Posts

Showing posts from January, 2014

Second Taliban bomb attack kills 13 near Pakistan army HQ

A Taliban suicide bomber killed 13 people in a crowded market near the Pakistani army headquarters on Monday, a day after the Taliban killed 20 soldiers near the largely lawless, tribal region of North Waziristan, police said. The market, a short walk from the army headquarters in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad, was in one of the most secure areas of the city. The area was cordoned off by the military immediately after the blast. Two college students wearing blue uniforms were among the dead, their bodies lying near wreckage of a bicycle and pools of blood. Rescue workers struggled to help the wounded. Windows were shattered several hundred meters away. The attacks come after a couple of months of relative calm as the Taliban regrouped following the death of leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a drone strike in November. A drone had killed his deputy earlier in the year. After protracted negotiations, Mehsud was replaced by Mullah Fazlullah, a ruthless commander who has made lar

Missionary Bae jailed in North Korea 'wants U.S. to help him get home': Kyodo

U.S. missionary Kenneth Bae, imprisoned in reclusive North Korea for more than a year, said on Monday he wants to return to his family as soon as possible and hopes the United States will help, Japan's Kyodo news agency reported. _0"> The appeal came after North Korea signaled last week it was prepared to reach out to South Korea if it abandoned military drills with the United States that start next month and as Pyongyang appeared to embark on a charm offensive. Bae, a 45-year old ethnic Korean, was jailed for 15 years of hard labor for state subversion in North Korea, where he was detained in 2012 while leading a tour group. North Korea's Supreme Court said he used his tourism business to form groups aimed at overthrowing the government. Bae met "a limited number of media outlets" in the North Korean capital Pyongyang and expressed hope of the United States securing his release, Kyodo said. He admitted he had broken North Korean laws. Footage release

Five killed by snipers in Lebanon's Tripoli

Five people have been killed by sniper fire since Saturday in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, medical and security sources said. _0"> The deaths are the latest round of violence fuelled by sectarian tensions over neighboring Syria's civil war. Tripoli, 30 kilometers (20 miles) from the Syrian border, has been subject to sharp divisions between the Sunni Muslim majority and small Alawite community for decades. The Lebanese army used "rockets" for the first time to quell the fighting between rival neighborhoods, one security source said, without specifying which weapons were used. Normally, soldiers use assault rifles to target snipers. The sources said three of the dead belonged to the Sunni Muslim Bab al-Tabbaneh district, whose residents overwhelmingly support the Sunni Muslim rebels battling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Two others killed were from the Alawite neighborhood of Jebel Mohsen, which supports fellow Alawite Assad. Sniper attacks ar

Thai government considers state of emergency after weekend violence

Thai authorities are "very seriously" considering a state of emergency after a weekend of violence in the capital where protesters have been trying for more than two months to bring down the government, the security chief said on Monday. The violence is the latest episode in an eight-year conflict that pits Bangkok's middle class and royalist establishment against poorer, mainly rural supporters of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother, ex-premier Thaksin Shinawatra, who was toppled by the military in 2006. "We're prepared to use the emergency decree ... Everyone involved including the police, the military and the government is considering this option very seriously, but has not yet come to an agreement," National Security Council chief Paradorn Pattantabutr told Reuters after meeting Yingluck. "The protesters have said they will close various government offices. So far, their closures have been symbolic, they go to government offices

Hong Kong woman held on suspicion of abusing Indonesian maids

A Hong Kong woman was arrested on Monday on suspicion of abusing her Indonesian maids in a case that has sparked widespread outrage and drawn fresh attention to the risks faced by the migrant community. A housewife surnamed Law, 44, was arrested at the airport when she was trying to leave for Thailand , Hong Kong police said at a briefing. Erwiana Sulistyaningsih, a 23-year-old maid who said she had been badly beaten by her employer, is recovering at a hospital in Sragen, a city in central Java, after flying out from Hong Kong in early January. A second maid, identified only as Susi, who claimed to have been abused by the same employer, also gave a statement to police, saying she had frequently been beaten and abused. Law was believed to have a connection with the two cases, which would be dealt with as wounding cases, the police said. No formal charges have been laid against her. Hong Kong, an ex-British territory that returned to Chinese rule in 1997, has around 300,000 foreig

