World stock markets tumble as Greece crisis deepens

Share prices slumped across Europe on Monday as Greece shuttered its banks for a week following a fateful weekend that has shaken Europe’s single currency.

The Greek government decided on Sunday night it had no option but to close the nation’s banks the following day after the European Central Bank (ECB) raised the stakes by freezing the liquidity lifeline that has kept them afloat during a six-month run on deposits.

In London the FTSE 100 tumbled by 150 points – more than 2% – when trading began at 8am BST. There were even sharper falls across Europe, with the French and German markets both tumbling by 4%. European banking shares were the hardest hit, suffering losses of up to 10%.

Overnight in Tokyo the Nikkei index had fallen almost 3% and in Hong Kong shares slid 2.5%.

“The Greek butterfly looks set to cause a tornado in financial markets,” said Michael Hewson, chief markets analyst at CMC Markets UK. “In the process we could well also find out if this event turns out to be the equivalent of the butterfly flapping its wings in New Mexico, going on to cause a hurricane in China.”

The Athens Stock Exchange will not reopen on Monday.. The dramatic move, after 48 hours of sensational developments in Greece’s long-running battles with creditors, was sparked by the call on Friday night by country’s prime minister, Alexis Tsipras , for a referendum on its creditors’ demands. That prompted finance ministers of the eurozone to effectively put an end to his country’s five-year bailout by the International Monetary Fund, the ECB and the European commission.

In a brief, televised address to the nation, Tsipras threw the blame on to the leaders of the eurozone. But he did not say how long the banks would remain shut, nor did he give details of how much individuals and companies would be allowed to withdraw once they reopened.

In the early hours of Monday morning, Tsipras published a decree in the official government gazette setting out the capital controls to be imposed on the country.

The decree – entitled ‘Bank Holiday break’ – was signed by Tsipras and the Greek president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

It said all banks would be kept shut until after the referendum on 5 July and withdrawals from cash machines would be limited to €60 – about £40. Cash machines were not expected to reopen until later on Monday.

Foreign transfers out of Greece are prohibited, although online transactions between Greek bank accounts are to continue as normal. Tsipras insisted pensions and wages would be unaffected by the controls.

Greece’s finance ministry later announced that the strict ATM withdrawal limits would not apply to holders of credit or debit cards issued in foreign countries. This was seen as a necessary move after worries that tourists were seen joining locals in front of ATMs on Sunday. Any similar restriction would hurt tourism, Greece’s one thriving industry, which accounts for at least a fifth of economic activity.

The prime minister said that Saturday’s move by the eurozone’s finance ministers to halt Greece’s bailout programme was unprecedented. He called it “a denial of the Greek public’s right to reach a democratic decision”.

Tsipras added that the finance ministers’ initiative had prompted the ECB to curb its assistance, forcing the government to take the steps that it had. He said he had once again appealed for an extension of the bailout until after the referendum, on 5 July, sending his proposal to the president of the European council, Donald Tusk, the leaders of the 18 member states of the single currency, the commission and the ECB.

As fears spread through Sunday that capital controls would need to be put in place, growing numbers of depositors lined up at ATMs, even in affluent city areas, to withdraw what cash they could.

Drivers also flocked to gas stations across Greece, prompting the country’s largest refiner to issue a statement reassuring there are enough reserves. Refiner Hellenic Petroleum said: “We maintain fuel reserves for several months. The supply of our refineries with crude oil is also assured.”

The country’s plight deteriorated sharply on Friday night when Tsipras put his country’s future in the balance by suddenly calling a referendum and arguing robustly for a rejection of the price set by his creditors for saving Greece, at least for a few more months. This Sunday’s vote will ask Greeks whether they approve or disapprove of the last offer tabled by the creditors before the negotiations broke down.

But during a marathon parliamentary debate that ended in the early hours of Sunday morning, opposition leaders argued that it was, in fact, a vote on whether Greeks wished any longer to be part of the eurozone. It will be Greece’s first referendum since the country voted to abolish its monarchy in 1974.

The European commission said on Sunday for the first time in the crisis that it wanted to offer Greece debt relief, Tsipras’s central demand during the five months of stalemated talks. Reports from Berlin said that Angela Merkel and François Hollande shared that view.

But the potential concession appeared to come too late to prevent growing chaos in Greece – and sparked concerns across the Atlantic. Barack Obama was said to have called Merkel, the German chancellor, to urge her to take action. Jack Lew, the US Treasury secretary, urged creditors to offer debt relief to Greece.

