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LIMA, Peru (AP) — The chief suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway is being transferred to a prison near Peru’s capital ahead of his pending extradition to the United States to face charges linked to her vanishing, officials said Saturday.

The government of Peru, where Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot was serving a 28-year sentence for the murder of a Peruvian woman, authorized his extradition to the U.S. in May.

Máximo Altez, van der Sloot’s lawyer, said is client was being taken by land from the Challapalca prison in Peru’s southern Andes to the Piedras Gordas prison on the outskirts of Lima.

“In the coming days, the INPE (National Penitentiary Institute) will hand over the condemned man to Interpol Peru with the goal of handing him over to U.S. authorities from the FBI,” said a statement from the INPE released Saturday.

Altez said that once the bureaucratic procedures are completed and van der Sloot is given a medical exam, his client will be transferred to the U.S. He estimated the extradition could take place on Tuesday, but Peruvian officials did not confirm this day.

Van der Sloot has agreed to be sent to the United States where he faces trial for alleged extortion and wire fraud charges linked to the Holloway case, his lawyer said.

When asked by the Associated Press why his client agreed, the lawyer responded: “He is imprisoned in the worst prison in the world,” referring the maximum-security Challapalca prison.

“Any prison in the United States is a five-star hotel” in comparison, he said.

Altez said that, according to the treaty between Peru and the United States, van der Sloot is being extradited to the U.S. temporarily for one year to face legal proceedings and in the event of a delay, this period can be extended for another year.

“At the end of this, he has to be returned to Peru,” Altez said. He will spend “at most two years in the United States.”

Altez said his client denies being guilty of the crimes of extortion and fraud.

Holloway, who lived in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, was 18 when she was last seen during a trip with classmates to the Caribbean island of Aruba. She vanished after a night with friends at a nightclub, leaving a mystery that sparked years of news coverage and countless true-crime podcasts. She was last seen leaving a bar with van der Sloot, who was a student at an international school on the island.

Van der Sloot was identified as a suspect and detained weeks later, along with two Surinamese brothers. Holloway’s body was never found, and no charges were filed in the case. A judge later declared Holloway dead.

The federal charges filed in Alabama against van der Sloot stem from an accusation that he tried to extort the Holloway family in 2010, promising to lead them to her body in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars. A grand jury indicted him that year on one count each of wire fraud and extortion, each of which is punishable by up to 20 years in prison.

Also in 2010, van der Sloot was arrested in Peru for the murder of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, who was killed five years to the day after Holloway’s disappearance.

Peruvian prosecutors accused van der Sloot of killing Flores, a business student from a prominent family, to rob her after learning she had won money at the casino where the two met. They said he killed her with “ferocity” and “cruelty,” beating then strangling her in his hotel room. He pleaded guilty in 2012.

Van der Sloot married a Peruvian woman in July 2014 in a ceremony at a maximum security prison. He has been transferred from prisons in response to reports that he enjoyed privileges such as television, internet access and a cellphone, and accusations that he had threatened to kill a warden.

A 2001 treaty between Peru and the U.S. allows a suspect to be temporarily extradited to face trial in the other country. It requires that the prisoner “be returned” after judicial proceedings are concluded “against that person, in accordance with conditions to be determined by” both countries.

HALIFAX, Nova Scotia (AP) — Officials in Canada’s Atlantic Coast province of Nova Scotia said Saturday a wildfire that forced thousands of residents from their homes over the past week is now largely contained because of rain.

David Steeves, a technician of forest resources with Nova Scotia’s Department of Natural Resources and Renewables, said the fire in the Halifax area is about 85% contained, sits at 9.5 square kilometer (about 4 square miles) and is unlikely to grow due to a combination of firefighting efforts and long-awaited rain.

The news was also good across the province, where Premier Tim Houston said the total number of active wildfires declined from 10 in the morning to five by mid-afternoon.

“If you step outside you will see something beautiful: rain, and hopefully lots of it,” he told an afternoon briefing.

The only fire that remains out of control is one in Shelburne County in the southwestern corner of the province which remains “scary,” Houston said.

The blaze that broke out Sunday in the Halifax area raced through a number of subdivisions, consuming about 200 structures — including 151 homes — and forcing the evacuation of more than 16,000 people.

