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The story of 11-year-old Yousif can only be described as a devastating miracle.

While the floodwaters here in Derna swept his entire family out to sea, the waves washed him back along the shore.

His legs are covered in scratches and there’s a bandage wrapped around his right foot.

“The water lifted us up and smashed us onto the ground,” he says.

“I woke up on the floor and then got up and walked. Later, a police car took us to a school.”

I ask what feelings he has.

“Nothing,” he replies curtly.

His uncle, Mustafa Farash, is now his guardian and says he is in a state of shock. He tells me they lost 11 family members and found only five bodies to bury.

As a civil engineer born in Derna, he is furious about this preventable tragedy. The burst second dam was built in 1973 and he says there’s been no maintenance of note in the 50 years since.

“These dams should have been maintained yearly and even have a watch post,” he says.

“Everyone here – men, women and children – know that this was caused by neglect and corruption.”

Yousif, 11, says the water lifted him up and smashed him on the ground
Yousif, 11, says the water lifted him up and smashed him on the ground

Derna’s disaster zone is now full of troops commanding search and recovery efforts, directing diggers and volunteers.

Sometimes they are working efficiently; at other times, counterintuitively.

This massive military presence was not the case on the first day.

When dawn broke and thousands of bodies washed up on the city’s shore, it was a flood preparation committee that launched into action.

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What happened at Derna’s ‘dam of death’?

A joint venture from the Libyan Red Crescent, the police, the army’s 166th battalion, medics and Derna’s Scouts – supported by a mass of civilian volunteers.

They had seen Storm Daniel tear through Europe and were on high alert for when it crossed the Mediterranean sea.

The head of the Derna Scouts emergency team, Zuhair Azouz, says the committee had been prepared for a flood from the sea but, instead, it ended up crashing down from the dam behind.

“Around 1,500 bodies washed up to shore on the first morning,” he says. “We all rushed to the beach – it was almost a blur.”

We are standing on the balcony of the Derna Scout headquarters looking out at the beach. The water along the shore is still a muddy brown from all the silt that came from the highlands. That day the water was much darker, Zuhair says.

Derna has been devastated
Derna has been devastated

This city has seen a lot, but nothing like this.

Back when ISIS extremists over-ran Derna and carried out executions in the mosque yards, the scouts had been on the frontline.

A plaque still hangs in the building’s reception, honouring them for helping to liberate the city.

As Zuhair sits in his meeting room, head scouts come to see him. Some of them are on autopilot and others in a highly emotional state.

Head girl scout Eman runs in to hug him. She had been told he was one of the thousands swept away to sea.

Her relief turns into agony as she starts to wail and then begins to list all the people she knows that were killed.

“This is a massive catastrophe,” Zuhair says. “I have 54 scout leaders that have lost their friends, families and loved ones, so they are distraught.”

He adds that 90 girl and boy scouts have died.

Many children have been orphaned

Read more:
Libya flood damage revealed
Huge aid package arrives in Libya

I ask Zuhair what their immediate needs are. The building has a make-shift surgical ward with a white sheet cordoning off a small storage area. There are boxes with aid and supplies – some marked with labels from Palestine and Turkey. The room is barely 20 square metres.

Before he rattles off a list of medical supplies, Zuhair says they urgently need children’s toys and a playground for psychosocial support.

Just across the street, at a battered courtyard in the shadow of Derna’s mountains, the scouts have organised a playtime for children who have lost their families. In the absence of toys they are using balloons, cheering and clapping to get them excited.

On the edge of the new playground, a small child sits with his head in his hands. A volunteer is hunched over talking to him quietly. Every now and then the boy shakes his head. Despite the screams of glee all around him, he never even looks up.

Countless children here are now orphaned.

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Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro has died




Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro has died

Sicilian mafia boss Matteo Messina Denaro, who was arrested in January after spending 30 years on the run, has died, according to Italian media reports.

The 61-year-old was suffering from cancer at the time of his arrest.

As his condition worsened in recent weeks he was transferred to a hospital from the maximum-security prison in central Italy where he was initially held.

