• Palestinians to file ICC case against Israel in April

    AFP News - 16 hours ago

    The Palestinians are to lodge their first complaint against Israel for alleged war crimes at the International Criminal Court on April 1, a senior official told AFP on Monday. "One of the first important steps will be filing a complaint against Israel at the ICC on April 1 over the (2014) Gaza war and settlement activity," said Mohammed Shtayyeh, a member of the executive committee of the Palestine Liberation Organisation (PLO). On January 2, the Palestinians moved to formally join the Hague-based court in a process which is due to take effect on April 1, setting the scene for potential legal action against Israeli officials for alleged war crimes. More »Palestinians to file ICC case against Israel in April

  • German ex-MP makes payment to end 'child porn' trial

    AFP News - 16 hours ago

    The case against Sebastian Edathy, formerly a high-flying MP known for fighting far-right extremists, had triggered a major political scandal that led to the resignation of a cabinet minister. Edathy, 45, admitted to the charges through a statement read out by his lawyer and expressed regret, paving the way for the court proceedings to be stopped. "In the criminal case against Sebastian Edathy on possession of child pornography, the proceedings... are stopped," the judge, Juergen Seifert, said Monday, the second day of the trial. Edathy was an MP for the Social Democrats, partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's left-right coalition government. More »German ex-MP makes payment to end 'child porn' trial

  • Syrian, Kurdish forces battle IS in key border area

    AFP News - 16 hours ago

    Syrian regime forces and Kurdish militia fought separate battles with the Islamic State group on Monday in a strategic area near the Iraqi and Turkish borders, a monitoring group said. More »Syrian, Kurdish forces battle IS in key border area

  • Toronto tunnel mystery solved, say police

    AFP News - 16 hours ago

    Toronto police said Monday they now know who dug a tunnel near a major sporting venue in the city -- a mystery that has been a source of widespread speculation and conspiracy theories. They added that their account has been verified, and that authorities "are satisfied there was neither criminal intent nor any threat to the people or city of Toronto." The tunnel, which also is situated near Toronto's York University, was discovered by a wildlife official walking through woods. It was more than six feet (1.8 meters) high, almost three feet (0.9 meters) wide and about 33 feet (10 meters) long, and was hidden in a densely wooded area of the city, "well off the beaten path," deputy police chief Mark Saunders told a press conference last week. Had it continued, the tunnel would have exited on the other side of a hill overlooking nearby tennis courts and a sports facility that will host the Pan American Games in July. More »Toronto tunnel mystery solved, say police

  • Namibia leader wins $5m Mo Ibrahim African leadership prize

    AFP News - 17 hours ago

    Namibia's outgoing president was on Monday named winner of the Mo Ibrahim Prize for "good governance" in Africa, the world's richest award that has seen a dearth of worthy candidates. Hifikepunye Pohamba, 79, is only the fourth winner of the $5 million annual prize, launched in 2007 with the aim of encouraging and rewarding good governance across a continent where the likes of Nelson Mandela -- who bowed out gracefully from office -- remain the exception. While elections are now the rule in Africa, many leaders seek to force through constitutional changes in order to stay in power, sometimes well into old age, while others die in office or are forced to flee. "President Pohamba's focus in forging national cohesion and reconciliation at a key stage of Namibia's consolidation of democracy and social and economic development impressed the prize committee," said Salim Ahmed Salim, chairman of the Mo Ibrahim Prize committee and a former prime minister of Tanzania, during the announcement of the award in Nairobi. More »Namibia leader wins $5m Mo Ibrahim African leadership prize

  • 'Priceless' Chinese artefacts stolen from French castle

    AFP News - 18 hours ago

    Thieves have broken in to the fabled Fontainebleau castle south of Paris and stolen 15 or so "priceless" Chinese artefacts in a lightning raid, French authorities said. The theft took place in "one of the most secure parts of the castle, equipped with alarms and surveillance cameras," said the French culture ministry. Among the items taken was the crown of the King of Siam, presented to Emperor Napoleon III during a visit from the Siamese ambassador, the ministry said. Jean-Francois Hebert, who runs the Fontainebleau castle, said it was a "very big shock and trauma." "We think they were very determined, knew exactly what they were looking for and worked in a very professional manner," added Hebert. More »'Priceless' Chinese artefacts stolen from French castle

  • Nemtsov murder witness says blocked from leaving Russia

    AFP News - 18 hours ago

    The chief witness to the murder of Russian protest leader Boris Nemtsov, a Ukrainian model by his side when he was shot dead, complained Monday of being kept under guard in Moscow. Ganna Duritska, 23, said she had given all the information she could to investigators but that they were preventing her from leaving Russia "for her security". "For three days they have escorted me in police cars to the Investigative Committee," Duritska told the Dozhd television channel, referring to the agency in charge of the probe. Speaking via a fuzzy Skype connection from a Moscow apartment, Duritska said she did not see where the assassin came from as the attack took place behind her. More »Nemtsov murder witness says blocked from leaving Russia

