"I think the situation in Syria is very difficult and very dangerous and I think it has been a great success that some orphaned children have been brought back," he said.

"But I think it would be over-optimistic frankly to say that we could do it in every single case – the military, logistical difficulties involved are very considerable but what I’ve said is that where the Government can help then it should help."

The women been held with their children in the camps for months, and in some cases, years without charge. The mothers, who are in the custody of Western-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), stand accused of travelling to the war-torn country to join Isil.

The SDF has refused to try them, while the UK Government is blocking their return, making it unclear whether they will ever have their day in court. They exist in limbo in al-Hol camp, which is home to some 68,000 women and children, and nearby Roj camp, which is home to around to around 4,000.

One British woman, Naseema Begum from east London, whom the Telegraph spoke to during a recent visit to Roj camp, said she had been there since 2017. Others, including Bethnal Green schoolgirl Shamima Begum, since February. The majority arrived earlier this year after escaping from Isil’s final pocket of Baghuz.

Aid agencies with access to the camps say they are no place for children. In summer, temperatures can reach 50 degrees, in winter into the minuses. The hastily built tents barely protect them from the wind and rain.

Aside from the physical hardships, the children in the camps continue to be exposed to Isil’s violent ideology.


Dutch police find 25 migrants in refrigerated lorry leaving port bound for England

A cargo ship headed from the Netherlands to England was turned back on Tuesday night when 25 stowaways were reportedly discovered on board in a refrigerated container.

Dutch broadcaster the NOS reported that at least 20 ambulances, and two Red Cross aid teams were sent to Vlaardingen, near Rotterdam. The Britannia Seaways vessel was heading for Felixstowe in Suffolk.  

There were reportedly no dead bodies discovered, the stowaways were given medical help and two were taken to hospital, although not in a critical state.

NOS reporter Robert Bas, who was at the scene, said that they appeared to be a group of men, apparently “of Middle Eastern origin”. Some had silver survival jackets on as they left the vessel.

Mirjam Boers, a spokeswoman for Rotterdam police told the RTL broadcaster: “The ship was a couple of kilometres into its journey when the crew discovered that there were stowaways on board. There were around 25 people. The ship turned back, and they are now all ashore, and the top priority is to find out how they are doing medically.

“Twenty ambulances are here, and we are caring for them. They were discovered in a refrigerated container and we are most concerned with how they are doing. This is about people’s lives.”  

She could not confirm whether or not a child was among the stowaways, or whether they apparently got on board the container in Vlaardingen or before then.

Although there are regular reports of potential stowaways being discovered trying to board lorries and ferries to the UK in Dutch media – and several court cases against drivers for people trafficking – the dramatic turn-around and rescue operation dominated Dutch headlines.

It comes in the wake of the discovery of 39 dead Vietnamese migrants in a refrigerated lorry container in Essex last month, after it arrived on a ferry from Belgium.

Dutch emergency services – including fire engines and police cars – were dispatched en masse to the port town of Vlaardingen just after 7pm, and the NOS reported that the police remained on board the vessel in search of other potential stowaways, using sniffer dogs.

US and Europe clash over fate of Isil suspects in Syria as Turkey begins deportations

The US clashed with Europe on Thursday over the fate of Islamic State members detained in Syria, as Turkey drew up a list of a thousand suspects it planned to deport.

European countries are refusing the return of hundreds of fighters and thousands of their family members being held by the Western-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) in northern Syria.

Mike Pompeo, US Secretary of State, told foreign ministers yesterday they needed to “hold them to account", in a meeting of the international coalition against Isil in DC.

"Coalition members must take back the thousands of foreign terrorist fighters in custody and impose accountability for the atrocities they have perpetrated," Mr Pompeo said.

Britain, which has taken one of the strongest stances against the return of its nationals, has deprived many of them of their citizenship.

Men, allegedly affiliated with the Islamic State group, sit on the floor in a prison in the northeastern Syrian city of Hasakeh Credit: AFP

France, which has also so far refused to accept back citizens who fought with Isil, suggested to the coalition that foreign suspects should be sent to Iraq for trial.

Jean-Yves Le Drian, France’s Foreign Minister, who is in discussions with Iraq about trying foreign nationals, said his government was seeking the "certain and lasting detention" of fighters.

Seven French nationals have already been tried in a terrorism court in Baghdad, where they were given death sentences.

"For our part, we will continue to say that they should be tried as close as possible to the crimes they committed," he told reporters.

Nathan Sales, the State Department’s counterterrorism coordinator, acknowledged that "there is, candidly, a difference of opinion about the best way to resolve this problem."

British Isil member Shamima Begum stands is being held by the SDF in a detention camp in Syria Credit: Sam Tarling for The Telegraph

"The United States thinks that it’s inappropriate to ask Iraq in particular to shoulder the additional burden of foreign fighters, particularly from Europe," Mr Sales told reporters after the one-day meeting.

"We think there should be a sense of urgency to repatriate now while we still can," he said.

The SDF is currently holding around eight British men, 25 British woman and 60 of their children. Turkey is thought to be detaining a handful, including “Beatle” Aine Davies, who was sentenced to seven and a half years in 2017.

Ankara began a series of deportations of 959 Isil suspects, including more than 30 from Europe.

One Briton was slated for deportation, which is believed to be the 26-year-old man arrested yesterday on suspicion of preparation of terrorism offences after arriving at Heathrow airport on a flight from Turkey. 

It is understood he was caught by Turkish authorities trying to cross into Syria to join Isil earlier this year, by which time was besieged and battling for its existence some several hundred miles away.

A German family of seven was also deported to Berlin. They had been captured before crossing and held in a detention centre in the port city of Izmir since March.

Ankara has been signalling for weeks that it intends to send back foreign Isil members to Europe, even if European governments refused to take them back.

“We are not a hotel for Isil members from any country,” said Suleyman Soylu, Turkey’s interior minister.

Mr Soylu has been critical of the UK for stripping British Isil members of their citizenship in order to prevent them from returning home.

“When there is a Daesh member, they cancel his or her citizenship, making the person stateless. Then, they take no responsibility,” he said, using the Arabic acronym for the group. “That is not acceptable to us. It’s also irresponsible.”