• Venezuelan students demand end to 'deadly force' order

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Angry Venezuelan students marched to the justice ministry Wednesday to demand it revoke a resolution allowing police to use deadly force at protests after an officer was charged with killing a 14-year-old boy. Around 50 students converged on the ministry chanting tributes to Kluiverth Roa, a high-school student who was fatally shot in the head Tuesday at a protest in the western city of San Cristobal, the cradle of demonstrations that swept Venezuela last year and left 43 people dead. Roa was the first person to die in protest-related violence since the defense ministry in January adopted its controversial "Resolution 8610," which allows the security forces to use deadly force to control public demonstrations. The student protesters submitted a petition to the justice ministry calling for the repeal of Resolution 8610 and the sacking of the director of the national police, said student leader Hasler Iglesias. More »Venezuelan students demand end to 'deadly force' order

  • Podemos leader challenges Spanish PM to TV debate

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    The leader of new Spanish anti-establishment party Podemos, which is heading opinion polls, on Wednesday attacked conservative Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's record in office and challenged him to a television debate. During his final state-of-the-nation debate in parliament on Tuesday before a year-end general election, Rajoy said the "nightmare was over" for Spain after the country returned to growth last year of 1.4 percent, the first full year of economic growth since a 2008 property crash. "The nightmare is the reality of our country," Podemos leader Pablo Iglesias said in response, speaking to a packed party rally in a Madrid theatre which was broadcast live over the Internet. More »Podemos leader challenges Spanish PM to TV debate

  • France reforms seek to tackle Muslim radicalisation

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    France set out a package of reforms on Wednesday aimed at better integrating Muslims and preventing radicalisation in the wake of the recent jihadist attacks in Paris. It outlined plans to set up a "dialogue forum", tapping leading associations, intellectuals and other notable figures from the Muslim community for regular talks with the government. Much of the focus will be on the training of Muslim preachers, trying to "encourage the emergence of a generation of imams fully engaged in the Republic", an interior ministry source said. Two of the three Paris attackers are thought to have been radicalised in prison, where a chronic shortage of Muslim chaplains -- there are only 180 nationwide -- has often ceded spiritual guidance to extremists. More »France reforms seek to tackle Muslim radicalisation

  • Clash leaves one dead in Mexico teacher protest

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    A clash between Mexican police and teachers who blocked Acapulco's airport left one demonstrator dead, while seven officers were injured when they were struck by the protestors' bus, officials said Wednesday. I couldn't determine the cause, but it was a person with head trauma who was being transported in an ambulance," Raul Miliani, an official for civil protection in Guerrero state, told Radio Formula. Manuel Rosas, a spokesman for the CETEG teachers union, said the man was 65-year-old retired teacher Claudio Castillo and that he had been hit by police officers. The interior ministry said police had tried to talk the protestors into reopening access to the airport. More »Clash leaves one dead in Mexico teacher protest

  • Assange appeal lodged with Swedish Supreme Court

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Lawyers for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said Wednesday they filed an appeal to Sweden's Supreme Court seeking to quash the 2010 warrant for his arrest on accusations of rape and molestation. Assange lawyer Per Samuelsson said he lodged the appeal with Sweden's top court Wednesday afternoon to end the stand-off in which the WikiLeaks founder remains holed up Ecuador’s embassy in London to avoid arrest and extradition, while Swedish prosecutors refuse requests he be questioned there. "We have to end this -- the situation is completely stalled, and that's the point we raised in our appeal," Samuelsson said in criticising what he called the "total passivity" of prosecutors who he said "have done nothing in four years." With the law now requiring judges to decide if they are legally competent to accept the appeal, Samuelsson said "the Supreme Court now has the ball." The arrest warrant was issued in 2010 by Swedish prosecutors investigating a case based on accusations by one woman accusing Assange of rape, and another alledging sexual molestation. More »Assange appeal lodged with Swedish Supreme Court

  • Mexico volcanic ash disrupts US, domestic flights

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Volcanic ash rained down on the runway of an airport in central Mexico, forcing it to close for several hours on Wednesday and disrupting domestic flights and those to the US. More »Mexico volcanic ash disrupts US, domestic flights