Financial analysts will be watching the impact on the markets, which have not yet had the chance to react to the events of the last 48 hours. Mario Draghi, the president of the ECB, tightened the screws somewhat on the country.

The governing council of the ECB decided to freeze emergency liquidity assistance to the Greek banks, the lifeline that is keeping the national financial system functioning. The ELA was capped at last Friday’s level of €89bn. It meant that the banks could continue to function, but the draining of money as people flocked to the ATMs to retrieve their savings also meant they would run out of money that could not be replenished by the central bank.

“We continue to work closely with the Bank of Greece,” Draghi said.

Greece’s financial stability committee, which includes the finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, and the central bank governor, Yannis Stournaras, met on Sunday evening to discuss Greece’s rapidly shrinking options. The high-level political confrontations on Friday and Saturday produced the greatest uncertainty over Greece and in the eurozone in the five-year debt saga.

The fallout from the collapse of negotiations and the calling of the referendum brought recrimination on all sides and predictions of gloom.

The German finance minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, said he was “perplexed and depressed” by developments. Jeroen Dijsselbloem, the Dutch finance minister who heads the committee of eurozone finance ministers, said that with his referendum call, Tsipras was thrusting the country into a mess from which it would struggle to recover.

“We are millimetres away from the total collapse of the Greek financial system,” warned Herman Van Rompuy, until last year the president of the European council and heavily involved in years of Greek rescue negotiations. “It’s actually suicide that’s taking place in Greece right now.”

The restrictions being imposed are anathema to Tsipras’s radical left-led government – all the more so since it desperately needs to keep public opinion on its side ahead of the referendum.

Varoufakis told the BBC in a Sunday interview: “Capital controls within a monetary union are a contradiction in terms.” But he was party to Sunday night’s decision.

In the early hours of Sunday, parliament voted 178 to 120 in favour of holding the referendum. Embarrassingly for the government, the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn movement joined Tsipras’s Syriza party and its populist rightwing coalition partner, ANEL, in backing the proposal.

By Sunday evening, however, it had not received the necessary endorsement of Greece’s president, Prokopis Pavlopoulos.

According to two polls published on Sunday, Tsipras faces an uphill battle to secure the rejection he has indicated that he favours. One in the right-leaning tabloid Proto Thema found 57% of those interviewed favoured acceptance of the creditors’ latest offer. Another in the centre-left To Vima put support at 47%.

Greek PM Alexis Tsipras calls referendum on bailout terms

In a dramatic move that will put Europe on tenterhooks, the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras told his fellow citizens last night he would call a referendum on the bailout accord that international creditors have proposed to keep the debt-stricken country afloat.

Following an emergency meeting of his cabinet, Tsipras said his leftist-led government had decided a package of austerity measures proposed by the country’s creditors – made in a last-ditch effort to avert default – would be put to popular vote. The referendum will take place on Sunday 5 July.

“After five months of hard negotiations our partners, unfortunately, ended up making a proposal that was an ultimatum towards Greek democracy and the Greek people,” he said in a national address, “an ultimatum at odds with the founding principles and values of Europe, the values of our common European construction.”

The leader, who only hours earlier had rejected the proposed reforms after several days of high-stakes talks in Brussels, said Greeks now faced a “historic responsibility” to respond to the ultimatum.

He said the reforms were “blackmail for the acceptance on our part of severe and humiliating austerity without end and without the prospect of ever prospering socially and economically”.

Describing the vote as a “historic decision”, Tsipras said he had informed the leaders of France, Germany and Mario Draghi, the head of the European Central Bank about the decision. “I asked them to extend our current bailout by a few days so this democratic process could take place,” he said.

Greeks would be asked whether they wanted to accept or reject excoriating tax hikes and pension cuts that the EU, ECB and International Monetary Fund have set as a condition to release desperately needed bailout funds. Greece’s current rescue programme, already extended once, expires on 30 June.

Panic-stricken depositors, worried that capital controls may only be hours away, rushed to ATMs to withdraw savings. Queues quickly formed outside banks around the capital.

Prompted by the response, the government spokesman, Gavriel Sakellarides, insisted the plebiscite would not endanger Greece’s place in Europe. “The question is not whether we will remain in the eurozone. The Greek people should not be afraid,” he said in the early hours.

But Tsipras, whose radical-left Syriza party was catapulted into power five months ago on a platform of eradicating austerity, did not hide his own feelings for the accord.

