TIME France

French Customs Officials Seize Record Cocaine Haul in Caribbean

FRANCE-OVERSEAS-DRUG-CUSTOMS
Douanes Francaises—AFP/Getty Images This file photo released on April 18, 2015 by French customs in Fort Saint-Louis military base in Fort-de-France, on the French Caribbean island of Martinique shows packs of cocaine stored after they were seized on April 15, 2015 on a sailboat off the French Caribbean island of Martinique.

More than one-third of what they took in last year

More than two tons of cocaine was seized from a boat off Martinique that was falsely sailing under an American flag, French authorities said Saturday, marking a record haul.

France’s Finance Ministry said the Wednesday raid took place 125 miles off the coast of the French Caribbean island and led to the arrest of three people, one Venezuelan and two Spanish citizens. Officials from Britain and Spain also participated in the operation.

Last week’s haul accounts for more than one-third of the 6.6 tons of cocaine that French customs officials seized in 2014.

TIME Italy

Hundreds Feared Dead in Mediterranean After Migrant Boat Capsizes

At least 24 were confirmed dead

(ROME) — A boat crowded with migrants capsized in the sea north of Libya overnight, leaving at least 24 confirmed dead with the death toll expected to rise into the hundreds, Italy’s Coast Guard said Sunday.

The Coast Guard said in a statement that the migrants’ 20-meter (66-foot) vessel was reported to be sinking as a Portuguese-registered merchant ship, the King Jacob, approached to attempt a rescue. It picked up 28 passengers, but the boat then capsized, sending hundreds more tumbling into the water.

The Coast Guard’s command and rescue coordination center in Rome said the boat may have overturned “because its occupants moved to the side closest to the cargo ship.”

The Italian news agency ANSA said the boat may have held 700 passengers. But the Coast Guard and other authorities said they had no immediate way to determine how many were aboard or how many might still be rescued. The estimated death toll was expected to be clarified as officers interviewed survivors, although many bodies were expected never to be recovered.

Pope Francis was among those following the news. “There are fears there could be hundreds of dead,” Francis told the faithful in St. Peter’s Square. He bowed his head in silent prayer as did many of the tens of thousands in the crowd.

Wreckage of the boat was spotted in the sea.

“There are large fuel stains, pieces of wood, life jackets,” Italian Border Police Gen. Antonino Iraso, whose force has boats deployed in the rescue effort, told Sky TG24 TV.

When asked whether the boat capsized because the migrants rushed to one side as the Portuguese vessel pulled alongside, Iraso replied: “The dynamics aren’t clear. But this is not the first time that has happened.”

Italy is the No. 1 destination for illegal immigration to the European Union, and the numbers of migrants attempting the dangerous crossing by sea from Libya swells as the springtime weather improves, providing calmer seas and warmer water temperatures. But the smugglers’ boats are invariably overcrowded and often too small for the open seas.

So far this year, more than 900 have died in failed crossings. Last week, 400 people were presumed drowned when another boat capsized.

TIME england

Titanic Deckchair Sells for 100,000 Pounds at Auction

MAHOGANY DECK CHAIR RECOVERED FROM TITANIC IS SEEN IN THE MARITIME MUSEUM OF THE ATLANTIC IN HALIFAX
Paul Darrow—Reuters /Landov A mahogany deck chair from the Titanic recovered by the crew aboard the CS Minia is seen in the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax, Canada, January 27, 2012.

A crew dispatched to gather bodies from the water found the chair in 1912

Correction appended, April 21

A deckchair that was pulled from the wreckage of the Titanic more than a century ago has found a new home.

The chair was sold at an auction in England on Saturday, fetching just over 100,000 pounds including taxes and fees, or nearly $150,000, a representative of the Wiltshire auction house told TIME.

The chair sat on the first-class deck of the luxury ship that sank after hitting an iceberg in 1912, killing 1,500 people.

It was discovered floating on the surface of the ocean by a crew dispatched to recover bodies from the wreckage in 1912, the Guardian reports. The chair originally belonged to a member of that crew, and then to an English Titanic collector who owned it for the last 15 years and used it as a display item in his home.

It was sold by auctioneer Henry Aldridge and Son to an unnamed collector in the U.K.

Correction: The original version of the photo caption accompanying this story misstated the location of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. It is in Halifax, Canada.

