- North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday carrying what it has called a satellite, but its neighbors and Washington denounced the launch as a missile test, conducted in defiance of U.N. sanctions and just weeks after a nuclear bomb test.

The U.S. Strategic Command said it had detected a missile entering space, and South Korea's military said the rocket had put an object into orbit, quashing earlier media reports indicating the it might have failed in flight.

North Korea said the launch of its satellite Kwangmyongsong-4, named after late leader Kim Jong Il, was a "complete success" and that it was making a polar orbit of the earth every 94 minutes. The launch order was given by his son, leader Kim Jong Un, who is believed to be 33 years old.

North Korea's state TV carried still pictures of a white rocket, that closely resembles a previously launched rocket, lifting off, and Kim surrounded by cheering military officials at what appeared to be a command center.

North Korea's last long-range rocket launch, in 2012, put what it called a communications satellite into orbit, but no signal has ever been detected from it.

"Everything we have seen is consistent with a successful repeat of the 2012 (launch)," said U.S. missile technology expert John Schilling.

"But it's still too early to tell for sure," said Schilling, who is involved in the "38 North" North Korean monitoring project at Johns Hopkins University.

The rocket was launched at around 9:30 a.m. Seoul time (7.30 p.m. ET/0030 GMT) in a southward trajectory, as planned. Japan's Fuji Television Network showed a streak of light heading into the sky, taken from a camera at China's border with North Korea.

North Korea had notified U.N. agencies that it planned to launch a rocket carrying an Earth observation satellite, triggering opposition from governments that see it as a long-range missile test.

The U.N. Security Council will hold an emergency meeting on Sunday to discuss the launch, at the request of the United States, Japan and South Korea, diplomats said.

The United States tracked the rocket launch and said it did not believe that it posed a threat to the United States or its allies, defense officials said.

Isolated North Korea had initially given a Feb. 8-25 time frame for the launch but on Saturday changed that to Feb. 7-14, apparently taking advantage of clear weather on Sunday.

North Korea's National Aerospace Development Administration called the launch "an epochal event in developing the country's science, technology, economy and defense capability by legitimately exercising the right to use space for independent and peaceful purposes".


The United States will work with the U.N. Security Council on "significant measures" to hold North Korea to account for its launch, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said.

Calling the launch a flagrant violation of U.N. resolutions on North Korea's use of ballistic missile technology, Kerry reaffirmed "ironclad" U.S. defense commitments to allies Japan and South Korea and called the launch a destabilizing and unacceptable challenge to peace and security.

South Korean President Park Geun-hye called the launch an unforgivable act of provocation. Foreign Minister Yun Byung-se said there will be stepped up effort with the United States, Japan and Australia on sanctions.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said the launch "absolutely unacceptable", especially after North Korea had tested a nuclear device last month.

"We will respond resolutely, coordinating closely with the international community," he told reporters.

Japan had said that it was ready to shoot down the rocket if it had posed a threat to it but did not take any action, Japan's NHK reported.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon strongly condemned the launch and urged North Korea to "halt its provocative actions".

China expressed regret and called on all sides to act cautiously and refrain from taking steps that might further raise tension on the Korean peninsula.

China is North Korea's main ally, although it disapproves of its nuclear weapons program.

"China expresses regret that North Korea, in spite of the pervasive opposition of the international community, insisted on using ballistic missile technology to carry out a launch," Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said in a statement.

North Korea has said that its fourth nuclear test, on Jan. 6, was of a hydrogen bomb. However, the United States and other governments have expressed doubt over that claim.

North Korea is believed to be working on miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile, but many experts say it is some time away from perfecting such technology.

It has shown off two versions of a ballistic missile resembling a type that could reach the U.S. West Coast, but there is no evidence the missiles have been tested.

North Korea says it has a sovereign right to pursue a space program.

The lynching began around 7:20 p.m., not long after the brothers had finished conducting their final interviews on tortilla consumption.