Greeks, he said, were being subjected to “humiliation and blackmail”. “These proposals, which clearly violate the European rules and the basic rights to work, equality and dignity, show the purpose of some of the partners and institutions was not a viable agreement for all parties, but possibly the humiliation of an entire people,” he said.

“But I personally pledge that I will respect the result of your democratic choice, whatever that may be.” The Greek parliament, in an emergency step, would convene on Saturday so that the referendum could be called in line with the constitution. Several ministers emerging from the cabinet session said they would not support the “barbaric measures” being demanded of Athens by foreign lenders.

The energy minister, Panagiotis Lafazanis, who heads Syriza’s militant wing known as the Left Platform, said he would support a no vote against measures that had resulted in the widespread “misery and pillaging” of the country since its debt crisis exploded five years ago.

The recipient of €240bn in bailout funds – the biggest rescue programme in global financial history – Greece has seen its economy contract by more than a quarter, unemployment soar and poverty levels rise precipitously under the weight of draconian budget cuts and tax increased demanded by creditors.

“It is a democratic decision and the Greek people are being called to give a democratic answer. And that answer is going to be a resounding no,” Lafazanis told Kontra TV.

“If the Greek people say a big no, it is going to be impossible for those who wield power not to take note unless democracy no longer exists.”

Echoing that sentiment, the Greek finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, tweeted: “Democracy deserved a boost in euro-related matters. We just delivered it. Let the people decide. (Funny how radical this concept sounds!).”

Konstantinos Chrysogonos, a Syriza MEP, told BBC 2’s Newsnight: “It’s obvious that the deal creditors are proposing to the Greek government is beyond the popular mandate this government has.”

He added: “There was probably no other way but to submit the demands of the creditors to a referendum.”

Chrysogonos said it was not clear yet what recommendation the government would make in the runup to the vote. “I don’t know what the suggestion of the government will be, whether it will be to accept or to withdraw or to refuse the demands of the creditors. This remains to be seen. It remains to be seen what the verdict of the Greek people will be.”

‘ABC World News Tonight’ Wins Week As NBC Names Lester Holt To Anchor …

ABC had the most watched evening newscast last week, as NBC announced it was sending Brian Williams to MSNBC to atone for his fabrication, and named Lester Holt permanent Nightly News anchor. ABC bested NBC’s newscast for the week by its largest margin in seven years.

ABC World News Tonight logged 7.9 million viewers, to Nightly News’s 7.5 million and CBS Evening Newss 6.9 million. ABC also won in the news demo with 1.954 million viewers aged 25-54, to NBC’s 1.875 million and CBS’s 1.577 million.

Savannah Guthrie anchored Nightly News last week while Holt took vacation time. Brian Williams showed up on Friday’s newscast, in a repeat of his pre-taped Today interview with Matt Lauer about his suspension and his new duties at MSNBC.

French teens unable to ‘cope with’ baccalaureate English question

Thousands of disgruntled French teenagers have signed a petition claiming that a question about Ian McEwan’s Atonement in their baccalaureate English paper was “impossible” and calling on the education minister to instruct examiners not to count the marks, or lack thereof.

Pupils were instructed to read a passage from Atonement and complete two questions about how a character copes with being accused of rape. Arthur, a 17-year-old French student behind the petition, told BFMTV: “Many people didn’t understand the word ‘coping’; it’s not a very common word.”

The petition complained: “The majority of students in the bac were not able to answer question M because they found it too difficult, with words only someone bilingual or with an excellent level in English could answer.

“It is totally inadmissible to propose a bac subject with incomprehensible questions that are impossible to answer.”

Atonement was shortlisted for the Booker prize in 2001 and is on Time magazine’s list of the 100 greatest English-language novels since 1923. The Observer listed it as one of the 100 greatest novels ever written.

Complaining about the bac, which is taken at the end of high school, has become almost a rite of passage for French youngsters, even though almost nine out of 10 pass.

Students who sat the French (language and literature) paper this year complained that they thought the “tiger” referred to in Tigre Bleu de l’Euphrate – a play by Laurent Gaudé, who won the Goncourt prize in 2004 – was an animal, when in fact it refers to a river.

There have also been complaints about the English question on the baccalauréat 2015 en France Facebook page. But others students have counter-attacked, suggesting those who could not answer the question should stop moaning.

Hugo Travers, 18, said on Twitter that it was lamentable and “totally wrong” to sign a petition because the question seemed too hard. Besides, Travers pointed out, the petition was “full of errors” in French.

A video to support the petition was described as risible by many students. One pointed out that “coping” was hardly in the same league of difficult English words as “comeuppance”.