Baghdad bomb blasts kill 26, Iraqi troops fight Sunni rebels

Seven bomb explosions killed 26 people and wounded 67 in the Iraqi capital on Monday, police and medics said, as security forces battled Sunni Muslim militants around the western cities of Falluja and Ramadi. _0"> The bloodiest attack occurred in the mainly Shi'ite Muslim Abu Dsheer district in southern Baghdad, where a car bomb near a crowded market killed seven people and wounded 18. No group claimed responsibility for the blasts. But Sunni insurgents, some of them linked to al Qaeda, are widely blamed for a surge in violence in the past year apparently aimed at undermining the Shi'ite-led government and provoking a return to all-out sectarian strife. Al Qaeda militants and their local allies seized control of Falluja and parts of Ramadi on January 1, exploiting resentment among minority Sunnis against the government for policies perceived as unfairly penalizing their once-dominant community. Five of Monday's bombs targeted mainly Shi'ite districts of th

Exclusive: Syrian opposition sets deadline for Iran peace talks invite withdrawal

Syria's main opposition body, the National Coalition, will not attend peace talks in Switzerland scheduled for this week unless the United Nations retracts its invitation to Iran by 2:00 PM EST on Monday, a senior coalition member said. Late on Sunday, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon invited Iran to the conference, dubbed "Geneva 2", prompting the Coalition to quickly issue an ultimatum, on which it has now set a time limit. "We are giving a deadline of 1900 GMT (2:00 PM ET) for the invitation to be withdrawn," Anas Abdah, member of the National Coalition's political committee, told Reuters. Reading an official coalition statement, Abdah reiterated that the Coalition would accept Iran's participation only if it "publicly states that it is withdrawing its forces, committing to the Geneva 1 agreement in full and committing to implementing any results of Geneva 2". The accord reached in Geneva in 2012 calls for a transitional government

EU to send military force to Central African Republic

The European Union will send up to 1,000 soldiers to help stabilize Central African Republic, deploying its first major army operation in six years, EU foreign ministers decided on Monday. The EU has been spurred into action by communal bloodshed in Central African Republic that led a senior U.N. official to warn last week of a risk of genocide there without a more decisive international response. Meeting in Brussels, the ministers approved an outline plan to send a battalion-sized force to the violence-torn country but detailed military plans still need to be worked out. It is not yet clear which countries will provide the troops. Donors at another meeting in Brussels pledged nearly half a billion dollars in humanitarian aid for Central African Republic amid concern among aid officials at the deteriorating situation there. "This has been for far too long a forgotten crisis, (but it is) forgotten no more," EU humanitarian aid commissioner Kristalina Georgieva told repor

Al Qaeda offshoot imposes strict Islamic rules in north Syria

A group linked to al Qaeda, emboldened by its recent victory over rival rebels in Syria , has imposed sweeping restrictions on personal freedoms in the northern province of Raqqa as it seeks to consolidate control over the region. Reuters obtained copies of four statements issued on Sunday by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) prohibiting music from being played in public and photographs of people being posted in shop windows. The sale of cigarettes and shisha water pipes are banned, women must wear the niqab, or full face veil, in public and men are obliged to attend Friday prayers at a mosque. The directives, which cite Koranic verses and Islamic teaching, are the latest evidence of ISIL's ambition to establish a Syrian state founded on radical Islamist principles. ISIL is widely considered the most radical of the rebel groups fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and increasingly each other, in Syria's civil war. The first and only city to h

