Nigeria attacks kills 42 people

Two bombings in a key Nigerian city, targeting a prominent cleric and a former head-of-state, have killed at least 42 people in the latest violence blamed on Boko Haram Islamists.

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Officials ordered everyone off the streets and imposed an around-the-clock curfew to restore order in the targeted city of Kaduna, as rescue workers raced to care for the dozens of wounded.

Police on Wednesday said the first attack was carried out by a suicide bomber on the convoy of Sheikh Dahiru Bauchi, a cleric who has fiercely criticised Boko Haram’s deadly five-year uprising.

The blast which went off at about 12.30pm local time (2130 AEST), killed at least 25 people, but Bauchi escaped unhurt, Kaduna state police chief Umar Shehu said.

The second attack some two hours later that killed 17 people, targeted Muhammadu Buhari, one of Nigeria’s most prominent opposition leaders who also ruled the country as a military dictator from 1983 to 1985.

Buhari, who was not injured, has also been threatened by Boko Haram, which accuses him of betraying Islam by accepting democratic rule.

While there was no immediate claim of responsibility, the circumstances pointed directly to the Islamic extremists, whose uprising has increasingly threatened the stability of Africa’s most populous country and top oil producer.

Kaduna state Governor Mukhtar Ramalan Yero placed his capital under a “24-hour curfew… aimed at forestalling (the) breakdown of law and order,” following the attacks, his spokesman Ahmed Maiyaki told AFP.

Maiyaki added that the governor was worried about an outbreak of chaos in a city that has known sectarian clashes in recent years, because the two targets, Bauchi and Buhari, “hold eminent positions in the eyes of the people”.

Boko Haram has sought to brand Nigeria’s senior Islamic leaders as traitors for submitting to the authority of a secular government, currently led by a devout Christian, President Goodluck Jonathan.

Geale dedicates Golovkin fight to sick mum

Daniel Geale faces the most devastating puncher in boxing at Manhattan’s Madison Square Garden this weekend, but it is nothing compared to the battle his beloved mum is facing back in Australia.

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Michelle Geale is fighting cancer.

It’s an uphill struggle, but the Geales are used to overcoming adversity.

“This one is for Mum,” Geale announced at his pre-fight press conference on Wednesday.

Las Vegas oddsmakers give the Launceston-born boxer next to no chance of upsetting Kazakh heavy hitter Gennady Golovkin in their world-title fight, with most expecting Geale to end up flat on his back on the canvas.

As the bout draws close and Geale is inundated with pre-fight hype half a world away in New York, the quietly spoken former world champion looks to his mum, diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma, for inspiration.

“Mum is going through a bit of a tough time, but she’s a tough girl,” Geale told AAP.

“She fights hard.

“Mum says, ‘I’m fighting hard and I’m going to beat this too’.

“That gives me a lot of motivation.

“If she can battle through that and not give up I can do the same in the ring.”

Golovkin, 32, is risking his WBA and IBO middleweight belts against Geale in Saturday’s (Sunday midday AEST) bout inside the hallowed New York indoor arena.

The undefeated Golovkin collected and repeatedly defended the belts by destroying opponents.

The Kazakh has knocked out 26 of his 29 victims, a statistic unrivalled by any other champion in the sport.

But, Geale has shown plenty of mettle.

He claimed the IBF belt by going to Germany to beat Sebastian Sylvester in a split decision in 2011, went back to Germany a year later and took Felix Sturm’s WBA title and won the war with Anthony Mundine in their Sydney grudge match in 2013.

Geale lost a split decision to Darren Barker almost a year ago, despite the Australian knocking the UK fighter down in the sixth round.

Just as Geale, 33, has no doubt he will beat Golovkin, he knows his mum will also be victorious.

“I can see the little tinkle in her eye which is good,” Geale said.

Geale has a 30 win (16 KO), two loss professional record.

The fight will be broadcast in Australia by Main Event.

Flags of the world mourn MH17 victims

The sound which interrupted the solemn silence at Eindhoven Airbase was the most symbolic of all.

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Seventeen flags of the countries impacted by MH17, raised at half mast, rattled gently against their poles.

The breeze offering a defiant reminder that the 298 people killed in the Malaysia Airlines disaster nearly a week ago in the Ukraine are gone but not forgotten.

With sun shining and not a cloud in the sky on Wednesday, the first 40 bodies touched down on Dutch soil from Kharkiv.

Governor-General Sir Peter Cosgrove best summed up the mood.

“Why is it that such sad occasions often occur on beautiful days,” said Sir Peter following the completion of a moving ceremony.

At 3.47pm local time, the Dutch C130 Hercules arrived with 16 bodies on board.

Minutes later, the Australian RAAF C17 transporter landed, with its Australian crew carrying 24 victims.

The two planes formed a v-shape on the tarmac as military personnel took guard.