“You should be ashamed of yourself. If you don’t know what ‘coping with’ means that’s your problem. Go revise your pathetic English instead of whining like old goats,” wrote another student.

UK anti-austerity demonstrations – as it happened

Tens of thousands of people are expected to gather in central London today for the biggest anti-austerity march yet this year.

The protest, called by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, will gather outside the Bank of England at midday before marching through central London to a rally in Parliament Square.

Police have closed roads and are expecting “substantial numbers of people” along the route, which runs from Queen Victoria Street and along New Bridge Street, Fleet Street, The Strand and Whitehall.

Protesters will be venting their anger at big spending cuts and privatisations planned by the Conservative government. They fear a plan to bring the national budget into surplus will have devastating effects on public services.

The government’s proposed measures are expected to include £12bn in cuts to welfare, a dismantling of human rights laws, limits on strike action and pro-business reform of public services including schools and healthcare.

The leftwinger and Labour leadership hopeful Jeremy Corbyn is to make a keynote address, but the party’s other contenders – Andy Burnham, Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendall – have indicated they do not plan to attend.

Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof ‘wanted to ignite civil war’

The 21-year-old accused of killing nine black churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina, had been “planning something like that for six months”, his roommate has revealed, as friends recalled Dylann Roof’s tirades against African Americans “taking over the world” and his desire to ignite “a civil war”.

The killings have sent shockwaves across the US, as the nation confronts a breaking point over race and gun violence following yet another mass shooting. Hundreds of people gathered to pay their respects outside the Emanuel AME Church – the scene of the shooting – on Thursday evening, with more prayer services held throughout Charleston.

A day after the massacre – labelled a “hate crime” by South Carolina police – a portrait of Roof as an apparently committed racist is building from interviews with associates of the young man, shown in Facebook photos wearing a jacket bearing the flags of the former white-racist regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia.

Joseph Meek Jr, a childhood friend who saw Roof the morning of the shooting, said the pair had never discussed race growing up. But when they recently reconnected, Roof told him “blacks were taking over the world [and] someone needed to do something about it for the white race”, he told the Associated Press.

“He said he wanted segregation between whites and blacks. I said, ‘That’s not the way it should be.’ But he kept talking about it.”

Meek said that when he woke up on Wednesday morning Roof was at his house, sleeping in his car outside – its license plate bearing the confederate flag.

Later that day, Meek said he and some friends had gone to a nearby lake but Roof stayed behind, deciding he’d rather see a movie. The next time he saw Roof was in surveillance-camera photos distributed by police in the aftermath of the killing. “I knew it was him,” Meek said.

A roommate, Dalton Tyler, said Roof had been “planning something like that for six months”.

An undated handout photo of Dylann Roof wearing flags of white-racist regimes of South Africa and Rhodesia. Photograph: Berkeley County/Handout/EPA

“He was big into segregation and other stuff,” Tyler told ABC News. “He said he wanted to start a civil war. He said he was going to do something like that and then kill himself.”

He said Roof had been “on and off” with his parents, but they had previously bought him a gun. He hadn’t been allowed to take it with him until this week, Tyler said.

Roof’s uncle Carson Cowles said the gun, a .45-caliber pistol, had been a gift for the introverted young man’s 21st birthday.

“I said he was like 19 years old, he still didn’t have a job, a driver’s license or anything like that and he just stayed in his room a lot of the time,” Cowles said. “I don’t have any words for it. Nobody in my family had seen anything like this coming.”

A high school contemporary, John Mullins, told the Daily Beast: “He made a lot of racist jokes, but you don’t really take them seriously like that. You don’t really think of it like that.” But now, he said, it seemed that “the things he said were kind of not joking”.

Richard Cohen, the president of the Southern Poverty Law Center, said Roof was not known to his organisation, which tracks hate crimes across the US, but based on his Facebook page he appeared to be a “disaffected white supremacist”.

Others expressed surprise at Roof’s crimes. “I never thought he’d do something like this,” a high school friend, Antonio Metze, told AP. “He had black friends.”

Meek’s mother, Kimberly Konzny, described him as a “sweet kid”. “He was quiet. He only had a few friends,” she said.

Though police say Roof lived in Columbia, South Carolina, he apparently had ties to the nearby Lexington area. Roof had a mixed educational record in the Lexington school district, attending White Knoll high school in both the 2008-09 and 2009-10 school years.

Roof previously had at least two run-ins with the law. The Lexington county district attorney’s office confirmed that Roof had been charged with possession of a controlled substance in March but the circumstances surrounding that arrest remain unclear.