Meanwhile, at the provincial wildfire center in Shubenacadie, north of Halifax, about 20 Canadian Armed Forces soldiers stood in the pouring rain outside a light armored vehicle.

Lt. Col. Michael Blanchette said the initial contingent from Canadian Forces Base Gagetown in New Brunswick had arrived on a “fact-finding mission” to see what military support was needed in the effort to combat the fires.

In Shelburne County, meanwhile, 6,700 people — about half the municipality’s population — remained out of their homes as the blaze that forced their evacuation continued to burn out of control.

The Barrington Lake wildfire, which started Saturday, reached 230 square kilometers (93 square miles) — the largest recorded wildfire in the province’s history. It has consumed at least 50 homes and cottages.

Dave Rockwood, a spokesman for the Department of Natural Resources, said there was “cautious optimism” that there would be no further growth and that firefighters could use more direct tactics to contain it. Two other fires considered out of control as of Saturday morning were classified as “held” later in the day, he said.

Houston confirmed that schools in Shelburne County would be closed Monday and Tuesday.

KYIV, Ukraine (AP) — Concerns around civilian safety spiked in Ukraine on Saturday, as officials announced that an inspection had found nearly a quarter of the country’s air-raid shelters locked or unusable, just days after a woman in Kyiv allegedly died waiting outside a shuttered shelter during a Russian missile barrage.

The Ukrainian interior ministry said through its press service Saturday that of the “over 4,800” shelters it had inspected, 252 were locked and a further 893 “unfit for use.”

That same day, the Kyiv regional prosecutor’s office reported that four people were detained in a criminal probe into the 33-year-old’s death on Thursday outside the locked shelter. The prosecutor’s office said that one person, a security guard who had failed to unlock the doors, remained under arrest, while three others, including a local official, had been put under house arrest.

According to the prosecutor’s office, the suspects face up to eight years in prison for official negligence that led to a person’s death.

Also on Saturday, Kyiv mayor Vitali Klitschko said that city authorities have received “more than a thousand” complaints regarding locked, dilapidated or insufficient air-raid shelters within a day of launching an online feedback service.

In a Telegram update, Klitschko reported that “almost half” of the complaints concerned facilities being locked, while about a quarter had to do with them being in poor condition. Some 250 Kyiv residents wrote in to complain of a lack of nearby shelters.

The interior ministry said that over 5,300 volunteers, including emergency workers, police officers and local officials, would continue to inspect shelters across Ukraine.

Russia on Thursday launched a pre-dawn missile barrage at the Ukrainian capital, killing a 9-year old, her mother, and another woman, in what was the highest toll from a single attack on Kyiv over the past month. A 33-year-old woman died as she and others waited to enter a locked shelter, which left the group at the mercy of falling missile fragments, her husband told Ukrainian media.

Late Saturday, the governor of the Dnipropetrovsk region, Serhiy Lysak, said 13 people were injured in shelling in the region; one person was pulled from a damaged residential building in the town of Podgorodnenska and other were believed to be trapped in the rubble.

Elsewhere, Ukrainian regional officials reported Saturday morning that Russian shelling had killed at least four civilians across the country in the previous 24 hours. A 67-year-old man died in the early hours of Saturday as Russian forces shelled the northeastern Kharkiv region, local Gov. Oleh Syniehubov said on Telegram. According to Syniehubov, two other civilians were killed on Friday and overnight, while six more, including a 3-year-old boy, suffered wounds.

In the frontline Kherson region in the south, two boys aged 10 and 13 were hospitalized with “serious” injuries after an explosive device detonated Saturday in a village playground, regional Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin reported. Prokudin also said that five others, including two children, were wounded by Russian shelling over the previous day.

In the Sumy province further west, a Russian mortar shell killed an 85-year-old man as he sat by the orchard outside his house, the Ukrainian prosecutor general’s office reported Saturday. Shelling also killed two people in Russia’s Belgorod region just across the border, including an elderly woman who died on the spot, according to local Gov. Vyacheslav Gladkov. Gladkov added that another woman had been hospitalized with injuries, and blamed Ukraine for the attack.