He was convicted of numerous crimes, including for his role in planning the 1992 murders of anti-mafia prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino – crimes that shocked Italy and sparked a crackdown on the Sicilian mob.

Read more:
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Man whose identity was used by prolific mafia boss arrested in Sicily

He was also held responsible for bombings in Rome, Florence and Milan in 1993 that killed 10 people, as well as helping organise the kidnapping of Giuseppe Di Matteo, 12, to try to dissuade the boy’s father from giving evidence against the mafia.

The boy was held for two years, then murdered.

More on Italy

Dubbed by the Italian press as “the last Godfather”, Messina Denaro is not believed to have given any information to the police after he was seized outside a private health clinic in the Sicilian capital, Palermo, on 16 January.

According to medical records leaked to the Italian media, he underwent surgery for colon cancer in 2020 and 2022 under a false name.

A doctor at the Palermo clinic told La Repubblica newspaper that Messina Denaro’s health had worsened significantly in the months leading up to his capture.

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The sleepy Russian village where a pardoned ex-convict back from Ukraine carried out butchery




The sleepy Russian village where a pardoned ex-convict back from Ukraine carried out butchery

The village of Derevyannoe in Karelia, northwest Russia, has a well-kept feel to it. Apple trees heavy with fruit and tidy vegetable gardens, boats on trailers ready for sailing in the nearby lake and wood stacked up high for winter.

Up above you can just about make out the sound of woodpeckers tapping away in the pine forest canopy as dogs bark fiercely behind corrugated iron. It does not look like a place for mass murder, but where does.

Irina Zhamoidina stands in front of the charred remains of her brother, Artyom Tereschenko’s home. He and her 71-year-old father, Vladimir, were murdered here on the night of 1 August when two men, both of them ex-convicts, one fresh back from the frontline, broke in and stabbed father and son to death before setting the property on fire.

Mr Taroschenko’s children, aged nine and 12, managed to escape through a window and raise the alarm.

Diana Magnay wagner violence

“My dad definitely did not deserve such a death,” Ms Zhamoidina says quietly. “We are from a good family. This is not how he should have died.”

The two men then continued down the road to another house a few hundred metres away and killed all four who lived there, three men and a woman, before setting their house on fire too. A drunken binge with a dose of drugs mixed in, Ms Zhamoidina thinks – a ‘zapoi’, as they’re known in Russia – turned murderous one sleepy summer night.

One of the men, Maxim Bochkarev, was known locally as a troublemaker. He had served time at a prison colony in St Petersburg for theft, carjacking, rape and sexual assault which is where he met his partner in crime, Igor Sofonov.

Artyom and his wife
Artyom Taroschenko and his wife

Sofonov, 37, had three more years to go for theft, robbery and attempted murder but was recruited straight from jail by Russia’s Ministry of Defence and sent to Ukraine, a practice started by the late Wagner boss Yevgeny Prigozhin and adopted enthusiastically by the Russian military.

“I believe that anyone who was in prison, even if he went to war, then he should be sent back when he was done for such serious crimes,” Ms Zhamoidina says. “They should not live among us because cases like this do happen.”

She is right. The catalogue of violent crimes committed by pardoned ex-offenders is picking up as they trickle back home.

Diana Magnay wagner violence

In June, Prigozhin said 32,000 recruited by Wagner were heading back to Russia, their records wiped clean.

Already in the southern city of Krasnodar, a Wagner ex-convict is on trial for murdering two people on their way home from work, a charge he denies. There have been cases of murder, sexual assault, child molestation from convicted sexual offenders.

In Novy Burets, about 500 miles east of Moscow, a Wagner ex-convict murdered an elderly lady, again on a drunken binge, even after locals repeatedly expressed their alarm to authorities that he was wandering their streets.

Read more:
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diana magnay wagner violence
A few hundred metres away from Artyom’s home, four people were killed in another house

Three years ago we travelled to the Siberian city of Kemerovo to cover a case of domestic violence which had culminated in the brutal murder of 23-year-old Vera Pekhteleva. Her story had shocked the country after the audio recordings of her screams, as neighbours made repeated, desperate calls to police, went viral. In court, her uncle had sat just metres away from the killer, Vladislav Kanyus, as he was sentenced to 17 years in jail. Now from social media photos, he knows that Kanyus is a free man, recruited by the Ministry of Defence and serving somewhere in Ukraine.