He was also arrested in April for misdemeanour trespassing in Lexington county.

On Thursday, police released Roof’s mugshot and moved him from police custody in North Carolina on his way back to face charges in South Carolina.

Reuters reports that Roof had lived with his older sister Amber and their father part-time until his father and stepmother divorced. A profile on shows that Amber Roof is scheduled to be married on Sunday in Lexington, South Carolina, according to Reuters.

After his capture in Shelby, North Carolina, on Thursday morning – after a florist spotted and tailed his car – Roof was extradited to Charleston, where he is being held in isolation at a detention centre facing nine counts of murder, according to Live5 news.

On Thursday, President Barack Obama addressed the nation from the White House, expressing heartache at the killings and saying American communities have had to endure such tragedies too many times.

Obama on Charleston: shootings have happened ‘too many times’

“At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries,” Obama said. “It doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency – and it is in our power to do something about it.”

The Charleston mayor, Joseph P Riley Jr, said at a press conference: “In America, you know, we don’t let bad people like this get away with these dastardly deeds.”

The streets outside of Emanuel church were crowded with people on Thursday night who wished to pay their respects to the dead: Cynthia Hurd, 54; Susie Jackson, 87; Ethel Lance, 70; DePayne Middleton-Doctor, 49; Clementa Pickney, 41; Tywanza Sanders, 26; Daniel Simmons, 74; Sharonda Singleton, 45, and Myra Thompson, 59.

“It’s just mind-boggling, I don’t have the right words to say it. Just shock,” said Marymargaret Givens, a 60-year-old housekeeper who works a few blocks away. “The way it happened. They were just innocent people. They were godly people.” She gazed back towards the church, said a prayer for the dead and then walked away.

Members of Congress hold a prayer circle in front of the US Capitol to honour those gunned down at the Emanuel church. Photograph: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

“It was an evil that was incomprehensible,” said Pastor Cress Darwin, who had earlier led a prayer session at the Second Presbyterian Church next door to Emanuel AME. As throngs of worshippers poured out on to the streets, many in tears, Darwin continued: “But this community is coming together. Because of it we will be more vigilant in terms of our security. But because of who we serve, we will not stop welcoming in the stranger, because death is not the last word.”

Fifty-seven-year-old Marilyn Martin had attended school with Myra Thompson and had known Tywanza Sanders. She described Sanders as a “strong man with a good head on his shoulders”. The 26-year-old, she said, had just graduated college and “couldn’t wait to be a productive citizen”.

Charleston residents mourn shooting victims at Emanuel AME church – video

Vigils were also held across the US, including in Nebraska, New York and Florida.

The African American community in Charleston and throughout the US is still reeling from the murder just 10 weeks earlier of Walter Scott, an unarmed black man shot dead by a North Charleston police officer just miles away from the site of Wednesday’s shooting.

The Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal church traces its roots to 1816 and is one of the largest black congregations south of Baltimore. The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr addressed the church in 1962.

Australians love world news and digital media but never mind the politics

Australians rate international news more highly than Americans and Europeans but are not so keen on political news, according to a global survey of media consumption.

Among 12 countries surveyed, Australians were the top of the pile for the consumption of international news and also for accessing news on a smartphone.

But political news was ranked lower in importance in Australia than any other country surveyed – below national news, sport, economic news and local news.

The Digital News Report: Australia 2015 by the News Media Research Centre at University of Canberra examined how digital news is consumed in comparison with print and broadcast news.

An Australian first, the study was undertaken in collaboration with the Reuters institute for the study of journalism at the University of Oxford which has been doing the same survey in 11 other countries for four years, adding Australia in 2015.

“A strong interest in international news is understandable given many Australians’ historic and family ties with many other parts of the world,” research associate Nic Newman of the Reuters institute said in the report.

“As befits those living in one of the wealthiest and most developed countries in the world, Australians are also amongst the best connected – along with Denmark – as heavy users of smartphone and tablets for news.”

Broadcast television remains the main source of news for most Australians, and this includes both traditional news bulletins and 24-hour news channels such as Sky News and ABC News 24, The second most popular source of news is online news websites.

Print newspapers were the preferred main source of news amongst only 7% of respondents.

However, Australians don’t necessarily have a high opinion of news quality. The report found a “significant lack of trust in most news” with 30.7% of respondents disagreeing or strongly disagreeing that they trusted “most news”.