It was not immediately possible to verify the above claims by regional authorities in Ukraine and Russia.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Pope Francis warned the Vatican’s missionary fundraisers on Saturday not to allow financial corruption to creep into their work, insisting that spirituality and spreading the Gospel must drive their operations, not mere entrepreneurship.

Francis made the comments in a speech to the national directors of the Vatican’s Pontifical Mission Societies, which raise money for the Catholic Church’s missionary work in the developing world, building churches and funding training programs for priests and nuns. Deviating from his prepared remarks, Francis appeared to refer to a recent Associated Press investigation into financial transfers at the U.S. branch of the Pontifical Mission Societies: The former head oversaw the transfer of at least $17 million from a quasi-endowment fund and donations into a nonprofit and private equity fund that he created and now heads. The intiatives provide low-interest loans to church-run agribusinesses in Africa.

“Please don’t reduce POM to money,” Francis said, referring to the Italian acronym of the Pontifical Mission Societies. “This is a medium, a means. Does it require money? Yes, but don’t reduce it, it is bigger than money.”

He said if spirituality isn’t driving the Catholic Church’s missionary efforts, there is a risk of corruption.

“Because if spirituality is lacking and it’s only a matter of entrepreneurship, corruption comes in immediately,” Francis said. “And we have seen that even today: In the newspapers, you see so many stories of alleged corruption in the name of the missionary nature of the church.”

The Vatican has said it is seeking clarity on the transfers at the U.S. branch, which appear to be fully legal since the previous board approved them. The AP investigation uncovered no evidence of corruption, though a legal investigation commissioned by the branch’s new national director, Monsignor Kieran Harrington, suggested the former head may have omitted information, or glossed over Vatican concerns, in his presentations to the board that ultimately approved the transfers, officials said.

The legal review determined that the transfers were approved in ways consistent with the board’s powers and bylaws at the time, the society said in a statement to AP. After the review, Harrington replaced the staff and board of directors who approved the transfers, and overhauled its bylaws and statutes, to make sure nothing like it ever happens again.

In emailed comments responding to questions from AP, the former head of The Pontifical Mission Societies in the U.S., the Rev. Andrew Small, strongly defended the transfers and investments as fully approved and consistent with the mission of the church and the organization.

He acknowledged Harrington’s new administration reflected the Vatican’s “skepticism” about the social justice nature of his nonprofit Missio Corp., and private equity fund, in that they focused on food security, as opposed to the traditional idea of “evangelization” that is the primary and stated mission of The Pontifical Mission Societies.

“I didn’t agree with the apartheid between pastoral and humanitarian work of the church then and I don’t in my current position,” Small said in an email response April 26. “On the ground in Africa, these distinctions aren’t relevant as they try to find income to survive.”

Small is now the No. 2 at the Vatican’s child protection advisory board, which Francis created to provide a response to the clergy sexual abuse scandal. He did not respond to further questions from AP on Saturday about Francis’ comments.

Small’s boss as head of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Boston Cardinal Sean O’Malley, also did not respond to questions from AP about the transfers or the implications for the commission, which is itself raising money for its child protection programs.

O’Malley spokesman Terrence Donilon said Thursday and Friday that the cardinal was travelling this weekend and unavailable to comment.

In a message to members of the commission last week after the AP story was published, O’Malley said he was aware of Small’s work when he was national director of The Pontifical Mission Societies “and have come to know the work he did in developing Missio Invest.”

“Adverse media attention is never easy, whatever its motivation. However, I have said publicly and frequently that, at least in terms of sexual abuse in the church, the media has played a vital role in helping, or maybe shaming, the church into being more open and transparent in its work as well as its commitment to improving its handling of cases and its welcome and care of victims and survivors,” O’Malley wrote in the message seen by AP.

“We will continue to monitor the situation and respond accordingly,” O’Malley said, adding his appreciation for the commission’s “great progress” in signing recent agreements with Vatican offices and local churches on collaborations.

LONDON (AP) — The second leg of Manchester City’s treble mission is secure.

Add the FA Cup, after a 2-1 win over great rival Manchester United on Saturday, to its latest Premier League title.

Now only a first ever Champions League title stands between City and immortality in English soccer.

“We’re in a position,” City manager Pep Guardiola said, “that we’ll probably never be in again.”