“He murdered her with extreme cruelty,” Mr Pekhtelev said. “He was tormenting Vera for three hours, and now he will have been trained to fight. I just can’t imagine what will happen if he comes back.”

The blue building and blue corridor are Leningradsky Proskpekt, Kemerovo where the murder happend.  In flat 738.
Leningradsky Proskpekt, in Kemerovo, the site of the murder three years ago

The blue building and blue corridor are Leningradsky Proskpekt, Kemerovo where the murder happened.  In flat 738.
Blue and white corridors outside the scene of the killing in Leningradsky Proskpekt

Changes to Russian legislation in June propose allowing suspected or convicted criminals to fight but not once a verdict takes effect. The reality of Russia’s prisoner recruitment though seems a lot murkier. According to the UK’s Ministry of Defence, it is part of a “broader, intense drive by the Russian military to bolster its numbers, while attempting to avoid implementing new mandatory mobilisation, which would be very unpopular”.

It is a policy which will see hardened criminals, traumatised by war, returning in their thousands with precious little in the way of psychological support or rehabilitation to speak of. Just as with domestic violence in Russia, authorities do not engage sufficiently with these kind of social issues back home, and especially not when there is a war on. But this is the stuff which tears at the social fabric of towns and villages across the country. This is one more of the many unintended consequences of war. Beyond the the zinc coffins and the escalating drone onslaught, this is how war comes home.

Alexandra Sofonova, Igor’s sister, believes the state should give psychological support to men like her brother, but she is sure that it won’t. “He served his duty, he was wounded – he’s a man and they’re proud of things like this. And then he came back and turned out to be unnecessary, he couldn’t even get a passport, he goes to glue wallpaper. Maybe something clicked in his head”, she says.

On the back of a supermarket wall a few feet from where we sit there is a piece of graffiti scrawled in large black letters. “Putin, no to war,” it says. I ask Alexandra what she thinks about it.

Diana Magnay wagner violence
“Putin, no to war”

“I don’t know what kind of special operation this is,” she says. “Many of my friends died and are returning in zinc coffins. But they are dying for nothing. What are we fighting to win?”

The other sister in this story, Irina Zhamoidina, whose men were murdered back home, says it is her faith in God which gets her through each painful day.

“I’m afraid for the whole country. No one has the right to kill another, to take a life. They were not given this right”, she says. “We must stop this somehow, so that these kind of people are not among normal society.”

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Somalia truck bombing kills 15 people and wounds 40 others




Somalia truck bombing kills 15 people and wounds 40 others

A bombing at a checkpoint in Somalia has killed at least 15 people and wounded 40 others, authorities have said.

Images on social media showed a damaged truck cab on fire and black smoke billowing from the scene in the central city of Beledweyne.

No one has immediately claimed responsibility, including Al Shabaab, which often carries out attacks and controls parts of Somalia.

Police officer Ahmed Aden said the dead included five police officers who fired on the truck in a failed attempt to stop it from ramming into the nearby checkpoint.

Shops nearby were reduced to rubble, with reports of people missing beneath the debris.

It was a truck loaded with explosive devices that forcefully passed through the government-manned checkpoint, and a pick-up vehicle belonging to security personnel was chasing it when it exploded,” said witness Abdikadir Arba, who said he was about 200 metres away and was one of the first responders.

Abdifatah Mohamed Yusuf, director-general of the Hirshabelle Ministry of Humanitarian and Disaster Management, confirmed the deaths.

More on Somalia

“Twenty of the wounded have been admitted to Beledweyne hospitals, while another 20 are in critical condition, prompting a request for their airlift to Mogadishu for advanced medical treatment,” he said.

Read more on Sky News:
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Locust swarms risk food crisis

Hirshabelle is a state that includes Beledweyne. It has been the centre of the Somali government’s latest military offensive against extremists from Al Shabaab.

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Al Shabaab has been battling Somalia’s central government for more than a decade, aiming to establish its rule based on strict interpretation of Islamic sharia law.

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