Respondents trusted their own preferred news sources more: 52.5% agreed or strongly agreed that they can trust the news that they chose to consume regularly.

Despite the proliferation of news apps put out by media organisations, only one in seven respondents who accessed news online in the past week used news apps on their smartphones – and fewer than one in 10 did so on tablets.

Of those who used news apps ABC, Yahoo7, ninemsn, Google News and Sydney Morning Herald apps were the most popular among smartphone and tablet users.

In more bad news for traditional media, Australians are very reluctant to pay for online news, with only 11% making a payment for digital news in the past week, and of those who did pay half forked out less than $10 a month.

Most of the news people consumed in the preceding week was not paid for – except for newspapers and pay TV – and 83% of those who had not paid for digital news said they were were “unlikely” to pay for news in the future and 60% were “very unlikely”.

Newman says in the report that free online news sources like Yahoo7 and ninemsn had already made it difficult for traditional newspapers to charge for content online.

“But now we see the Huffington Post and BuzzFeed appealing to the young, while UK brands such as the Guardian, the Mail and the BBC look to pick off mainstream audiences and a growing share of the advertising market.”

The most popular social network for finding, reading, watching, sharing, or discussing news is overwhelmingly Facebook with 48.1% using it every week compared with YouTube at 15.4%, Twitter at 7.5% and Google at 6.8%.

Australians are active participants in news sharing, reporting they like to talk face-to-face and to share news through Facebook and email with their friends.

We are also more devoted to Apple devices than any country apart from Denmark.

Another one the report’s commentators, Robert G Picard of the Reuters institute, said the report showed that while TV news and newspapers remain the main sources of news both offline and online, about a third of digital users get news from digital sources not linked to traditional media.

“Digital news consumption in Australia is widening the sources that audiences turn to for news,” Picard said.

“Whilst relying on major broadcasters and newspapers offline and online, audiences are increasingly turning to hybrid sources such as ninemsn, Yahoo7, and new sources such as Guardian Australia, BuzzFeed and The Huffington Post in their digital use, becoming a world leader in accessing news from these sources. When age is considered, younger people are more likely to use digital native sources than traditional sources to obtain news.”

The 11 other countries which took part in the 2015 Digital News Report were Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Spain, UK, USA and urban Brazil.

West Yorkshire family mourns ‘Britain’s youngest suicide bomber’

The family of a West Yorkshire teenager, believed to have become Britain’s youngest suicide bomber, said they have been left “utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy”.

Pictures of Talha Asmal, 17, were released by Isis on Saturday, along with a statement saying that he detonated a vehicle fitted with explosives in the northern Iraqi town of Baiji. The militant group said his name was Abu Yusuf al-Britani but following media reports identifying the boy in the pictures as Asmal, his family released a statement on Sunday expressing their grief and anger.

“Talha was a loving, kind, caring and affable teenager,” they said. “He never harboured any ill-will against anybody nor did he ever exhibit any violent, extreme or radical views of any kind. Talha’s tender years and naivety were, it seems however, exploited by persons unknown, who, hiding behind the anonymity of the worldwide web, targeted and befriended Talha and engaged in a process of deliberate and calculated grooming of him.

“Whilst there it appears that Talha fell under the spell of individuals who continued to prey on his innocence and vulnerability to the point where if the press reports are accurate he was ordered to his death by so-called Isis handlers and leaders too cowardly to do their own dirty work.

“We are all naturally utterly devastated and heartbroken by the unspeakable tragedy that now appears to have befallen us.”

The family said that Isis did not represent Islam or Muslims “in any way, shape of form”.

In April, they said the teenager boarded a flight to Turkey with his friend Hassan Munshi, also 17 at the time. The families of both boys issued an urgent appeal for their return, adding they were gravely worried the pair had joined Isis.

Isis statements on Saturday named Britani as one of four suicide bombers. The others were said to be a German, a Kuwaiti and a Palestinian. All four were photographed by Isis standing beside SUVs.

The suicide attacks are understood to have occurred in Iraq’s Salahuddin province, around one of the country’s largest oil refineries, as part of a larger military offensive by the militant group.

One of the pictures believed to be showing Talha Asmal. Photograph: Screengrab

If the reports are corroborated, Asmal would be Britain’s youngest known suicide bomber. Another West Yorkshire teenager, Hasib Hussein, was almost 19 when he blew himself up on a London bus in the 7 July 2005 attacks.

Shahid Malik, a former government minister and a friend of the Asmals, described them as “a beautiful, caring, peace-loving and incredibly humble family”.