Residents confronted them, mistaking the pair for kidnappers. The police confirmed that the men were, in fact, pollsters for a marketing company and whisked them to safety. Irate residents rang the church bells in the town square anyway, summoning hundreds.

The mob then stormed the arched doorways of the government center, set fire to its library and snatched the brothers from the police. Finally, a man in a motorcycle helmet calmly walked into the center of the frenzied crowd, doused the semiconscious brothers with gasoline and lit a match.

Sign Up For NYT Now's Morning Briefing Newsletter

A grisly cellphone video of the episode played for days on local news media this fall, eliciting condemnation and hand-wringing. Officials blamed the crowd and rumors that kidnappers were taking children off the streets. One local official suggested that it was the opposition party making trouble.

But the people of Ajalpan had another explanation: Tired of government corruption and indifference, the mob fashioned its own justice, part of a longstanding problem that Mexican officials say is on the rise.

The killings raise difficult questions for Mexico, highlighting an alarming development: By some accounts, there were more public lynchings this past year than at any other time in more than a quarter-century. There were at least 78 lynchings last year in Mexico, more than double the number the previous year, according to data collected by Raúl Rodríguez Guillén, a professor and an author of the book “Mexico Lynchings, 1988-2014.”

The mob actions were born of a sense of hopelessness and impotence shared by many in Mexico, where 98 percent of murders go unsolved and the state is virtually absent in some areas. By some estimates, just 12 percent of crimes are even reported in Mexico, largely because of a lack of faith that justice will ever be served.

Such a void, taken to extremes, has found its resolution in violence.

“There is a crisis in terms of the growth of violence and crime and a parallel erosion of authority and the rule of law,” Mr. Guillén said. “These lynchings acquire a double meaning. People lynch both the suspect and the symbol of authority.”

Interviews with dozens of residents about the lynching of the brothers — David and José Abraham Copado Molina — revealed little remorse. In the end, the fear that two suspects might be escaping with the help of the police outweighed concerns over spilling innocent blood.

“If they were innocent, and I’m not saying they were, then this is a case of one group paying for the crimes of another,” said Emanuel Petla, 33, near where the lynching took place in October. “What happened the day of the lynchings is a situation that has been unraveling for some time now.”

“One thing led to the other,” he added. “Insecurity, frustration, confusion and weariness.”

The police are not exempt from mob action. Last year, five officers were badly beaten after they killed a villager during an operation. Two died from their injuries.

In the town of Iztapalapa, residents have raised banners warning thieves that they will not be turned over to the police. Instead, vengeance will be taken on their mothers. In September, two men were set on fire in Chiapas State, having been accused of stealing a car.

Such frustration has long been an issue, along with the tendency for people to take the law into their own hands. In the last few years, self-defense groups have popped up to fight organized crime, filling the void left by government forces either incapable of combating criminal gangs, unwilling to do so or actively working alongside them.

But for all the government’s flaws, vigilantism rarely seems to do much better.

The initial gains of some self-defense groups give way to predatory behavior, creating a new order of bandit. Lynchings, too, seldom generate much more than public disgust and a fleeting sense of agency for the community.

And sometimes, the community gets it wrong, as with the Copado brothers.

“I can’t imagine how this is happening in our country,” said Pablo Copado, a brother of the two lynched men. “They stepped on every inch of my brothers’ integrity, on all of their humanity.”

The two brothers always worked together, ever since David, 34, persuaded his youngest brother to join him on the road as freelance pollsters for various companies. He taught José how to approach interviewees and frame his questions.

It was no easy task. José, 30, could be quiet and withdrawn, the yin to David’s gregarious yang. He enjoyed odd hobbies, like making papier-mâché figurines and marshmallow lollipops, but held a deep reservoir of love for David, who was the eldest in the family, and David’s twin, 2-year-old sons. José was so devoted to the boys that David sometimes joked that he was the real father.

David, by contrast, was the kind of person who would take up all your time gabbing if you let him, Pablo recalled. David chose the job partly because it allowed him to talk to people and see the country. José loved it because it allowed him to work with his brother.