Hunted Greek convict vowing revenge for crisis by video

A convicted member of a Greek guerrilla group that waged a 27 year campaign of killing appeared in a video on Monday promising to avenge the country's debt crisis and calling for a revolution against the state. _0"> Christodoulos Xiros, 56, was serving multiple life terms in Athens for being a member of the dismantled Marxist group November 17, when he was let out for a week over New Year. However, he never reported back to prison - triggering a massive police hunt and acute embarrassment for the authorities. A video uploaded on the leftist Indymedia website on Monday showed Xiros speaking to the camera with pictures of revolutionary Che Guevara, two Greek independence fighters, and a Communist World War Two resistance leader. "It is our job to light the fuse," he said calling on leftists and anarchists to unite against politicians, journalists and police. "What are we waiting for? If we don't react immediately, now, today, we will cease to exist a

Serbia to reconsider labor law in face of union opposition

Serbia's government, facing union opposition, said on Monday it would look again at draft legislation to liberalize the labor market, a move likely to further stoke concern among investors over the coalition's commitment to reform. _0"> Trade unions had called a one-day strike for January 23, angry at proposed changes to working hours and rules on hiring and firing. After a meeting with union leaders, the government said in a statement that it would form a joint working group with unions and business representatives to "consider the draft labor law, after which it will enter government and parliamentary procedure." It gave no time frame. The new consultations may fuel calls from some in the government for a snap parliamentary election, with the largest party - the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) - poised to take a decision this week on whether to go to voters in mid-March. The SNS is riding high in opinion polls and several senior party officials have s

Nigerian Islamists kill 18, burn houses in northeast

Islamist militants stormed a village in remote northeast Nigeria on Monday, torching houses and spraying them with bullets in an attack that killed 18 people, witnesses said. The latest Boko Haram assault, on Sunday night, came hours before Nigeria's four top military chiefs handed over to fresh commanders in a ceremony on Monday. President Goodluck Jonathan announced the reshuffle of his entire military leadership last week in a bid to reinvigorate the fight against the insurgents. "Most of those who survived the attack have fled the village as they do not know if they will be attacked again," said Bulama Ibrahim, the chief of Alau Ngawo village, which was attacked sometime after 10 p.m. on Sunday. He said he had counted 18 bodies after the shooting and many houses burned. A former local councilor, Mustapha Galtimare, who was on the scene after the attack, concurred with the numbers of dead. The village lies in remote northeastern Borno state, the epicenter of the

Warnings of economic boycott rile Israeli minister

Economy Minister Naftali Bennett dismissed on Monday a growing chorus of alarm that Israeli business will face international isolation if peace talks with the Palestinians fail. Indicating rising friction within the government, Bennett urged Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ignore the warnings, saying an independent Palestine would become a haven for militants and represent a serious threat to Israeli stability. "A Palestinian state would crush Israel's economy," Bennett told supporters of his right-wing nationalist 'Jewish Home' party that has threatened to quit Netanyahu's coalition if peace negotiations progress. Bennett's dire vision came on the day a group of prominent Israeli and Palestinian corporate leaders said they would fly to the Davos World Economic Forum this week to throw their weight behind U.S. efforts to secure an unlikely peace accord. Itamar Rabinovich, a former ambassador to Washington and a member of the Israeli-Palestinian

Sixteen killed by twin bombs at Syria-Turkey border post

Two car bombs hit a rebel-held post on the Syrian border with Turkey on Monday, killing at least 16 people and closing the frontier, opposition activists and fighters said. _0"> The Bab al-Hawa crossing is held by a rebel alliance called the Islamic Front, which has been fighting with the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), a small but powerful affiliate of al Qaeda with a core of foreign fighters. It was not immediately clear who had planted the bombs. The attack occurred a few days after a car bomb that killed 26 in the eastern city of Jarablus and which activists blamed on ISIL. More than 1,000 rebels have died in clashes between rival groups in the last three weeks in an upsurge of internecine violence that has weakened the nearly 3-year-old armed campaign to topple President Bashar al-Assad. The anti-Assad Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group, said at least six of the dead from Monday's bombing were Islamist fighters. It