The former MP for Dewsbury said: “The local community grieves with them today, Ebrahim (the father) and the family’s world has been shattered in the cruellest of ways and one which no family should ever have to experience.

“Talha was a truly sweet-natured, helpful, respectful and friendly kid, and it is incredibly difficult to reconcile this Talha with the suicide bomber at an Iraqi oil installation.

“My thoughts and prayers are obviously also with those killed at the oil installation and their families.

“It is disturbing to see how relaxed he looks in the Isis photographs allegedly taken just prior to his suicide mission. He looks at peace. It’s like he’s ready to go and meet his maker. This is a clear indication of just how successful the evil Isis groomers have been in poisoning and brainwashing Talha and kids like him.

“We must defeat Isis in mosques and communities across the country. This is a generational struggle and everyone must be willing to rise to the challenge. Importantly, it’s a struggle which can only succeed if it is one which is led by Muslims themselves.”

West Yorkshire police said: “The police have been made aware of media reports with regard to the death of a British national in Iraq. The identity of the person who has reportedly died has not been confirmed at this time and we are unable to comment further.”

Speaking on Sunday, Asst Ch Con Russ Foster said: “As part of the Prevent initiative, West Yorkshire police is committed to working with communities and local authorities, to highlight the dangers associated with radicalisation and travel to regions such as Syria and Iraq. We are all working together to help identify vulnerable members of our society and intervene and engage them before it is too late.

“If anyone has concerns that a friend or relative may be vulnerable to radicalisation, expressing extreme views or contemplating travelling to Syria or Iraq, it is vital that we work together to try and prevent that person from travelling.

“Families are also encouraged to make contact with specially trained officers for help and advice by visiting” He said this was a newly created webpage, dedicated to being a “a one-stop shop for concerned families to visit if they would like further information or advice around this issue”.

Kim Kardashian’s backside being used to promote world news stories

What does Kim Kardashian’s bottom have in common with war zones and disease epidemics? Not very much, but one website has set out to change that.

The Big Ass News, which launched Monday, has found a unique way to get Internet users thinking about world news stories. The site posts headlines, like “Six Days in North Korea” or “Pope Francis Take Tougher Stance Against Putin,” on various pictures of Kardashian’s rear end to entice readers to click.

The creators of the aggregated site, Jennifer Garcia and Carl Larsson, told Newsweek that the star’s highly photographed derriere gets more attention than important global issues.

“We wanted to use that ‘huge platform’ that Kardashian has in the media to spread awareness for news we should pay attention to as a global community.” Larsson explained.

According to Newsweek, the New York-based art directors, who did not respond to FOX411’s request for further comment, developed the website to serve “as a cultural wake-up call and an immensely accurate grasp of the attention span of America.”  

So is Kardashian aware of the new site? A representative for the prominent personality, Ina Treciokas, simply said, “Why give them the time of day?”


It’s certainly no secret that the reality stars’ most famous asset has the power to win over the web. In 2014, Kim and her bare bottom were featured on the cover of Paper magazine alongside the catchphrase “Break the Internet.”   

She certainly came close. Paper’s site hit 6.6 million views just one day after the story was published. The cover photo also made the rounds of endless amounts of websites across the world and took social media by storm.

Lisa Durden, a talk show host and pop culture commentator, told FOX411 it’s no surprise that Kardashian’s booty would be used to garner clicks for a news site.  

“Kim made money on her booty with her sex tape and no one knew she had a booty before the sex tape,” Durden told FOX 411. “Her name has become her brand and when you hashtag Kardashian and hashtag booty, they know what they are doing and it will sell.”  

Click here to see the partially NSWF site.

Al-Qaida ‘cut off and ripped apart by Isis’

Two of al-Qaida’s most important spiritual leaders have told the Guardian that the terror group is no longer a functioning organisation after being ripped apart by Isis. In a wide-ranging interview, Abu Qatada, a Jordanian preacher who was based in London before being deported in 2013, and Abu Muhammad al-Maqdisi, regarded as the most influential jihadi scholar alive, say the al-Qaida leader, Ayman al-Zawahiri, is cut off from his commanders and keeping the group afloat through little more than appeals to loyalty.

Senior insiders in Jordan add that al-Qaida around the Middle East has been drained of recruits and money after losing territory and prestige to its former subordinate division. The ongoing war between al-Qaida and Isis has left the US struggling to catch up with the tectonic shifts within the global jihadi movement, intelligence insiders told the Guardian.

