Egypt beach resort attack kills two foreigners

The governor of Red Sea province, where the resort of Hurghada is located, said two “foreign residents” of the city were killed in the attack, a cabinet statement said.

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Although the attacker’s motives were unclear, the stabbing will come as a blow to Egypt which has been trying to woo back tourists after years of unrest and deadly attacks.

There was confusion about the nationalities of the victims, with Egyptian officials and state media initially saying the two women killed were Ukrainian which Kiev’s ambassador to Egypt denied.

An Egyptian health ministry official told AFP “the two foreigners killed earlier are Germans”.

But Germany’s foreign ministry, which condemned the stabbing as “cowardly” in a statement, said it could not confirm or deny whether its nationals were among the victims.

An Armenian foreign ministry spokesman said two Armenian women had been wounded in the attack, and the Czech foreign ministry tweeted that one of its nationals had been lighty injured.

The interior ministry said in a statement that the attacker, who had swum ashore, was arrested and was being questioned.

“We don’t know his motives yet, he could be crazy or perturbed — it’s too early to tell,” a senior interior ministry official told AFP.

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In January 2016, three tourists in Hurghada were wounded in a stabbing assault by two assailants with apparent Islamic State group (IS) sympathies.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Friday’s stabbing.

Hurghada is one of Egypt’s most popular beach resorts, especially with Ukrainians and European tourists.

Security has been boosted in resorts around the country, as the tourism industry provides Egypt with much-needed revenues.

An IS bombing of a Russian airliner carrying holidaymakers from a south Sinai resort in 2015 killed all 224 people on board and decimated the country’s tourism sector.

Russia suspended all flights to Egypt in response and has yet to resume them.

IS has been waging a deadly insurgency based in the north of the Sinai Peninsula that has killed hundreds of policemen and soldiers.

Policemen shot dead

Also on Friday, unknown assailants shot dead five policemen south of Cairo, in the latest of a series of attacks targeting the country’s security forces.

The ministry said three gunmen opened fire on a police car and then fled, killing a non-commissioned officer, three conscripts and a police employee.

CCTV footage posted online by the Ahram newspaper showed the three assailants pretending to fix a motorbike before they opened fire on a passing police truck then looted it.

The attack took place near Badrasheen, a town some 20 kilometres (12 miles) from Cairo, where militants have also targeted police in the past.

As with the beach stabbing, there has not yet been any claim of responsibility for the attack.

The killings came as police and the army said they were closing in on militants and jihadists following a spate of deadly attacks in the Nile Valley and the Sinai Peninsula.

Egypt has struggled to quell IS jihadists based in the Sinai and smaller militant groups in the mainland since the military overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Morsi in 2013 and cracked down on his supporters.

IS jihadists killed at least 21 soldiers in restive north Sinai on July 7, the same day as the militant Hasam group claimed responsibility for shooting dead an officer with Egypt’s secret police in an attack north of the capital.

While smaller groups such as Hasam have mostly targeted policemen and government officials, IS has also attacked foreign tourists and Egypt’s Coptic Christian minority.

Dozens of Christians have been killed in church bombings and shootings since last December in attacks claimed by IS.

The jihadists have threatened to carry out further attacks on Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s 90 million people.

Russia lobbyist at Trump Jr. meeting denies spy past

It emerged on Friday that Rinat Akhmetshin, a Washington lobbyist with dual citizenship, accompanied Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya to the June 2016 meeting, at which Trump Jr expected to receive secret information that would hurt Clinton in the 2016 election.

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Several US media described Akhmetshin as former Soviet counterintelligence officer who is suspected by some US officials of having ongoing ties to Russian intelligence.

But the lobbyist rejected that allegation as “maliciously false,” telling AFP he “never worked for any intelligence service.”

The June 9 meeting has become the focus of allegations that the Trump election campaign collaborated last year with a covert effort by Moscow to turn voters away from Clinton.