TIME Italy

Pope Asks Europe to Do More to Help Migrants Flooding Into Italy

ITALY-IMMIGRATION-SHIPWRECK
Giovanni Isolino—AFP/Getty Images Shipwrecked migrants disembark from a rescue vessel as they arrive in the Italian port of Augusta in Sicily on April 16, 2015.

"The proportions of the phenomenon require much broader involvement"

(ROME )—Pope Francis joined Italy in pressing the European Union Saturday to do more to help the country cope with rapidly mounting numbers of desperate people rescued in the Mediterranean during journeys on smugglers’ boats to flee war, persecution or poverty.

As the pope made his appeal, flanked by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, hundreds of migrants took their first steps on land in Sicilian ports after being rescued in past days by merchant vessels and Italian Coast Guard boats. Sicilian towns were running out of places to shelter the arrivals, including more than 10,000 in the week ending Saturday.

With his wide popularity and deep concern for social issues, the pope’s moral authority gives Italy a boost in its lobbying for Brussels and northern EU countries to do more. Since the start of 2014, nearly 200,000 people have been rescued at sea by Italy.

“I express my gratitude for the commitment that Italy is making to welcome the many migrants who, risking their life, ask to be taken in,” Francis told the Italian head of state. “It’s evident that the proportions of the phenomenon require much broader involvement.”

“We must never tire of appealing for a more extensive commitment on the European and international level,” Francis said.

Italy says it will continue rescuing migrants abandoned by smugglers but demands the European Union increase assistance to shelter and rescue them. Since most of the migrants want to reach family or other members of their community in northern Europe, Italian governments have pushed for those countries to do more, particularly by taking in the migrants while their requests for asylum or refugee status are examined.

“For some time, Italy has called on the European Union for decisive intervention to stop this continuous loss of human life in the Mediterranean, the cradle of our civilization,” Mattarella said.

The European Union’s commissioner for migration, Dmitris Avramopoulos, says a new policy will be presented in May. Meanwhile, he has also called for member states to help deal with the crisis.

Some of the 90 migrants who set foot Saturday on Palermo’s docks were too weak to stand. Most were from Somalia. A merchant ship which intercepted their distress call rescued them; then they were transferred to an Italian Coast Guard vessel.

Also on Saturday, an Italian navy ship arrived in the Sicilian port of Messina with more than 450 migrants, including 50 minors, from Ethiopia, Eritrea and Syria. Police marched two suspected migrant-smugglers off the ship after arresting them onboard.

Several Sicilian towns say they are running out of room, and many of the latest arrivals were being taken to other shelters on the Italian mainland, including in the north.

Days of calm seas and good weather, combined with increasing chaos and violence in Libya, are cited as factors in the current surge of migrants.

TIME Australia

5 Australian Teens Arrested in ISIS-Inspired Anzac Day Plot

Five arrested over ANZAC Day terrorism plot in Australia
Karen Sweeney—EPA Australian Federal Police acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Guaghan (L) and Victoria Police acting Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton during a press conference on the arrest of five teenagers during counter terrorism raids in Melbourne, 18 April 2015.

"There was reference to an attack on police"

(SYDNEY)—Five Australian teenagers were arrested Saturday on suspicion of plotting an Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria-inspired terrorist attack at a Veterans’ Day ceremony that included targeting police officers, officials said.

The suspects included two 18-year-olds who are alleged to have been preparing an attack at the ANZAC Day ceremony in Melbourne later this month, Australian Federal Police Acting Deputy Commissioner Neil Gaughan told reporters.

Another 18-year-old was arrested on weapons charges, and two other men, aged 18 and 19, were in custody and assisting police. All the arrests took place in Melbourne.

ANZAC Day is the annual April 25 commemoration of the 1915 Gallipoli landings — the first major military action fought by the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps during World War I.

Police said they believe the plot was inspired by the Islamic State group, also known as ISIS, and was to have involved “edged weapons.”

“At this stage, we have no information that it was a planned beheading. But there was reference to an attack on police,” Gaughan said. “Some evidence that we have collected at a couple of the scenes, and some other information we have, leads us to believe that this particular matter was ISIS-inspired.”

Australia’s government has raised the country’s terror warning level in response to the domestic threat posed by supporters of the Islamic State group. In September last year, the group’s spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani issued a message urging attacks abroad, specifically mentioning Australia.

Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said at a separate news conference that the teens had links to Numan Haider, an 18-year-old who stabbed two Melbourne police officers and was subsequently shot dead in September. Haider had caught authorities’ attention months earlier over what police considered troubling behavior, including waving what appeared to be an Islamic State group flag at a shopping mall.

Phelan said the teens arrested Saturday were on officials’ radar for months, but the investigation was ramped up when it appeared they were planning a specific attack.

“This is a new paradigm for police,” Phelan said. “These types of attacks that are planned are very rudimentary and simple. … All you need these days is a knife, a flag and a camera and one can commit a terrorist act.”

One of the teens, Sevdet Besim, appeared briefly in court Saturday on a charge of preparing for, or planning, a terrorist act. He did not apply for bail and was ordered to reappear in court next week.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott has warned that the terrorism threat in Australia has escalated, with one-third of all terrorism-related arrests since 2001 occurring in the last six months. At least 110 Australians have gone to Iraq and Syria to fight alongside extremists, and the nation’s security agency is juggling more than 400 high-priority counterterrorism investigations — more than double the number a year ago.

In February, two men were charged with planning to launch an imminent, Islamic State group-inspired terrorist attack after authorities said they appeared on a video threatening to stab the kidneys and necks of their victims. In September, a man arrested during a series of counterterrorism raids was charged with conspiring with an Islamic State group leader in Syria to behead a random person in Sydney.

In December, Man Monis, an Iranian-born, self-styled cleric with a long criminal history, took 18 people hostage inside a Sydney cafe, forced them to hold up a flag bearing the Islamic declaration of faith and demanded he be delivered a flag of the Islamic State group. Monis and two hostages were killed.

Abbott said the latest alleged plot was at an advanced stage of planning, prompting police to swoop in. Still, he urged the public to participate in ANZAC Day events as usual.

“The best sign of defiance we can give to those who would do us harm is to go about a normal, peaceful, free and fair Australian life,” he said. “And I say to everyone who is thinking of going to an ANZAC Day event, please don’t be deterred. Turn up in the largest possible numbers to support our country.”

TIME Japan

Japan’s Population Falls to 15-Year Low

More than 1 in 4 people in Japan are now 65 or older

Japan’s population has dropped for the fourth year in a row, bringing it to a low not seen since 2000.

There were just more than 127 million people living in Japan as of last Oct. 1, which marked a decrease of 215,000 people compared with one year earlier, according to newly released government data reported by the Guardian.

The biggest problem for Japan may be the rate at which its population is aging. The number of people age 65 or older in Japan has reached 33 million. More than 1 in 4 people are older than 65 and they outnumber people 14 and younger 2 to 1. The government estimates the population will drop to 86.7 million by 2060, with people over 65 making up 40% of the country.

Though the problem of falling birthrates and aging population is particularly acute in Japan, a similar problem is also brewing in Europe and the U.S. The federal government’s data from late last year showed that 2013 birthrates hit a record low in the U.S. in 2013, down 9% from a high in 2007, as American women delay having children.

TIME Afghanistan

ISIS Claims Suicide Bombing in Afghanistan That Killed 35

Afghanistan
AP Afghan security forces members inspect the site of a suicide attack near a new Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan, April, 18, 2015.

This is the first major ISIS attack in Afghanistan

At least 35 people died in a suicide bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday morning, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) claiming responsibility for what, if confirmed, would be the terrorist group’s first major attack in the country.

More than 100 people were wounded in the bombing outside a bank branch in Jalalabad in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province.

“Who claimed responsibility for horrific attack in Nangarhar today? The Taliban did not claim responsibility for the attack, Daesh [as ISIS is also known] claimed responsibility for the attack,” Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani said during a visit to northeastern province of Badakhshan. He did not identify the source for the claim.

Separately, a militant group linked to ISIS reportedly released a picture of the alleged suicide bomber who struck the bank branch in Jalalabad as people queued up outside to collected their paychecks. The New York Times identified the branch as same one that was attacked in 2011. Responsibility for that bombing, which killed 38 people, was claimed by the Taliban.

A Taliban spokesman denied responsibly for the suicide attack on Saturday, telling Reuters: “It was an evil act. We strongly condemn it.”