  • Mystery as drones spotted in Paris sky

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Investigators in Paris have been left puzzled by a string of drone sightings over Paris, even as three journalists for TV station Al-Jazeera were arrested Wednesday for flying one from a park on the edge of the city. Then, on Wednesday, police arrested the Al-Jazeera trio in the Bois de Boulogne. Those unexplained sightings were made near the US embassy, not far from the Invalides military museum, the Eiffel Tower and several major thoroughfares leading in and out of the French capital, a police source said. He said drone flyovers had taken place in other countries such as Germany, where a small unmanned aircraft operated by activists denouncing police surveillance landed just metres away from Chancellor Angela Merkel during a 2013 campaign event. More »Mystery as drones spotted in Paris sky

  • Firing squads, blast walls and dangerous diplomacy in Somalia

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    A navy flak jacket over his sky-blue shirt, Neil Wigan peered through the bulletproof glass window at six uneven wooden poles in front of a sand dune. "There are more of them now," the British ambassador to Somalia said, driving past the execution posts that convicts are tied to before being shot by firing squad. "It isn't a particularly reassuring sign of progress." Violence is routine in Somalia, whether perpetrated by suicide bombers, jihadists, assassins, soldiers or the judiciary. Wigan, 44, is Britain's first resident ambassador to the Horn of Africa country since it collapsed in a hail of gun and rocket fire in 1991. More »Firing squads, blast walls and dangerous diplomacy in Somalia

  • Kazakhstan president calls early elections

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbayev on Wednesday set early elections for April 26 in a move that will almost certainly see the septuagenarian leader re-elected for another term in the energy-rich state. "In the interests of the people... and for the sake of the general and strict implementation of the law, I have taken a decision and signed a decree calling early presidential elections for April 26," the 74-year-old president said in a televised address to the nation. He cited a desire for presidential elections not to clash with a parliamentary vote as a key reason for the announcement. Previously the presidential elections had been expected to take place at the end of 2016, with parliamentary elections scheduled for the beginning of the following year. More »Kazakhstan president calls early elections

  • Search widens for abducted French woman, Yemeni guide

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Efforts intensified Wednesday to find a French woman and her Yemeni interpreter kidnapped in crisis-hit Yemen, with relatives reaching out to tribal chiefs and the Shiite militia in control of the capital. On the political front, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) reiterated its support for Yemen's beleaguered president, as militiamen opened fire to disperse thousands of his backers demonstrating in Sanaa. Unidentified gunmen seized 30-year-old Isabelle Prime -- a consultant working on a World Bank-funded project -- and Sherine Makkaoui from a car in the capital on Tuesday. French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said Paris was making "every effort" to reach Prime's kidnappers, while the abducted Yemeni's family said contacts have been made with tribal chiefs and the Shiite militia known as Huthis. More »Search widens for abducted French woman, Yemeni guide

  • Austria passes law on Islam, banning foreign funding

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Austria's parliament on Wednesday passed a law banning foreign sources of financing to Muslim organisations and requiring imams to be able to speak German, in a move closely watched by other European nations facing growing problems with radical Islam. The new law aims to promote what conservative Integration Minister Sebastian Kurz calls an "Islam of European character" by muting the influence of foreign Muslim nations, organisations and funding at a time when concerns are rising about the spread of extremist Islam. Turkey's leading Muslim cleric, Mehmet Gormez, has decried the bill as "a 100-year regression," arguing that no complaints have ever been lodged about the fact that Turkey funds many imams in Austria. Austria's far-right Freedom Party, meantime, mocked the bill as a "placebo" at a time when estimates suggest around 200 people from Austria -- including women and minors -- have gone to Syria and Iraq to join jihadist militias like Islamic Front. More »Austria passes law on Islam, banning foreign funding

  • Russian paratroopers in drills on border with Estonia, Latvia

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Up to 2,000 Russian soldiers took part in drills in the country's west on Wednesday as Moscow conducted an inspection of its paratrooper units in the latest show of strength likely to alarm its neighbours. More »Russian paratroopers in drills on border with Estonia, Latvia

  • Turkish model faces jail term for 'insulting Erdogan'