Those allegations are currently under investigation by a high-powered Justice Department investigation led by former FBI chief Robert Mueller.

Emails showed that the meeting was pitched to Trump Jr, the eldest son of President Donald Trump, as a chance to obtain dirt on Clinton, allegedly supplied by the Russian government.

“If it’s what you say I love it,” Trump Jr said about the offer in an email to entertainment promoter Rob Goldstone, the person arranging the meeting.

The encounter was also attended by Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and son-in-law Jared Kushner, underscoring how important the campaign apparently thought it could be.

One year on, emails showing the younger Trump’s willingness to meet the lawyer are viewed in some quarters as a possible “smoking gun” in the ongoing federal investigation into whether Trump’s campaign colluded with Russia to get the Republican elected.

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‘Designed to shift attention’

Accompanying Veselnitskaya at the meeting were Akhmetshin, an interpreter, and according to the Washington Post, Goldstone.

According to Akhmetshin, the Post reported, Veselnitskaya had said she had financial information on a US hedge fund with links to Clinton’s Democratic Party, and left a document behind at the meeting.

But according to Trump Jr., Veselnitskaya did not produce damaging information on Clinton after all and instead focused the discussion on the US “Magnitsky” sanctions against a Russian company she represented. 

Akhmetshin has also lobbied against the Magnitsky sanctions placed on a number of high-level Russian officials.

The Post also reported that Akhmetshin had served in the Russian military and may have worked in intelligence. 

Akhmetshin flatly denied the suggestion that he had worked for a Russian spy agency.

“That claim is maliciously false and designed to shift attention from my campaign in Congress” against the Magnitsky law, he told AFP.

Trump Jr’s lawyer, Alan Futerfas, told NBC News his client did not know any of the other people in the meeting beforehand.

“For the purpose of security or otherwise, the names were reviewed,” he said.

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Russian-American lobbyist met Trump Jr

A lobbyist who was once a Soviet counter-intelligence officer participated last year in a meeting with senior aides to US President Donald Trump, including his son, and a Russian lawyer, NBC News is reporting, adding to allegations of possible connections between Moscow and the November election.

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NBC News, which did not identify the Russian-American lobbyist, on Friday said some US officials suspected him of still having ties to Russian intelligence, something he denied to the network.

The Associated Press said the lobbyist, whom it identified as Rinat Akhmetshin, confirmed that he had attended the June 2016 meeting in New York’s Trump Tower.

A source familiar with the participants of the meeting confirmed to Reuters that Akhmetshin was in the room.

The meeting appears to be the most tangible evidence of a connection between Trump’s election campaign and Russia, a subject that has prompted investigations by congressional committees and a federal special counsel.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former campaign adviser Paul Manafort were also at the meeting, which Donald Trump Jr. agreed to attend because he believed he could get damaging information about Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, did not mention Akhmetshin’s presence when he released a series of emails about the meeting earlier this week.

Representative Adam Schiff, the top Democrat on the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, said the report about Akhmetshin “if accurate, adds another deeply disturbing fact about this secret meeting.”

Akhmetshin was not available for comment on Friday. There was no answer at the door of his house in Washington.

The White House had no immediate comment about the NBC News report of a Russian-American lobbyist at the meeting.

Kushner’s spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment and Manafort’s spokesman Jason Maloni said Manafort had no comment on the meeting.

A former Trump campaign adviser, Michael Caputo, told reporters after he testified to the House Intelligence Committee in closed session on Friday that he had no contact with Russians and never heard of anyone in the campaign “talking with Russians.”

Accusations by US intelligence agencies that Moscow meddled in the election and colluded with the Trump campaign have dominated the Republican president’s first months in office. Russia denies the allegations, and Trump says there was no collusion.

The agencies said earlier this year that Russia sought to help Trump win the election by hacking private emails from Democratic Party officials and disseminating false information online.