On the day they died, the brothers had arrived in Ajalpan around 9 a.m. They had come to this town of about 60,000 people for the firm Marketing Research and Services, polling residents about tortilla consumption by children. Often their work was like this, asking basic questions of populations on behalf of businesses collecting market data.

Though the job was standard enough, the context was not. The town was swirling in a tempest of fear. In the days before the pair arrived, social media brimmed with warnings about child abductions and admonitions to be on the lookout for strangers.

Just a few hours after the Copado brothers arrived, word began to spread about the two, dressed in slacks and collared shirts, carrying shoulder bags. By evening, a group of townspeople approached the pair outside a store.

The crowd demanded to know why they were asking about children. The brothers explained and produced identification. But the residents grew more aggressive, witnesses said, until the police arrived and took the brothers away.

The police are not a source of confidence here. Nearly every resident interviewed recalled an episode a year earlier, when a man had been caught stealing money from a church collection plate and the police had released him. Villagers tried then to lynch the man, but he escaped.

So when the police announced that the brothers were innocent, few believed them. Someone claimed there was a girl who could testify, a child who had been sexually assaulted.

The girl was ushered into the precinct, where she encountered the two brothers, shaking with fear. But she did not recognize them, officials said.

“She said she had never seen them,” said Enrique Bravo, the police officer on duty.

Her testimony did not save them.

The crowd had doubled by this time, their angry chants audible inside the station. The police shut the brothers in a small 8-foot-by-7-foot room. Guards were placed at the door.

Someone began ringing the town church bells, a call to arms. Hundreds more flooded the square, and a game of telephone ensued.

Roberto Hernández, 24, said he heard that the brothers had already confessed. Miguel Hernández, an ice cream vendor, recalled his neighbors yelling, “Come join us, we are going to get the robbers!”

After the mob punched its way into the building, members broke open the cell, grabbed the brothers and dragged them into the plaza.

Afterward, the crowd looted the building, setting fire to the adult education center and the post office.

In the days after, a small shrine was erected in the parking lot, directly over the chalky residue where the brothers were immolated.

Some mourned what the lynching had done to their town.

“We have such culture and tradition here, our food, our crafts,” Juan Guzmán, the deputy mayor, said. “But now we are known for this.”

For others, the reputation was not such a bad thing. Some residents reckoned it would be a long time before another thief or would-be kidnapper turned up in town.

“It has an effect,” Donardo Andrade, 27, said.

In the Copado home, the effect has been devastation.

David’s children cry often for their father, though they are too young to know what happened to him.

“They can feel his absence,” said their grandmother, Dulce María.

She has erected her own altar for her boys. For the Day of the Dead celebration here, she placed a pot of honey and guava on its mantel.

She prays that the sweet scent will guide her sons’ spirits home.

- Otto Warmbier, the American university student being held by North Korea, was detained before boarding his flight to China over an unspecified incident that had taken place earlier in the trip at his hotel, his travel company told Reuters on Saturday.

North Korea's official KCNA news agency said on Friday that Warmbier "was caught committing a hostile act against the state", which it said was "tolerated and manipulated by the U.S. government".

Charlotte Guttridge, a tour leader at Young Pioneer Tours and the only outside witness to Warmbier's detention, said the 21-year-old University of Virginia student was not with other tourists when the events that appear to have prompted his arrest occurred.

"What happened, happened at the hotel and my belief is that Otto kept it to himself out of hope it might go unnoticed," Guttridge told Reuters.

Guttridge and colleagues at Young Pioneer Tours declined to share further details of exactly what had taken place, citing the safety of their client.

Warmbier had been staying at the Yanggakdo International Hotel when the incident that led to his arrest occurred. The Yanggakdo is a towering structure on an island in the middle of the Taedong river, which cuts through central Pyongyang.

China-based Young Pioneer Tours is a North Korea travel specialist that describes itself on its website as "an adventure tour operator that provides 'budget tours to destinations your mother would rather you stayed away from'".