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    A former Miss Turkey beauty queen faces up to 4.5 years in prison on charges of insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the latest in a growing number of such cases, reports said Wednesday. Turkish prosecutors said an investigation had been launched against model Merve Buyuksarac after Erdogan's lawyer lodged a complaint in November 2014 against a satirical poem taken from a magazine and posted on her Instagram site, state news agency Anatolia reported. The 2006 Miss Turkey, who was briefly detained last month, told an Istanbul court that she did not intend to insult the president. More »Turkish model faces jail term for 'insulting Erdogan'

  • Colombia, FARC rebels resume peace talks in Havana

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Colombia's government and leftist rebels launched a new round of peace talks Wednesday, one day ahead of the arrival of former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan to help facilitate negotiations. The talks between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), now into their third year, are resuming after a two-week hiatus. A negotiator for the rebels, Pastor Alape, told reporters Wednesday that agreement on the remaining agenda items will allow for the "creation of a new social contract" in Colombia, where armed conflict has been waged for half a century. They also plan to meet during this round of negotiations with newly-appointed US special envoy to Colombia Bernard Aronson, former assistant secretary of state for inter-American affairs who came out of retirement to help facilitate the talks, which wrap up on March 7. More »Colombia, FARC rebels resume peace talks in Havana

  • Former Al-Qaeda double agent says Muslims must fight extremism

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    A former jihadist who became an Al-Qaeda double agent says Muslims must do more to tackle extremism in their midst and that stopping lone wolf attacks is near-impossible. Morten Storm has seen deep inside the conflict between jihadists and Western intelligence services, having served both. More »Former Al-Qaeda double agent says Muslims must fight extremism

  • Pussy Riot take on 'Russian leader' in new House of Cards series

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    The two Pussy Riot punk rockers who served jail time for a stunt slamming President Vladimir Putin have once again struck out at the Russian leader. In the new series, Pussy Riot members Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina come face-to-face with a fictional Russian leader, Viktor Petrov, at a dinner party thrown by Kevin Spacey's scheming anti-hero Frank Underwood. "We stand up, Petya (Verzilov) bangs the table with his fist and says that we would like to propose a toast," Tolokonnikova told the New Times, a Russian opposition magazine. More »Pussy Riot take on 'Russian leader' in new House of Cards series

  • More than 100 dead in Afghanistan avalanches: officials

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Avalanches triggered by heavy snow have killed more than 100 people in mountainous areas of northern Afghanistan, officials said on Wednesday, as rescuers battled to save dozens more trapped in the snow. Almost all of the victims were in Panjshir province, approximately 150 kilometres (90 miles) north of the capital Kabul, acting governor Abdul Rahman Kabiri told AFP. More »More than 100 dead in Afghanistan avalanches: officials

  • Tough road for Greece as Merkel hails 'starting point'

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble voiced doubts Wednesday on whether indebted Greece can live up to its fiscal promises, underlining the problems facing Athens on both the domestic and EU fronts. His comments came on the day that the hard work for Greece's new anti-austerity government began, with German Chancellor Angela Merkel saying an agreement on a four-month extension of Athens' bailout was merely a "starting point". Her Finance Minister Schaeuble said there is a "lot of doubt in Germany" about whether Greece, which has been fighting to stay in the single currency since 2010, will live up to its commitments. Despite such misgivings, Greece on Tuesday secured a four-month extension to its 240-billion-euro ($270 billion) bailout, averting a potentially calamitous expiry on Saturday that could have seen Athens leave the euro. More »Tough road for Greece as Merkel hails 'starting point'

  • Unidentified drones reappear over Paris at night

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Unidentified drones flew over Paris for a second night in a row, police said Wednesday, in the latest mystery appearance of unmanned aircraft over the French capital at a time of high security. The sightings follow a series of drone spottings at French atomic plants last year and, more recently over the presidential palace and a bay in Brittany that houses nuclear submarines. Flying drones over the French capital is banned by law, and the latest sightings come at a time of heightened vigilance following last month's jihadist attacks. A police source told AFP that witnesses and security forces reported at least five sightings overnight Tuesday to Wednesday over central Paris -- that may have been the same drone or several. More »Unidentified drones reappear over Paris at night