Ilkay Gundogan scored two goals — the first inside 13 seconds, for the quickest in 142 years of FA Cup finals — to lead City to a 16th trophy since 2011 in what is looking like the crowning season in the tenure of Abu Dhabi’s ruling family.

If the Germany midfielder’s opener, a perfectly executed volley from the edge of area, was probably his best goal of his seven years at City, his 51st-minute winner at Wembley Stadium might be one of his scrappiest.

This time it was a volley with his left foot after being picked out by Kevin De Bruyne’s free kick from the right wing. The ball bobbled between two United defenders and squirmed past goalkeeper David De Gea, who might have been slightly unsighted but should have done better.

United was looking to protect its proud status as the only team to win the league-FA Cup-European Cup treble, in 1999, and equalized against the run of play through a penalty by Bruno Fernandes in the 33rd minute.

Late pressure saw United hit the crossbar through Raphael Varane. The team needs a favor from Inter Milan in the Champions League final in Istanbul next Saturday to thwart’s City’s treble bid.

“What a privilege — we are one game away,” Guardiola said.

City’s class of 2023 became the 13th team in English soccer history to clinch a league-and-FA Cup double. It has happened twice under Guardiola, who has won 13 trophies in his seven years at the club and 34 in his managerial career.

The latest haul of titles has come in the same season the club was charged by the Premier League with more than 100 breaches of financial rules. City denies the charges and the players certainly weren’t thinking of them after the final whistle blew as they ran from the halfway line and jumped for joy in front of their fans waving blue and white flags.

Right at the heart of the celebrations was Gundogan, who — as it stands — will be leaving City after the Champions League final because he is out of contract. He would depart as a club great and a FA Cup record-breaker.

The opening goal was timed by British broadcaster BBC at 12.91 seconds and came after Gundogan, City’s captain, took the kickoff himself. He passed the ball back to goalkeeper Stefan Ortega, who booted it forward for Erling Haaland to flick on. United defender Victor Lindelof could only partially clear to Gundogan, who volleyed in right-footed from 20 meters.

“We aimed for that, to aim for Erling and to try to get the second ball quick,” Gundogan said.

The goal jolted United, which was outplayed until a controversial decision to award a penalty against Jack Grealish for handball as he raised his arms while jumping to block a header into the box by United defender Aaron Wan-Bissaka. Play continued and there were few on-field appeals by United’s players, but the incident was reviewed by VAR and a penalty was awarded after the referee looked at the pitchside monitor.

Fernandes sauntered up to the ball and sent Ortega the wrong way.

Gundogan ultimately had the final say, just like he did in City’s final game of last season when he scored two late goals to complete a turnaround from 2-0 down against Aston Villa and clinch the Premier League with a 3-2 win.

United was looking to clinch a double of domestic trophies in Erik ten Hag’s first year in charge, having won the League Cup in February, but more importantly ensure its class of 1999’s legacy was preserved.

The 142nd FA Cup final — the first between the two Manchester clubs — was largely one-sided, though, and Ten Hag conceded his team was beaten by “the best team in the world.”

United’s players stayed on the field and watched as City walked up the steps to collect their winners’ medals from Prince William.

“You have to feel it in your stomach,” Ten Hag said. “It has to be the fuel.”

All roads lead to Istanbul as Guardiola and City chase another piece of history.

“We have to win the Champions League,” he said, “to be recognized how the team deserves to be recognized.”

SINGAPORE (AP) — American Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin vowed Saturday that Washington would not stand for any “coercion and bullying” of its allies and partners by China, while assuring Beijing that the United States remains committed to maintaining the status quo on Taiwan and would prefer dialogue over conflict.

Speaking at the so-called Shangri-La Dialogue, an annual forum bringing together top defense officials, diplomats and leaders, Austin lobbied for support for Washington’s vision of a “free, open, and secure Indo-Pacific within a world of rules and rights” as the best course to counter increasing Chinese assertiveness in the region.

The U.S. has been expanding its own activities around the Indo-Pacific to counter sweeping territorial claims from China, including regularly sailing through and flying over the Taiwan Strait and in the South China Sea.

“We are committed to ensuring that every country can fly, sail and operate wherever international law allows,” he said. “And every country, large or small, must remain free to conduct lawful maritime activities.”