Al Qaeda offshoot imposes strict Islamic rules in north Syria

A group linked to al Qaeda, emboldened by its recent victory over rival rebels in Syria , has imposed sweeping restrictions on personal freedoms in the northern province of Raqqa as it seeks to consolidate control over the region. Reuters obtained copies of four statements issued on Sunday by the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) prohibiting music from being played in public and photographs of people being posted in shop windows. The sale of cigarettes and shisha water pipes are banned, women must wear the niqab, or full face veil, in public and men are obliged to attend Friday prayers at a mosque. The directives, which cite Koranic verses and Islamic teaching, are the latest evidence of ISIL's ambition to establish a Syrian state founded on radical Islamist principles. ISIL is widely considered the most radical of the rebel groups fighting forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and increasingly each other, in Syria's civil war. The first and only city to h

South Sudan says retakes oil state capital Malakal, rebels deny

South Sudan's president said his soldiers had seized the regional capital Malakal back from rebels on Monday, a report dismissed by insurgents battling in the world's newest country. If confirmed, it would be the second major centre retaken in the past three days by government forces, who have been backed by troops from neighboring Uganda. The United Nations says thousands of people have been killed in a month of clashes pitting troops loyal to President Salva Kiir against rebels supporting Riek Machar, who was sacked as vice president in July. Initially triggered by a political row, battle lines have increasingly followed ethnic lines with Kiir's Dinka battling Machar's Nuer. "They took Malakal and other areas around in the Upper Nile region," Kiir told a news conference, referring to his forces. He did not say if the soldiers who retook Malakal, capital of oil-producing Upper Nile region, had received any help from Ugandan troops. Kampala's invol

Kerry to meet Israeli, Palestinian negotiators

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry will meet Israeli negotiators in Washington on Monday and Palestinian officials later next week in U.S.-brokered peace talks to end their decades-long conflict, the State Department said. _0"> Kerry and U.S. negotiator Martin Indyk will meet with Israeli justice minister Tzipi Livni and envoy Itzik Molho later on Monday "to continue the discussion on a framework for negotiations," the State Department said in a statement. Meetings between Indyk and Livni, who heads the Israeli negotiating team, will continue on Tuesday when Kerry travels to Switzerland for a Syria peace conference. "We expect the Palestinian negotiating team to travel to Washington early next week," the State Department said. Israeli-Palestinian negotiations resumed in July after a three-year halt, with Kerry leading the push for an accord within nine months. But both Israeli and Palestinians have expressed doubts about his efforts. Palestinians see

Ukrainian leader urges dialogue after street battles

President Viktor Yanukovich, reeling from the worst violence for decades in the Ukrainian capital, appealed for compromise on Monday as police and demonstrators clashed again in the streets. Yanukovich is battling to reassert his authority after scores of people were injured in Kiev on Sunday in pitched battles between protesters and police that could seriously hurt his chances of re-election next year. With tension still high, about 1,000 protesters confronted police on Monday near Kiev's main government headquarters. Scores of mainly young people hurled projectiles at police throughout the day and ignored appeals to disperse. After weeks of mass protests over Yanukovich's decision to shun a trade pact with the European Union and turn instead towards Russia , demonstrators have been further enraged by sweeping laws rammed through parliament to curb public protest, "I ask you not to join those who seek violence, who are trying to create a division between the state a

Italy's Renzi outlines electoral reform plan, defies critics

Italian center-left leader Matteo Renzi promised on Monday to reform an electoral system blamed for creating chronic political deadlock, defying party critics who had attacked him for sealing a deal on the proposals with arch-enemy Silvio Berlusconi. The 39-year-old mayor of Florence, who won the leadership of the Democratic Party (PD) in December, said he would eliminate the fragmentation that has made it impossible for successive Italian governments to survive a full term in office. "We are saying no to giving small parties the power of holding us hostage," he told a meeting of the PD party leadership, which approved the proposals by 111 votes in favor with 34 abstentions but no votes against, despite criticism from some on the left of the PD. "I don't rule out alliances but only if they're made for governing, not just winning an election," he said, adding that settling the thorny issue of voting rules would clear the way for vital economic reforms.