During his five-day New Year's tour of North Korea, staff at Young Pioneer Tours said Warmbier had acted normally, and was keen to see daily life in one of the world's most isolated countries, which is visited by around 6,000 Western tourists a year. Ten other U.S. citizens were on the tour.

"Throughout the trip, Otto behaved as a typical tourist - taking pictures, enjoying himself. We had no indication that anything untoward had happened until the airport," Guttridge said.


When Warmbier's group reached the airport, he appeared to have been purposefully delayed at immigration, Troy Collings, director of Young Pioneer Tours, told Reuters.

As the tourists checked-in at the gleaming, recently-renovated terminal, Warmbier was taken aside by two airport officials and escorted into a small immigration room behind a wooden door to one side of the check-in area.

"He was not dragged away and he wasn't yelled at," Guttridge said.

As Guttridge waited for Warmbier to come out of the room, she instructed the rest of her tour group to board the North Korean Air Koryo flight bound for Beijing.

"When it became clear that he wasn't coming, I had to board the flight before it departed," said Guttridge, who still had colleagues in Pyongyang with another group of tourists. "I was the last to board the flight."

As the Russian-made Tupolev airliner prepared to leave the terminal, an airport official boarded the plane and told Guttridge that Warmbier had been "taken to hospital".

Soon after, a North Korean contact passed on a message concerning Warmbier's detention to Young Pioneer Tours founder Gareth Johnson, who was in Pyongyang with a separate group due to catch a train to the Chinese border.

"I stayed back when I heard Otto had been detained," Johnson told Reuters. "It was an automatic response. I wanted to try and work out what the situation was and it was my hope that I would at least be able to speak with him."

Johnson said his company was in contact with Warmbier's family, U.S. officials and the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang, which represents U.S. interests in North Korea.

Staff at the tour operator said as far as they knew Warmbier had not been in possession of any religious or political literature. Foreign visitors have been detained in the past for attempting to distribute religious literature in the country. The U.S. and Canadian governments advise against travel there.

The U.S. State Department, in a statement, said it was aware of reports that a U.S. citizen had been detained in North Korea but gave no further details, citing privacy concerns.

Calls to the Warmbier family home in Cincinnati, Ohio, were not immediately answered on Friday and nobody answered when a Reuters reporter knocked on the door of the house.

VProtest in Cologne


A militia group is taking a stand in Burns, Oregon after the prison sentencing of two Oregon ranchers.

Some militia members broke in and camped out in the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge Building, after a peaceful protest nearby. The building was unoccupied by employees due to holiday break.

READ MORE: Trump blames 2 people for the rise of ISIS terrorists

The building is federally owned -- which is why the members strategically decided their stake out there.

Father and son Dwight Hammond, Jr. and Steven Hammond who also were at the initial protest, burned 176 acres of leased governmental land for cattle in what they claimed was to cut back on invasive plants.

See more in the gallery below:


Prescribed burning isn't uncommon in Oregon and other ranching states. And even the the local National Wildlife Refuge has used the practice. But, the difference here is that the Hammond's land was specified for cattle grazing.

But their trial found that it was a poaching cover-up and that their previous time served wasn't long enough according to federal standards. The Hammonds told local media that they do plan on turning themselves in by Monday.

Saudi Arabia announced Sunday it was severing diplomatic relations with Shiite powerhouse Iran amid escalating tensions over the Sunni kingdom's execution of a prominent Shiite cleric.

The move came hours after demonstrators stormed and set fire to the Saudi Embassy in Tehran in protest over the death of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr. Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said Iranian diplomatic personnel had 48 hours to leave his country and all Saudi diplomatic personnel in Iran had been recalled home.

The mass execution of al-Nimr and 46 others — the largest carried out by Saudi Arabia in three and a half decades — has laid bare the divisions gripping the Middle East, where demonstrators took to the streets from Bahrain to Pakistan in protest.

Click through images of the Iranian protesters at the Saudi Embassy:

It also illustrates the kingdom's new aggressiveness under King Salman. During his reign, Saudi Arabia has led a coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen and staunchly opposed regional Shiite power Iran, even as Tehran struck a nuclear deal with world powers.