  • More than a third of Afghan detainees tortured: UN

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    More than a third of conflict detainees held by the Afghan authorities suffer torture or mistreatment, the UN said Wednesday, but the government has made substantial progress in curbing abuses. The UN said there was credible evidence that 35 percent of detainees they interviewed between February 2013 and December 2014 had suffered ill-treatment while in the custody of Afghan security forces. This marks a fall from the UN's last report on torture, which found that 49 percent of detainees were mistreated. The head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Nicholas Haysom welcomed the progress and urged the new government of President Ashraf Ghani to make good on its commitment to end torture. More »More than a third of Afghan detainees tortured: UN

  • Turkey drives hard bargain over crucial missile deal

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Turkey has alarmed fellow NATO members by raising the prospect of handing China a multi-billion dollar missile contract, yet the long-running saga is far from over and Ankara may just be trading for a better deal. Turkey, NATO's only Muslim member, entered discussions in 2013 with the China Precision Machinery Export-Import Corporation (CPMIEC) over its first anti-missile system, a contract worth $3.4 billion (3 billion euros). Defence Minister Ismet Yilmaz, in a written answer to a parliamentary commission, sparked speculation that CPMIEC was the winner by saying no new official bid had been received from rivals and its system could be used without integrating with NATO systems. Yet there are serious concerns over the compatibility of CPMIEC's systems with NATO missile defences, as well as strategic worries about a key member of the military alliance concluding such a big deal with Communist-ruled China. More »Turkey drives hard bargain over crucial missile deal

  • Charlie Hebdo returns to newsstands with satire and emotion

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    With those words -- and a cartoon depicting the pope, a jihadist and French far-right leader Marine Le Pen as a pack of enraged animals -- Charlie Hebdo marked its return Wednesday. "We needed a break, a rest... There were those who needed to work again straight away, like me, and those who wanted to take more time," Gerard Biard, the paper's new chief editor, said earlier this month. "So we reached a compromise, and agreed on February 25... to start off again on a weekly basis." Charlie Hebdo has a long history of courting controversy by lampooning political and religious figures of all stripes, and the new 16-page issue was no exception. Former president Nicolas Sarkozy, who has been criticised for giving lucratively-paid conferences abroad, was just one of the victims -- pictured at a speaking stand, his feet on a stair-shaped wad of cash. More »Charlie Hebdo returns to newsstands with satire and emotion

  • Libya could be next Syria, foreign minister warns

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Libya's Foreign Minister Mohamed Dayri has called for Western military support, saying the growing threat from jihadist groups threatened to turn his country into another Syria. Islamist militants control the capital Tripoli, while an internationally-recognised government has been relegated to the eastern city of Tobruk. - 'No convincing response' - There are also fears that the conflict is attracting an increasing amount of foreign jihadists, and a number of attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State group. "The creation of a national unity government is a priority for Libya, not just an international demand," said Dayri. More »Libya could be next Syria, foreign minister warns

  • Egypt sets Morsi trial verdict for prison break May 16

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    An Egyptian court set May 16 for a verdict in the prison break trial of ousted president Mohamed Morsi, who could be sentenced to death if convicted, an official said Wednesday. Morsi, overthrown in 2013, faces several trials along with top leaders of his Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement. Another court is to deliver a verdict in an espionage trial of Morsi and 35 others on May 16. A verdict is also set for April 21 in a trial of Morsi and 14 others for inciting the killing of protesters in clashes outside a presidential palace in December 2013. More »Egypt sets Morsi trial verdict for prison break May 16

  • Yemen ex-strongman Saleh amassed up to $60 billion: UN

    AFP News - Thu, Feb 26, 2015

    Yemen's ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh is believed to have amassed between $32 billion and $60 billion through corruption during his 33 years in power, a UN report said Wednesday. A panel of experts reported to the UN Security Council that Saleh's assets were stashed in at least 20 countries and the team is investigating the ex-leader's connections with businessmen helping him to hide the funds. The council blacklisted Saleh for obstructing peace in Yemen, notably for backing the Shiite Huthi militia that has seized power in Sanaa. "The origin of the funds used to generate Ali Abdullah Saleh's wealth is believed to be partly from his corrupt practices as president of Yemen, particularly relating to gas and oil contracts where he reportedly asked for money in exchange for granting companies exclusive rights to prospect for gas and oil in Yemen," it said. More »Yemen ex-strongman Saleh amassed up to $60 billion: UN

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