Austin noted that the U.S. had provided millions of doses of the COVID-19 vaccine during the height of the pandemic and is regularly involved in disaster relief and humanitarian assistance efforts in the region. He said it is working to combat climate change, illegal fishing and ensure that supply chains do not suffer disruptions — ticking off many issues of importance to Asian-Pacific nations.

“We’re doubling down on our alliances and partnerships,” he said.

He said the U.S. is also committed to deterring North Korea’s missile threat and China’s claims on Taiwan, a self-governing island democracy that Beijing says is its territory, and said Washington has been stepping up defense planning, coordination and training with partner nations in the region.

“To be clear, we do not seek conflict or confrontation,” he said. “But we will not flinch in the face of bullying or coercion.”

Austin assured that the U.S. remained “deeply committed” to the longstanding one-China policy, which recognizes Beijing as the government of China but allows informal relations with Taiwan, and continues to “categorically oppose unilateral changes to the status quo from either side.”

He added that Russia’s invasion of Ukraine had served to underline how dangerous the world would be if big countries were able to “just invade their peaceful neighbors with impunity.”

“Conflict is neither imminent nor inevitable,” Austin said. “Deterrence is strong today — and it’s our job to keep it that way. The whole world has a stake in maintaining peace and stability in the Taiwan Strait.”

China’s new defense minister, Gen. Li Shangfu, declined Austin’s invitation to talk on the sidelines of the conference, though the two did shake hands before sitting down at opposite sides of the same table together as the forum opened Friday.

Austin said this was not enough.

“A cordial handshake over dinner is no substitute for a substantive engagement,” he said.

Li, who was named defense minister in March, is under American sanctions that are part of a broad package of measures against Russia — but predate its invasion of Ukraine — that were imposed in 2018 over Li’s involvement in China’s purchase of combat aircraft and anti-aircraft missiles from Moscow.

The sanctions, which broadly prevent Li from doing business in the United States, do not prevent him from holding official talks, American defense officials have said.

It was not clear whether Li, who is to address the forum Sunday morning, was in the room while Austin talked.

Austin reiterated calls that Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese made in his opening address at the forum for China to engage in regular, direct communications to help prevent any possible conflict.

“For responsible defense leaders, the right time to talk is anytime,” Austin said. “The right time to talk is every time. And the right time to talk is now.”

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration is ready to talk to Russia without conditions about a future nuclear arms control framework even while taking countermeasures in response to the Kremlin’s decision to suspend the last nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Friday.

Russian President Vladimir Putin announced in February he was suspending Russia’s cooperation with the New START Treaty’s provisions for nuclear warhead and missile inspections, a move that came as tensions worsened after Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine. Russia did say it would respect the treaty’s caps on nuclear weapons.

Sullivan said at the Arms Control Association’s annual meeting said that the United States is committed to adhering to the treaty if Russia also does and that Washington wants to open a dialogue on a new framework for managing nuclear risks once the treaty expires in February 2026.

“It is in neither of our countries’ interest to embark on opening the competition in the strategic nuclear forces,” Sullivan said. “And rather than waiting to resolve all of our bilateral differences, the United States is ready to engage Russia now to manage nuclear risks and develop a post-2026” agreement.

The U.S. is willing to stick to the warhead caps until the treaty’s end. Figuring out details about a post-2026 framework will be complicated by U.S.-Russia tension and China’s growing nuclear strength.

China now has about 410 nuclear warheads, according to an annual survey from the Federation of American Scientists. The Pentagon in November estimated China’s warhead count could grow to 1,000 by the end of the decade and to 1,500 by around 2035.

The size of China’s arsenal and whether Beijing is willing to engage in substantive dialogue will affect the future U.S. force posture and Washington’s ability to come to any agreement with the Russians, administration officials said.

U.S.-Chinese relations have been strained by the shooting down of a Chinese spy balloon this year after it crossed the continental United States; tensions about the status of the self-ruled island of Taiwan, which China claims as its own; U.S. export controls aimed at limiting China’s advanced semiconductor equipment; and other issues.

Sullivan said that he had a candid exchange with his Chinese counterpart, Wang Yi, about arms control when the two met in Vienna last month for broad talks on the U.S.-Chinese relationship and that the Biden administration has made clear to Beijing that it’s “ready to talk, when you’re ready to talk.”