Iran's top leader warned Saudi Arabia on Sunday of "divine revenge" over al-Nimr's death, while Riyadh accused Tehran of supporting "terrorism" in a war of words that threatened to escalate even as the U.S. and the European Union sought to calm the region.

Al-Nimr was a central figure in Arab Spring-inspired protests by Saudi Arabia's Shiite minority until his arrest in 2012. He was convicted of terrorism charges but denied advocating violence.

On Saturday, Saudi Arabia put al-Nimr and three other Shiite dissidents to death, along with a number of al-Qaida militants. Al-Nimr's execution drew protests from Shiites around the world, who backed his call for reform and wider political freedom for their sect.

While the split between Sunnis and Shiites dates back to the early days of Islam and disagreements over the successor to Prophet Muhammad, those divisions have only grown as they intertwine with regional politics, with both Iran and Saudi Arabia vying to be the Mideast's top power.

Iran accuses Saudi Arabia of supporting terrorism in part because it backs Syrian rebel groups fighting to oust its embattled ally, President Bashar Assad. Riyadh points to Iran's backing of the Lebanese Hezbollah and other Shiite militant groups in the region as a sign of its support for terrorism. Iran also has backed Shiite rebels in Yemen known as Houthis.

Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, condemned al-Nimr's execution, saying Sunday the cleric "neither invited people to take up arms nor hatched covert plots. The only thing he did was public criticism."

Iran's powerful Revolutionary Guard said Saudi Arabia's "medieval act of savagery" would lead to the "downfall" of the country's monarchy.

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry said that by condemning the execution, Iran had "revealed its true face represented in support for terrorism."

In Tehran, a protest outside the Saudi Embassy early Sunday quickly grew violent as protesters threw stones and gasoline bombs at the embassy, setting part of the building ablaze, according to Gen. Hossein Sajedinia, the country's top police official, the semi-official Tasnim news agency reported.

Forty people were arrested and investigators were pursuing other suspects, Tehran prosecutor Abbas Jafari Dowlatabadi said, according to the semi-official ISNA news agency.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned Saudi Arabia's execution of al-Nimr, but also branded those who attacked the Saudi Embassy as "extremists."

"It is unjustifiable," he said in a statement.

Hundreds of protesters later demonstrated in front of the embassy and in a central Tehran square, where street signs near the embassy were replaced with ones bearing the slain sheikh's name.

Across the region, protesters also took to the streets.

In Bahrain, police fired tear gas and birdshot at demonstrators on Sitra Island, south of the capital, Manama, wounding some. In al-Daih, west of the capital, Shiite protesters chanted against Saudi Arabia's ruling Al Saud family, as well as against Bahrain's ruling Al Khalifa family.

In Beirut, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah called al-Nimr "the martyr, the holy warrior," while protests erupted from Turkey to India to Pakistan.

Western powers sought to calm the tensions. In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said the U.S. condemned the embassy attack and called on all sides "to avoid any actions that would further heighten tensions in the region."

European Union foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini spoke to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif by phone and urged Tehran to "defuse the tensions and protect the Saudi diplomats," according to a statement.

The cleric's execution has threatened to complicate Saudi Arabia's relationship with the Shiite-led government in Iraq, where the Saudi Embassy is preparing to formally reopen for the first time in nearly 25 years. On Saturday there were calls for the embassy to be shut down again.

Iran and Saudi Arabia summoned each other's envoys for consultations, and Saudi allies Egypt and the United Arab Emirates summoned Iranian officials in their capitals over the Tehran embassy assault.

Meanwhile, al-Nimr's family prepared for three days of mourning at a mosque in al-Awamiya in the kingdom's al-Qatif region in predominantly Shiite eastern Saudi Arabia. The sheikh's brother, Mohammed al-Nimr, told The Associated Press that Saudi officials informed his family that the cleric had been buried in an undisclosed cemetery, a development that could lead to further protests.

RSS feed

Search Website

email signup

Join the email list!

Sponsor Needed for Rent

Website Design