West, Iran activate landmark nuclear deal

Iran has halted its most sensitive nuclear operations under a preliminary deal with world powers, winning some relief from economic sanctions on Monday in a ground-breaking exchange that could ease a threat of war. The United States and European Union both suspended some trade and other restrictions against the OPEC oil producer after the United Nations' nuclear watchdog confirmed that Iran had fulfilled its side of an agreement made on November 24. The announcements, which coincided with a diplomatic row over Iran's role at peace talks on Syria [ID:nL5N0KU1X2], will allow six months of negotiation on a definitive accord that the West hopes can end fears of Tehran developing nuclear weapons and Iran wants to end sanctions that are crippling its economy. Iranian officials hailed a warming of ties that will also see their new president make a pitch to international business leaders at Davos later this week: "The iceberg of sanctions against Iran is melting," the

German minister asks bankers to help with regulation

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Monday urged financiers to use their knowledge to improve international rules aimed at preventing future financial crises. _0"> Schaeuble told a group of some 1,000 commercial and central bankers, brokers and politicians at exchange operator Deutsche Boerse's New Year's reception there could be no end to regulation because financial markets continue to innovate. Regulators are aware of the need for strong capital markets, Schaeuble said, pledging to take the arguments of the financial sector seriously and try to proceed with moderation. "So don't invest your energy and competence only in warding off new regulation, but rather help to find better solutions and to put them in place internationally," Schaeuble said. "I am asking you simply to pitch in," he added. Schaeuble's appeal struck a more conciliatory tone following a spat last year with Deutsche Bank Co-Chief Executive Juergen Fitschen

Ban Ki-moon withdraws Iran's invite to Syria talks

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on Monday withdrew an offer for Iran to attend Syria peace negotiations after Tehran declared it does not support the June 2012 political transition deal that is the basis for the talks. _0"> "He (Ban) continues to urge Iran to join the global consensus behind the Geneva communiqué," Ban's spokesman Martin Nesirky said. "Given that it has chosen to remain outside that basic understanding, (Ban) has decided that the one-day Montreux gathering will proceed without Iran's participation." Ban said earlier that Iran's public statement that it did not support the 2012 Geneva deal calling for a transitional government for Syria was "not consistent" with assurances he had been given by Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif. (Reporting by Michelle Nichols and Louis Charbonneau)

U.N. invitation to Iran throws Syria talks into doubt

U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon withdrew a last-minute invitation to Iran to attend peace talks on Syria on Monday after the Syrian opposition threatened to boycott this week's conference if President Bashar al-Assad's main sponsor took part. Ending nearly 24 hours of confusion that dismayed diplomats who have spent months cajoling Assad's opponents to negotiate, Ban's spokesman said Iran was no longer welcome at the initial day of talks at Montreux, Switzerland on Wednesday. The opposition immediately withdrew its threat to stay away from the conference known as Geneva-2. But the uproar over Iran, which has provided Assad with money, arms and men, underlined the difficulties of negotiating an end to a bloody, three-year civil war that has divided the Middle East and world powers. Ban, his spokesman said, made the invitation to Iran after Iranian officials assured him they supported the conclusion of a U.N. conference in 2012, known as Geneva-1, which called for a transiti

Super Bowl turns spotlight on New Jersey

When New Jersey steps into the spotlight next month to host its first Super Bowl, it hopes to alter its international reputation beyond stereotypes from TV shows such as mob drama "The Sopranos" and the vapid 20-somethings of "Jersey Shore." One problem for the state, which has long lived in the shadow of its superstar neighbor New York, is that the new MetLife Stadium, site of the February 2 National Football League championship game, is in an industrial area that belies New Jersey's designation as "The Garden State." Officials in East Rutherford, some 10 miles west of New York City, will roll out the red carpet for an expected 400,000 visitors, with economic activity forecast at $500 million. "New Jersey has been fighting a negative stereotype for a long, long time," said Michael Rockland, a professor of New Jersey history at Rutgers University. It "was kind of the national joke there for a while, with a reputation for corruption,