Mackay murder memories remain ‘vivid’

Forty years on from Australia’s first political assassination the events leading up to the murder of NSW businessman Donald Mackay remain “vivid” for many in his hometown of Griffith.

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Mr Mackay – an anti-drugs campaigner – is believed to have been murdered after telling police the whereabouts of marijuana farms owned by Australian-born mafia.

A coronial inquest found he died of gunshot wounds but the body of the father of four has never been found.

“Forty years is a long time and yet those events are quite vivid in our minds,” Griffith mayor John Dal Broi told AAP this week.

Mr Mackay – a one-time Liberal Party candidate – vanished from the car park of a hotel in Griffith on the evening of July 15, 1977. He was 43.

Three bullet casings were found and blood was smeared on the door of his locked van.

“We all feel for the family and, as I’ve said before, some of us perhaps should have taken more notice of what Don was saying,” Mr Dal Broi said.

“But what you’re up against at the time, there were some corrupt police, people felt hopeless to do anything about it.”

Mr Dal Broi hopes the mystery of Mr Mackay’s murder can still be solved and his remains found.

“Mrs Mackay died not knowing where he was or what happened, she suffered deeply,” the mayor said.

The editor of the local paper, Ben Jones, says the public wants answers.

“I find it hard to believe there aren’t still people in town who know what happened and who was involved,” the editor of the Area News told AAP.

“It’s the darkest chapter in Griffith’s shady history … the public still wants to know what happened.”

In 2007 the discovery of human remains in an orange grove outside of Griffith sparked hope Mr Mackay had finally been found, while in 2013 a tip-off saw forensic officers excavate a farm near Hay in the NSW Riverina. Both were false leads.

Since Mr Mackay’s disappearance, three men have been convicted of conspiring to murder the once-Liberal party candidate while a royal commission named six others who may have ordered the killing.

NSW Police remain committed to finding answers for his family.

“Donald Mackay was a highly-respected member of the community and became well-known throughout Australia as an anti-drugs campaigner and his murder – Australia’s first political assassination – shocked us all,” Griffith commander Detective Superintendent Michael Rowan said this week.

“Investigators remain in contact with the family … I can’t tell you the pain they feel for not knowing where his body is.”

The NSW government’s reward for information leading to Mr Mackay’s remains was increased to $200,000 in July 2012.

German tourists fatally stabbed in Egypt

An Egyptian man has stabbed two German tourists to death and wounded four other foreigners at a popular vacation spot on the Red Sea, officials and witnesses say.

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The knifeman killed the two German women and wounded two other tourists at the Zahabia hotel in Hurghada on Friday, officials and security sources said.

He then swam to a neighbouring beach to attack at least two more people at the Sunny Days El Palacio resort before he was arrested, they said.

“He had a knife with him and stabbed each of them three times in the chest. They died on the beach,” the security manager at El Palacio hotel, Saud Abdelaziz, told Reuters.

“He jumped a wall between the hotels and swam to the other beach.”

Abdelaziz said two of the injured were Czech and two Armenian. They were being treated a local hospital. The Czech foreign ministry tweeted that one Czech woman sustained a minor leg injury.

The attacker’s motive was still under investigation, the interior ministry said.

Egypt is fighting Islamist insurgents in the Sinai Peninsula where they mainly target security forces but militants have also attacked tourism targets as well as Coptic Christians and churches.

Hurghada, some 400km south of the capital Cairo is one of Egypt’s most popular vacation spots on the Red Sea.

Security and medical sources had earlier reported the two women killed were Ukrainians, but Major General Mohamed El-Hamzawi, security manager of Red Sea province, told Reuters they had been identified as Germans.

In January 2016, two assailants armed with a gun, a knife and a suicide belt landed on the beach of a hotel in Hurghada, wounding two foreign tourists.

Friday’s attack came on a day that five policemen were killed by gunmen on a motorbike who ambushed their car just south of Cairo.