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Atleast 76 dead in Brazilian soccer team’s plane crash

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A chartered plane with a Brazilian first division soccer team crashed near Medellin while on its way to the finals of a regional tournament, killing 76 people, Colombian officials said Tuesday. Five people survived.

The British Aerospace 146 short-haul plane, operated by a charter airline named LaMia, declared an emergency at 10 p.m. Monday (0300 GMT) because of an electrical failure, aviation authorities said.

The aircraft, which had departed from Santa Cruz, Bolivia, was transporting the Chapecoense soccer team to Medellin’s Jose Maria Cordova airport.

The team, from southern Brazil and which had started its journey in Sao Paulo, was scheduled to play Wednesday in the first of a two-game Copa Sudamericana final against Atletico Nacional of Medellin.

It wasn’t immediately clear if the team switched planes in Bolivia or just made a stopover with the same plane.

“What was supposed to be a celebration has turned into a tragedy,” Medellin Mayor Federico Gutierrez said from the search and rescue command center.

The club said in a brief statement on its Facebook page that “may God accompany our athletes, officials, journalists and other guests traveling with our delegation.”

Brazil as well as South America’s soccer federation extended its condolences to the entire Chapecoense community and said its president, Luis Dominguez, was on his way to Medellin. All soccer activities were suspended until further notice, the organization said in a statement.

Elkin Ospina, mayor of La Ceja, near where the crash took place, said rescuers working through the night had been heartened after pulling three passengers alive from the wreckage.

Authorities and rescuers were immediately activated but an air force helicopter had to turn back because of low visibility. Heavy rainfall complicated the nighttime search, and authorities urged journalists to stay off the roads so ambulances and other rescuers could reach the site.

Images broadcast on local television showed three male passengers arriving to a local hospital in ambulances on stretchers and covered in blankets connected to an IV. All were apparently alive and one of them was reportedly a Chapecoense defender named Alan Ruschel.

The plane was carrying 72 passengers and nine crew members, aviation authorities said in a statement. Local radio said the same aircraft transported Argentina’s national squad for a match earlier this month in Brazil, and previously had transported Venezuela’s national team.

British Aerospace, which is now known as BAE Systems, says that the first 146-model plane took off in 1981 and that just under 400 — including the successor Avro RJ — were built in total in the U.K. through 2003. It says around 220 of are still in service in a variety of roles, including aerial firefighting and overnight freight services.

A video published on the team’s Facebook page showed the team readying for the flight earlier Monday in Sao Paulo’s Guarulhos international airport.

The team, from the small city of Chapeco, was in the middle of a fairy tale season. It joined Brazil’s first division in 2014 for the first time since the 1970s and made it last week to the Copa Sudamericana finals — the equivalent of the UEFA Europa League tournament — after defeating two of Argentina’s fiercest squads, San Lorenzo and Independiente, as well as Colombia’s Junior.

The team is so modest that its 22,000-seat arena was ruled by tournament organizers too small to host the final match, which was instead moved to a stadium 300 miles (480 kilometers) to the north in the city of Curitiba.

“Chapecoense was the biggest source of happiness in the town,” the club’s vice-president, Ivan Tozzo, said. “Many in the town are crying.”

24 Hours Across Africa

Tunisia: former President Ben Ali confirmed dead

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All time, former Tunisia’s President Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali has died in exile aged 83, his family says.

Ben Ali led the country for 30years and was credited with delivering stability and some economic prosperity.

But he received widespread criticism for suppressing political freedoms and for widespread corruption.

In 2011, he was forced from office following mass street protests. This triggered a wave of similar uprisings across the Arab world.

At least half a dozen countries in the region saw their president fall or conflicts break out in the wake of the former Tunisian leader’s downfall, in what became known as the Arab Spring.

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24 Hours Across Africa

Gantz refuse’s Netanyahu offer on unity government

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After a vote tally showing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu tied with his main rival.

Israel’s weakened Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu saw his offer on Thursday for a coalition with his strongest political rival,  Gantz, swiftly rebuffed after failing to secure a governing majority in a tight election.

Netanyahu’s surprise move was an abrupt change of strategy for the right-wing leader. Its rejection could spell weeks of wrangling after Tuesday’s election, which followed an inconclusive national ballot in April.

Gantz’s centrist Blue and White party emerged from the second round of voting this year slightly ahead of Netanyahu’s Likud, but also short of enough supporters in the 120-member parliament for a ruling bloc.

Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving leader, said in a video clip in which he urged Gantz, the country’s former military chief, to meet him “as soon as today”, that he had pledged during the election campaign to form a right-wing, Likud-led government.

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