“Simply put we have not yet seen the willingness from the PRC to compartmentalize strategic stability from broader issues in the relationship,” Sullivan said, using the acronym for the People’s Republic of China.

The White House push on Moscow on nuclear arms control comes the day after the administration announced new steps in response to Russia suspending participation in the treaty.

The State Department said it no longer would notify Russia of any updates on the status or location of “treaty-accountable items” such as missiles and launchers, would revoke U.S. visas issued to Russian treaty inspectors and aircrew members, and would cease providing telemetric information on test launches of intercontinental ballistic missiles and submarine-launched ballistic missiles.

It remains unclear that the Kremlin would be willing to engage with Washington on the issue at a moment when U.S.-Russia relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War. Sullivan noted that over the years the Soviet Union and subsequently Russia built a track record of compartmentalizing management of nuclear risks even when the relations with the U.S. were strained.

“I can’t predict exactly what Vladimir Putin will do,” Sullivan said. “But there is a track record of our two countries being capable of engaging in these kinds of discussions in a way that serves our respective national interests and our common interests.”

The United States and Russia earlier this year stopped sharing biannual nuclear weapons data required by the treaty.

The treaty, which then-Presidents Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev signed in 2010, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers and provides for on-site inspections to verify compliance.

The inspections have been dormant since 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Discussions on resuming them were supposed to have taken place in November 2022, but Russia abruptly called them off, citing U.S. support for Ukraine.

CANBERRA, Australia (AP) — Australia’s most decorated living war veteran Ben Roberts-Smith quit his corporate job Friday after a civil court blamed him for unlawfully killing four Afghans, escalating calls for the tarnished national hero to be stripped of his revered Victoria Cross medal.

Roberts-Smith, who retired from Australia’s elite Special Air Service Regiment a decade ago, quit his job as state manager of Seven West Media after losing a landmark defamation suit Thursday against newspapers that had accused him of an array of war crimes.

The 44-year-old had taken leave since 2021 to focus on his federal court case, which has been financed by the company’s billionaire executive chair Kerry Stokes.

“Ben has been on leave whilst the case was running and today has offered his resignation which we have accepted,” chief executive James Warburton said Friday in a staff email.

“We thank Ben for his commitment to Seven and wish him all the best,” Warburton added.

Roberts-Smith has been fighting to salvage his reputation through a defamation suit in the federal court since Australian newspaper articles in 2018 accused him of an array of war crimes including culpability in six unlawful killings.

A judge dismissed the defamation claims on Thursday, finding the articles were substantially true. The judge also found Roberts-Smith was responsible for four of the six unlawful deaths he had been accused of.

Media lawyer Justin Quill said Roberts-Smith’s lawyers would have been shocked by the extent of his loss.

“Ultimately there is a judge’s finding that he committed four murders and that’s about as bad as you could possibly get,” Quill said. “I’d say even in his worst nightmares he didn’t expect yesterday to go quite as badly as that.”

Roberts-Smith remains under Australian police investigation for criminal prosecution for war crimes. A former SAS soldier in March became the first charged with a war crime from Australia’s 20-year campaign in Afghanistan.

Roberts-Smith’s SAS colleagues are among those calling for him to become the first of Australia’s Victoria Cross winners to be stripped of the highest award for gallantry in battle.

The Australian government refused to comment on the case.

Minor Greens Party Senator David Shoebridge said Roberts-Smith should be stripped of his honors and the Australian War Memorial should remove memorabilia including portraits, medals and a uniforms display.

“At a minimum, we should be seeing action by the Australian War Memorial to remove the display that is now there for Ben Roberts-Smith. His uniform and his medals, which thousands of people will attend tomorrow to view and witness,” Shoebridge said.

“The Australian War Memorial has an obligation to tell the whole truth about Australia’s involvement in Afghanistan,” he added.

The memorial said the civil court context could be added to the Roberts-Smith display.

(CNN) — Forty-five bags containing human remains with characteristics matching seven missing call center staff have been discovered in a ravine in a suburb of Guadalajara, according to the state prosecutor’s office in Jalisco.

The Jalisco State Prosecutor’s Office investigating the deaths said it has preliminary information that the body parts “match the physical characteristics of some of the young people missing employees of the call center.”

