• At least seven fighter jets appeared destroyed at the base in annexed Crimea in Ukraine, contradicting Russian denial
New satellite images show at least seven destroyed fighter jets at an airbase in the Russian-controlled peninsula of Crimea, shortly after Ukraine said nine planes were destroyed in a string of deadly explosions at the site.
The images, provided by Planet Labs PBC and taken mid-afternoon on Wednesday, undermine Russia’s claim that the explosions on Tuesday, which killed one and wounded 14, did not cause serious damage. Russia’s military has said no aircraft were destroyed in the explosions and has blamed the blasts on the detonation of stored ammunition.
Ukraine has not officially claimed responsibility for the explosions, although Ukrainian presidential adviser, Oleksiy Arestovych, has said the blasts were either caused by Ukrainian-made long-range weapons or were the work of Ukrainian fighters operating in Crimea, which Russia annexed in 2014.
Meanwhile, an unnamed Ukrainian official told The Washington Post on Wednesday the explosions were the result of an attack by Ukrainian special forces.
The satellite images showed about 2 square kilometres (0.75 square miles) of grassland burned at the airbase, which has housed the Russian 43rd Independent Naval Assault Air Squadron since Russia seized Crimea.
The base is at least 200km (125 miles) from the closest Ukrainian position.
A satellite image by Planet Labs PBC shows Saky airbase in the Crimean Peninsula after an explosion [Planet Labs PBC via AP]
Analysts have cast doubt that the damage could have been caused by an accidental explosion, with the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War saying that, while it could not independently determine what caused the explosions, simultaneous blasts in two locations at the base most likely rule out an accidental fire but not sabotage or a missile attack.
It added: “The Kremlin has little incentive to accuse Ukraine of conducting strikes that caused the damage since such strikes would demonstrate the ineffectiveness of Russian air defence systems.”
In a speech shortly after the attack, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pledged to retake the peninsula.
Russian authorities said hotels and beaches in the region, a popular tourist destination for Russians, were unaffected by the blasts, although video online showed long lines of slowly moving cars on the road to Russia as tourists left the area.
The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defence is offering soldiers to support armed police in London after dozens of police officers stood down from firearms duties, BBC reports.
More than 100 officers have turned in permits allowing them to carry weapons, a source told the BBC, in support of a fellow officer who has been charged with murder over the fatal shooting of a young Black man, Chris Kaba.
The officer, named only as NX121, who appeared in court last week, has been charged over the death of Chris Kaba in September 2022.
Kaba died hours after he was struck by a single gunshot fired into the vehicle he was driving in the Streatham area of South London.
It later emerged that the Audi Mr Kaba was driving, which did not belong to him, had been linked by police to a gun incident the day before.
His death prompted a number of protests and renewed allegations of racism within the force.
The Ministry of Defence said it received a request, known as Military Aid to the Civil Authorities, from the Home Office to “provide routine counter-terrorism contingency support to the Metropolitan Police, should it be needed”.
A MACA is offered to the police or the NHS in emergency situations. The military helped medical staff in the Covid pandemic and covered for striking border staff and paramedics last year.
The Met said it was a “contingency option” that would only be used “in specific circumstances and where an appropriate policing response was not available”.
Military staff would not be used “in a routine policing capacity”, it added.
On Saturday, the Met said its own officers still make up the vast majority of armed police in the capital but they were being supported by a limited number of firearms officers from neighbouring forces.
Announcing the review, Home Secretary Suella Braverman said the public “depend on our brave firearms officers to protect us”.
“In the interest of public safety they have to make split-second decisions under extraordinary pressures.”
She said that officers have her “full backing”.
“I will do everything in my power to support them,” she added.
In his letter to the home secretary, the Met Police commissioner, Sir Mark Rowley, said that a system where officers are investigated for “safely pursuing suspects” should not have been allowed to develop.
Sir Mark said he would “make no comment” on any ongoing legal matters, but “the issues raised in this letter go back further”.
He said firearms officers are concerned that they will face years of legal proceedings, “even if they stick to the tactics and training they have been given”.
“Officers need sufficient legal protection to enable them to do their job and keep the public safe, and the confidence that it will be applied consistently and without fear or favour,” he wrote.