If confirmed as an ISIS attack, Saturday’s suicide bombing would mark a significant expansion of the terrorist group’s activities from its base in the Middle East. The attack comes against the backdrop of a significantly reduced presence of foreign troops in the conflict-ridden nation as international forces exit Afghanistan. In March, President Obama announced a slowdown in the pace of withdrawal of U.S. troops in the country, saying America would maintain a nearly 10,000-strong force in Afghanistan through 2015.

The announcement was made during a visit to the U.S. by President Ghani, who, in a speech before a joint session of the U.S. Congress, warned of the “terrible threat” posed by ISIS to the “states of western and central Asia.”

“Terrorist movements whose goal is to destabilize every state in the region are looking for new bases of operation,” he said. “We’re the front line. But terrorists neither recognize boundaries [nor] require passports to spread their message of hate and discord. From the west, the Daesh is already sending advanced guards to southwestern Afghanistan.”

The suicide bombing was one of three explosions that shook Jalalabad on Saturday morning, including what was reported to be a controlled detonation after authorities discovered motorcycle rigged with explosives.

TIME Natural Disasters

‘Isis’ Removed From UN List of Hurricane Names

It was replaced with Ivette

Don’t expect Hurricane Isis to hit anytime soon.

The U.N. has removed “Isis” from its official list of future hurricane names, deeming it inappropriate because of the rise of the militant group the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), Reuters reports.

Clare Nullis, spokesperson for the U.N.’s World Meteorological Organization (WMO), said it’s not unprecedented for the group to strike hurricane names.

“Names are knocked off the list, which rotates every six years, if they are considered inappropriate if they caused too much damage and too much death,” Nullis said.

She told TIME how the process works to take a name off the list: “There was consensus on this. These sorts of decisions are always taken by consensus, there is never a vote.”

The WMO Hurricane Committee has replaced the name Isis with Ivette.

 

TIME China

China Building Runway in Disputed South China Sea Islands

Airstrip construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, seen in a satellite image taken on April 2, 2015.
Reuters Airstrip construction on Fiery Cross Reef in the South China Sea, seen in a satellite image taken on April 2, 2015.

The runway could increase China's influence in the region

China is building a runway capable of handling military aircraft in disputed territory in the South China Sea, according to a recent satellite image released Thursday.

The runway on a reef in the Spratly Islands, an archipelago also claimed in part by Vietnam and the Philippines, could stretch to nearly 10,000 feet and expand China’s influence in a region where at least six countries have overlapping claims. U.S. officials have expressed growing concern over China using reefs to build artificial islands and expand its military presence in the area. China has acknowledged that the islands will serve both civilian and military purposes, according to the New York Times.

President Obama said last week that he had concerns of China using “its sheer size and muscle to force countries into subordinate positions.”

“We think this can be solved diplomatically, but just because the Philippines or Vietnam are not as large as China doesn’t mean that they can just be elbowed aside,” added Obama.

Satellite images detail China's construction activity on Fiery Cross Reef.
EPASatellite images detail China’s construction activity on Fiery Cross Reef.

Construction on the runway appears to have begun in the past few months.

Read next: Veteran Chinese Journalist Gao Yu Sentenced to 7 Years

Listen to the most important stories of the day.

TIME Vietnam War

The Last 48 Hours of the Vietnam War in Photos

As thousands fled Saigon and others steeled themselves for takeover, photographers captured a city bracing for the end of war

On April 28, 1975, Saigon was under curfew as North Vietnamese forces drew near. The capital city that for years had evaded attack was now characterized, TIME reported, by “a strange blend of serenity and fear.” Some streets were clogged with a cavalry of bicycles, pedicabs and trucks heading for anywhere but where they were. In other corners, life went on as though it weren’t about to change irrevocably.

The following day, helicopters began airlifting evacuees as Americans and South Vietnamese clamored for spots. Some residents holed up in their homes and waited while others desperately sought a way out, whether by air, by sea or by the benevolence of strangers. One 18-year-old girl placed a classified ad in the Saigon Post, seeking “adoption by or marriage with foreigner of American, French, British, German or other nationality.”

At 10:24 on the morning of April 30, Duong Van Minh, president for all of two days, announced the unconditional surrender of South Vietnam. At midday, tanks stormed through the gates of the Presidential Palace, where Minh waited to cede what power he had left, and a war that had raged for two decades was over.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com