Seven call center employees were reported missing between May 20 and 22 in the metropolitan area of ​​Guadalajara, in western Mexico.

Luis Joaquín Méndez Ruíz, a Jalisco prosecutor, said they found the human remains inside bags thrown on a lot with a very steep slope.

Forensic experts have yet to determine the number of victims and their identities.

The Jalisco Institute of Forensic Sciences is working with the families of those missing to determine the identification of the human remains.

The country has been troubled by an epidemic of disappearances with more than 100,000 Mexicans and migrants still missing.

In March, after four Americans were kidnapped in Mexico, resulting in the deaths of two of them, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador argued that Mexico is a safer country than the United States.

Kidnapping and human trafficking are also not unusual in parts of Mexico, particularly in border areas and Mexico’s overall homicide rate is among the highest in the world.

OSLO, Norway (AP) — NATO on Thursday ramped up pressure on its member Turkey to drop its objections to Sweden’s membership as the military organization seeks to deal with the issue by the time U.S. President Joe Biden and his counterparts meet next month.

The military organization is also looking at boosting Ukraine’s non-member status in the alliance and preparing a framework for security commitments that it can offer once the war with Russia is over.

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance wants to bring Sweden into the fold by the time allied leaders meet in Lithuania next month. And, he said, the allies hoped to make progress on long-term funding and the security plan for Ukraine at the same event.

He said the allies continue to agree that Ukraine will become a NATO member but that in the meantime the alliance should provide it with security commitments and substantial new funding.

“Our focus today was on how we can bring Ukraine closer to NATO where it belongs,” he said.

“No one knows when the war will end but we must ensure that when it does we have credible arrangements in place to guarantee Ukraine’s security in the future and break Russia’s cycle of aggression,” Stoitenberg said.

Fearing that they might be targeted after Russia invaded Ukraine last year, Sweden and Finland abandoned their traditional positions of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO’s security umbrella. Finland became NATO’s 31st member country in April.

NATO must agree unanimously for countries to join. Turkey’s government accuses Sweden of being too lenient on terrorist organizations and security threats, including militant Kurdish groups and people associated with a 2016 coup attempt.

Hungary has also delayed its approval, but the reasons why have not been made publicly clear.

Stoltenberg said that he would travel to Ankara “in the near future to continue to address how we can ensure the fastest possible accession of Sweden.” He said his and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s staff were working on dates for the trip.

“My message is that Sweden has delivered and the time has come to ratify Sweden,” he told reporters at the conclusion of two days of informal talks between alliance foreign ministers to prepare for NATO’s July 11-12 summit in Lithuania.

Others echoed his comments.

“It’s time for Sweden to join now,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt told reporters.

“I’m confident that also Hungary will ratify the accession protocol,” Stoltenberg said.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said that “it is essential that we can finally welcome Sweden as the 32nd member.” She stressed that the Swedish government has Berlin’s “full support.”

Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billström, said that “it is time for Turkey and Hungary to start the ratification of the Swedish membership to NATO.” He said that “everything (that) bars Sweden joining NATO will be seen as wine for (Russian president Vladimir) Putin.”

For months Sweden, Finland and Turkey have been holding talks to try to address Ankara’s concerns. Billström said that he expects things to be made clear at a new meeting of this “permanent joint mechanism” in coming weeks.

He noted that as of Thursday Sweden had tightened its antiterrorism laws. It is now it illegal to finance, recruit for or publicly encourage “a terrorist organization,” or to travel abroad with the intention of joining such groups.

The time may be ripe for movement. Sweden’s membership became embroiled in campaigning for elections in Turkey, which Erdogan won on Sunday. Erdogan has also been seeking upgraded U.S. fighter jets, and Washington signaled this week that they might be delivered.

“I spoke to Erdogan and he still wants to work on something on the F-16s. I told him we wanted a deal with Sweden. So let’s get that done,” Biden said Monday.

On Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken insisted that the issues of Sweden’s membership and the fighter jets were distinct. However, he stressed that the completion of both would dramatically strengthen European security.

“Both of these are vital, in our judgement, to European security,” Blinken told reporters. “We believe that both should go forward as quickly as possible; that is to say Sweden’s accession and moving forward on the F-16 package more broadly.”