But in instances where officers act improperly, Sir Mark said the system “needs to move swiftly” rather than “tying itself in knots pursuing good officers through multiple legal processes”.
This handout picture provided by the office of Libya’s Benghazi-based interim prime minister on September 11, 2023 shows a view of destroyed vehicles and damaged buildings in the eastern city of Derna, about 290 kilometres east of Benghazi, in the wake of the Mediterranean storm “Daniel”. (Photo by The Press Office of Libyan Prime Minister / AFP)
At least 2,300 people were killed in Libya and thousands more were reported missing after catastrophic flash floods broke river dams and tore through an eastern coastal city, devastating entire neighbourhoods.
As global concern spread, multiple nations offered to urgently send aid and rescue teams to help the war-scarred country that has been overwhelmed by what one UN official labelled “a calamity of epic proportions”.
Massive destruction shattered the Mediterranean coastal city of Derna, home to about 100,000 people, where multi-storey buildings on the river banks collapsed and houses and cars vanished in the raging waters.
Emergency services reported an initial death toll of more than 2,300 in Derna alone and said over 5,000 people remained missing while about 7,000 were injured.
“The situation in Derna is shocking and very dramatic,” said Osama Ali of the Tripoli-based Rescue and Emergency Service. “We need more support to save lives because there are people still under the rubble and every minute counts.”
The floods were caused by torrential rains from Storm Daniel, which made landfall in Libya on Sunday after earlier lashing Greece, Bulgaria and Turkey.
Derna, 250 kilometres (150 miles) east of Benghazi, is ringed by hills and bisected by what is normally a dry riverbed in summer, but which has turned into a raging torrent of mud-brown water that also swept away several major bridges.
The number of dead given by the Libyan emergency service roughly matched the grim estimates provided by the Red Cross and by authorities in the east, who have warned the death toll may yet rise further.
“The death toll is huge and might reach thousands,” said Tamer Ramadan of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, three of whose volunteers were also reported dead.
“We confirm from our independent sources of information that the number of missing people is hitting 10,000 persons so far,” Ramadan added.
Elsewhere in Libya’s east, aid group the Norwegian Refugee Council said “entire villages have been overwhelmed by the floods and the death toll continues to rise”.
“Communities across Libya have endured years of conflict, poverty and displacement. The latest disaster will exacerbate the situation for these people. Hospitals and shelters will be overstretched.”
People look at the damage caused by freak floods in Derna, eastern Libya, on September 11, 2023. (Photo by AFP)
The storm also hit Benghazi and the hill district of Jabal al-Akhdar. Flooding, mudslides and other major damage were reported from the wider region, with images showing overturned cars and trucks.
Libya’s National Oil Corporation, which has its main fields and terminals in eastern Libya, declared “a state of maximum alert” and suspended flights between production sites where it said activity was drastically reduced.
Oil-rich Libya is still recovering from the years of war and chaos that followed the 2011 NATO-backed popular uprising which toppled and killed longtime dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
The country is divided between two rival governments — the UN-brokered, internationally recognised administration based in Tripoli, and a separate administration in the disaster-hit east.
Access to the east is limited. Phone and online links have been largely severed, but the administration’s prime minister Oussama Hamad has reported “more than 2,000 dead and thousands missing” in Derna alone.
A Derna city council official described the situation as “catastrophic” and asked for a “national and international intervention”.
Libya’s UN-backed government under Abdelhamid Dbeibah announced three days of national mourning on Monday and emphasised “the unity of all Libyans”.
Aid convoys from Tripoli were heading east and Dbeibah’s government announced the dispatch of two ambulance planes and a helicopter, as well as rescue teams, canine search squads and 87 doctors, and technicians to restore power.
Rescue teams from Turkey have arrived in eastern Libya, according to authorities, and the United Nations and several countries offered to send aid.
Egypt announced three days of mourning “in solidarity” with Libya and earthquake-hit Morocco and offered to send aid to both countries.
Algeria said it was sending aid aboard eight military planes and Italy said it was “responding immediately to requests for support” with an assessment team on the way.
The United States embassy said it had “issued an official declaration of humanitarian need in response to the devastating floods in Libya”.