About 1000 relatives and friends of victims, Australians among them, and dozens of dignitaries – including Sir Peter, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop and the king and queen of Holland – watched on.

In a separate section stood hundreds of the world’s media.

Finally, the overwhelming sound of the propellers and engines ceased and stoic flags aside, all went quiet.

Then the spine-tingling Last Post rang out.

After a minute’s silence, the dignified process of moving bodies from the planes to 40 hearses began.

The black hearses lined up in two rows of 12, in between the two aircraft.

One can only imagine the thoughts of relatives, wondering whether the bodies inside each wooden casket was a loved one.

Until a specialist team in Hilversum, north Holland, begins the agonising process of identifying bodies on Thursday, Sir Peter said the dead were nationals of a united humanity.

“So today they were all Australians. And they were all Dutch. And they were all the other nations,” he said.

Letters and numbers were written on a small strip of masking tape stuck to the side of each casket.

Some featured just one inscription to identify who or what was inside; others had up to three markings of letters and numbers.

What that might mean is a gruesome thought, indeed.

The hearses departed the tarmac in silent convoy; 24 in the first motorcade, 16 in the next.

Later, the Dutch C130 and Australian RAAF would take off, back to the Ukraine to do it all again, until all the accounted bodies have arrived in Holland for identification.

Australian families and friends will be notified as soon as bodies are recognised, a process which could take months.

In the meantime, the flags of the world will remember.

Operation Bring Them Home has begun.

World Bank offers India billions

The World Bank has offered India up to $US18 billion ($A19.

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5 billion) in financial support in the next three years, while lavishly praising new right-wing premier Narendra Modi’s “ambitious vision” for the country.

Modi’s Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Party was elected in May with the biggest electoral majority in three decades on pledges of reviving India’s sluggish economy.

Speaking at the end of a three-day visit to India, World Bank president Jim Yong Kim told reporters he was hugely impressed with Modi’s “comprehensive and extremely ambitious vision for the country”.

“I am more optimistic leaving (about India’s prospects) than when I arrived,” Kim said on Wednesday, following talks with Modi and Finance Minister Arun Jaitley to discuss the new government’s development priorities.

Modi, 63, “has an extreme sense of urgency”, Kim said, as he outlined an offer to India of “financial support worth $15 billion to $18 billion over the next three years” to help lift hundreds of millions of Indians out of poverty.

“His (Modi’s) intention is to grow this economy quickly, grow the number of jobs quickly and demonstrate to the Indian people you can do things at scale with great speed,” Kim said.

As part of Modi’s anti-poverty drive, Kim strongly urged him not to block a landmark world trade deal, due for acceptance by July 31, that would make it easier for goods to cross borders and inject an estimated $1 billion into the global economy.

India has been threatening not to ratify the World Trade Organisation (WTO) agreement reached last year in Bali unless it gets assurances that it can help its poor citizens with food subsidies.

While Modi is pro-business, his government says the trade facilitation agreement or TFA is biased in favour of wealthier nations which assert that food subsidies lead to distortions in global trade.

Australians march in to AC/DC

AC/DC’s Back in Black is hardly a marching tune, but it just seemed to fit when Australia’s head banging athletes strode into Celtic Park to the rousing anthem as the Commonwealth Games officially got underway.

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Anna Meares led the Australian contingent of around 375 athletes and officials into the home of Celtic Football Club to a welcoming ovation from the 40,00 crowd as loud as any AC/DC number.

And in case they needed any more pumping up for the Games opening ceremony, the raucous entrance tune lifted the Australians even higher.

“Just before we went into the stadium I turned around and did the `Aussie, Aussie, Aussie,’ chant and the whole team followed along,” Meares said.

“That was incredible.

“Standing there, waiting to walk in and then being welcomed in hearing AC/DC, the vibe in there was just electric.

“So happy, so colourful – lots of Aussie flags and boxing kangaroos around the place as well, I can’t stop smiling.”

Their wintry green rain jackets were an unnecessary accessory on a balmy Glasgow evening at the end of the city’s hottest day of the year.

Strolling behind Meares and the flag, the massive Australian team spread out along the multi-coloured track, holding up the traffic as they stopped for the obligatory selfie and paused to take in the atmosphere, while marching wasn’t good enough for some who walked on their hands.

They took out their cameras again when swimming great Ian Thorpe walked past them as he carried the Commonwealth Games Federation flag around the stadium.

But they also joined in a sombre moment as the stadium rose for a minute’s silence to honour the 28 Australians and other victims of the MH17 plane disaster, more than 100 of whom were from Commonwealth countries.

Meares was whisked back to the athletes village shortly after leading the team to their place in the infield, to prepare for her 500m time trial on Thursday morning.

And how else would a champion cyclist have travelled to and from the stadium?

“My coach and team manager met me outside the stadium with my bike and I rolled down the hill to here – save the legs for tomorrow,” she said.

“I rode up to the stadium and rode home from the stadium.”