New trial sought for South Carolina teen executed for 1944 murders

Attorneys in South Carolina say they have fresh evidence that warrants a new trial in the case of a 14-year-old black teenager put to death nearly 70 years ago for the murders of two white girls. George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person to be executed in the United States in the last century, and attorneys say the request for another trial so long after a defendant's death is the first of its kind in the state. No official record of the original court proceedings exists; no trial participants are alive, and no evidence was preserved. The law is unclear on whether any statute of limitations would prevent the case from being reopened. Despite those obstacles, attorneys for Stinney's family will argue at a hearing on Tuesday that the crime that rocked the small mill town of Alcolu in 1944 deserves another look. "This is a horrific case," defense lawyer Steven McKenzie said. "Whether justice is 70 years old or one year old or one month old, we think justice n

Key U.S. senator objects to part of Obama spy data plan

The head of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee objected on Sunday to President Barack Obama's proposal for the government to give up control of the storage of the telephone records of millions of Americans it holds as part of its counterterrorism efforts. _0"> Obama on Friday announced an overhaul of U.S. surveillance activities following criticism sparked by the disclosure of leaked documents exposing the wide reach of National Security Agency spy efforts. He proposed an overhaul of the government's handling of bulk telephone "metadata" - lists of million of phone calls made by Americans that show which numbers were called and when. Obama said the government will not hold the bulk telephone records. A presidential advisory panel had recommended that the data be controlled by a third party such as telephone companies, but Obama did not propose who should store the phone information in the future. Signaling congressional opposition to the change, Demo

Most New Yorkers support Cuomo medical marijuana pilot plan: poll

Most New Yorkers support Governor Andrew Cuomo's plan to allow the use of medical marijuana in a pilot program in up to 20 hospitals, according to a poll released on Monday. _0"> Nearly half (49 percent) of the New York voters polled thought he should skip the pilot step entirely and legalize its medical use statewide, as has already happened in about 20 other states, the Siena College Poll said. A total of 28 percent of New Yorkers said the pilot program was the way to go. A slim majority of 54 percent, however, oppose following the lead of the states of Colorado and Washington and legalizing marijuana for recreational use; 41 percent supported such a move. "Voters under 35 say yes, as do a bare majority of men. Democrats and independents are closely divided but Republicans are a strong no," Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said in a statement. "New Yorkers are not yet ready to duplicate what they see in the Mile High City." Cuomo announce

New trial sought for South Carolina teen executed for 1944 murders

Attorneys in South Carolina say they have fresh evidence that warrants a new trial in the case of a 14-year-old black teenager put to death nearly 70 years ago for the murders of two white girls. George Stinney Jr. was the youngest person to be executed in the United States in the last century, and attorneys say the request for another trial so long after a defendant's death is the first of its kind in the state. No official record of the original court proceedings exists; no trial participants are alive, and no evidence was preserved. The law is unclear on whether any statute of limitations would prevent the case from being reopened. Despite those obstacles, attorneys for Stinney's family will argue at a hearing on Tuesday that the crime that rocked the small mill town of Alcolu in 1944 deserves another look. "This is a horrific case," defense lawyer Steven McKenzie said. "Whether justice is 70 years old or one year old or one month old, we think justice n

Analysis: Gambling revenue at heart of Detroit's dilemmas, new and old

For Detroit, the road in and out of U.S. bankruptcy court is paved with casino money. An economic lifeline, wagering tax revenue from the city's three casinos is at the heart of the bankruptcy plan submitted by Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr, and it is behind the surprise rejection of a deal with banks last week that has thrown a wrench into Detroit's route and timing to recovery. Moreover, some $330 million in assistance pledged by a coalition of philanthropic groups, including the Ford Foundation and the Kresge Foundation, will not begin flowing to Detroit until it exits bankruptcy, the head of one group told Reuters. Michigan voters in 1996 approved casino gambling in Detroit, hoping to revitalize the ghost town. Three glitzy resorts eventually opened, helping to spark a burst of energy and bringing as much as $180 million in annual taxes. But the funds have been tied up since 2009 by a separate, disastrous deal that Detroit is trying to reverse. In an effort to reduce i