Maqdisi, who Zawahiri counts as a close friend, is frank about the 63-year-old Egyptian’s situation. “He operates solely based on the allegiance. There is no organisational structure. There is only communication channels and loyalty,” Maqdisi said.

Qatada, who was born Omar Mahmoud Othman and has been described by the British government as a “truly dangerous individual”, also says Zawahiri is “isolated” and admits that Isis have been winning the propaganda and ground war against al-Qaida.

Qatada was deported from the UK to Jordan to face terror charges after a court battle lasting nearly 10 years with a series of British home secretaries. Last summer he was released from custody after being acquitted of all charges. Since his release, he has become an increasingly vocal critic of Isis. He told the Guardian its members were extremists and a “cancer” growing within the jihadi movement following their assault on al-Qaida over the last two years. “[Isis] don’t respect anyone,” he said.

Isis was al-Qaida’s branch in the heart of the Middle East until the group was excommunicated from the network in 2014 after disobeying commands from Zawahiri and starting an internecine war with fellow jihadists in Syria which left thousands dead on both sides. Today that fight continues and has expanded across Eurasia and the Mediterranean. Since declaring the establishment of its so-called Islamic State a year ago, Isis has gone on to build a global network of affiliates and branches that now stretches from Afghanistan to west Africa and competes with al-Qaida in its scale.

Isis leaders, who described al-Qaida as a “drowned entity” in issue six of their official English-language publication, Dabiq, have declared that they will not tolerate any other jihadi group in territory where they are operating. They have readily delivered on that statement. Last week, Isis fighters in Afghanistan were reported to have beheaded 10 members of the Taliban, and on Wednesday al-Qaida in Libya vowed retaliation after blaming Isis for the death of one of its leaders.

But the US has been slow to grasp the implications of al-Qaida’s decline and possible collapse despite extensive study of Isis, according to intelligence community insiders. “There’s such a cadre of people so closely tied to the al-Qaida brand within the IC [intelligence community] that I think they don’t see what else is going on outside the organisation,” said Derek Harvey, a former intelligence analyst who predicted how resilient the Iraq insurgency would be.

Over the past year, a group of junior and mid-level analysts have concluded that Isis advances have pushed al-Qaida to the margins of global jihad. A former senior intelligence official who did not want to speak on the record said they had been tracking the split between the two groups with great attention. Against them is what Harvey described as “the overwhelming majority of senior intelligence officials looking at this” who he said considered the enmity between Isis and al-Qaida as little more than “a squabble within”.

That prevailing view has found expression in repeated public statements by Barack Obama and his senior advisers conflating Isis and al-Qaida or denying that any split between the two organisations is meaningful. That raises questions about whether a US counter-terrorism bureaucracy long focused on al-Qaida as a prime threat can grapple with the group’s decline and a different one’s ascent.

In a typical comment, Barack Obama in March told Vice that Isis “is the direct outgrowth of al-Qaida in Iraq”. Although factually correct, this is substantively misleading: al-Qaida in Iraq was for 10 years al-Qaida’s most fractious and disloyal franchise, even before it began waging its violent campaign against the old guard.

The US secretary of state, John Kerry, has depicted the rivalry between the two jihadi groups as cosmetic, and his top Iraq policy official, Brett McGurk, has repeatedly stated: “Isis is al-Qaida.” Kerry’s new spokesman, John Kirby, said in his old job at the Pentagon that Isis, al-Qaida and al-Qaida’s Syrian proxy the Nusra Front “in our minds, from our military perspective, are very much one and the same”.

“We’ve got counter-terrorist guys who are focused on counter-terrorism and they grew up fighting the al-Qaida networks, but Isis is a different kind of network,” Harvey said. “It’s basing itself on skills and organisational capabilities and objectives that are much more accelerated and capable than what al-Qaida’s ever had.”

However misleading, the conflation of the two groups has political and legal benefits for Obama. He launched military action against Isis without congressional approval 10 months ago and a push for retroactive legislative blessing is all but dead in Washington. Portraying al-Qaida and Isis as the same thing has allowed the president to claim that the 2001 and 2002 congressional authorisations for attacks on al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein provide the legal foundations for the current campaign.

Meanwhile, the US continues to target al-Qaida. So far this year, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the Americans have launched 11 drone strikes in Yemen – the most recent came Tuesday night – and 11 more in Pakistan, killing between 82 and 122 people.

US officials have warned that al-Qaida’s presence in Yemen, which al-Qaida’s scholars consider to be its most loyal branch, has benefited from the January coup that displaced the US client government and the Saudi-led war to roll it back.