  • Iraq's Tikrit: From Saddam to the Islamic State group

    AFP News - 19 hours ago

    Executed Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's hometown and last bastion, Tikrit has become one of the Islamic State group's main strongholds. Government forces have been working their way north in recent months, notching up key victories against the jihadists, who seized Tikrit last June. The province is named for the Muslim warlord of the same name who seized Jerusalem in 1187 and whose birthplace was Tikrit. Saddam modelled himself on Salaheddin, a Kurd considered to the one of Islam's most brilliant strategists, a reputation he gained during his fight against the Christian crusaders. More »Iraq's Tikrit: From Saddam to the Islamic State group

  • N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

    AFP News - 22 hours ago

    North Korea fired two short-range ballistic missiles into the sea and vowed "merciless" retaliation Monday as the US and South Korea kicked off joint military drills denounced by Pyongyang as recklessly confrontational. The annual exercises always trigger a surge in military tensions and warlike rhetoric on the divided peninsula, and analysts saw the North's missile tests as a prelude to a concerted campaign of sabre-rattling. "If there is a particularly sharp escalation, we could see the North orchestrating some kind of clash on the maritime border," said Jeung Young-Tae, an analyst at the Korea Institute for National Unification in Seoul. The missile launches came with a stern warning from the nuclear-armed (North) Korean People's Army (KPA) that this year's military drills would bring the peninsula "towards the brink of war". More »N. Korea fires missiles in anger at South-US military drills

  • Bangladesh arrests chief suspect in US blogger murder

    AFP News - 22 hours ago

    Bangladesh authorities announced they had arrested a radical Islamist Monday over last week's machete murder of an atheist American blogger, accusing him of being behind earlier death threats on social media. A spokesman for the elite Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) said Farabi Shafiur Rahman had been arrested at a bus station in the capital Dhaka over the gruesome killing of Avijit Roy, describing him as the prime suspect in a crime that triggered international outrage. "He is a fundamentalist blogger," the spokesman said, adding that according to "primary information" Farabi had threatened Roy through Twitter and Facebook. He was born in Bangladesh to a family of scholars but moved to Atlanta in the southern US state of Georgia around 15 years ago. More »Bangladesh arrests chief suspect in US blogger murder

  • Video shows Los Angeles police shooting man

    AFP News - 22 hours ago

    Los Angeles police fatally shot a man on Sunday in an incident that was caught on video and circulated widely online, with the department saying officers resorted to deadly force after the man had reached for one of their guns. The graphic footage, which appeared on Facebook, shows a violent altercation between a man and several officers in LA's "Skid Row," an area near downtown where many homeless people live. The video appears to show the man flailing at officers as they try to subdue him. The Los Angeles Police Department said three police officers -- a sergeant and two officers -- fired at the man after he reached for an officer's firearm during the altercation. More »Video shows Los Angeles police shooting man

  • Tens of thousands march for slain Russian opposition leader Nemtsov

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Tens of thousands of people marched in central Moscow to honour the memory of opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down near the Kremlin in the highest-profile assassination during Vladimir Putin's rule. A sea of grim-faced supporters, holding Russian flags and Nemtsov portraits, marched in the drizzle from a packed Moscow square to the bridge over the Moskva where the 55-year-old was shot in the back on Friday shortly before midnight. In what appeared to be the largest opposition gathering since anti-Kremlin rallies in 2011-12 brought more than 100,000 people into the streets, marchers honoured Nemtsov's memory while condemning Moscow's stance on Ukraine. "Stop the war" in Ukraine, said others. More »Tens of thousands march for slain Russian opposition leader Nemtsov

  • Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov for talks on Ukraine crisis

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    US Secretary of State John Kerry will meet his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in Geneva for talks on the Ukraine crisis Monday, less than a week after accusing Moscow of lying to his face over the conflict. High-stakes talks between Kiev and Moscow are also set to get under way Monday aimed at resolving a bitter gas dispute which threatens deliveries to Europe, after Russia began direct supplies to parts of separatist-held eastern Ukraine. As relative quiet held on Ukraine's frontlines, Russia's foreign minister looked set for tense discussions with Kerry, who last week said Moscow officials had engaged in a "propaganda" campaign and lied "to my face" over supplying troops or weapons to rebels. More »Kerry to meet Russia's Lavrov for talks on Ukraine crisis

  • New Uruguay leader takes over from pot-friendly farmer

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Tabare Vazquez was sworn in as Uruguay's new president, returning to office a decade after first leading the left to power and drawing a curtain on folksy farmer Jose Mujica's colorful rule. After taking the oath of office before the National Assembly, Vazquez called for a national dialogue, at a time when the parties that long dominated Uruguayan politics, the Blancos (Whites) and Colorados (Reds), are reeling from a string of Broad Front (FA) victories. More »New Uruguay leader takes over from pot-friendly farmer

  • 40 Algerian police wounded in anti-shale gas protest

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Forty police officers were wounded in clashes with demonstrators opposed to shale gas exploration in the Algerian Sahara, the Interior Ministry announced. "The town of In-Salah saw incidents involving public order, initiated by a group of young people protesting against shale gas operations in the region," the ministry said in a statement. It said the clashes "caused injuries to 40 police officers, including two who were seriously injured." Protesters set fire to the local government offices of In-Salah district and the residence of the district chief, as well as part of a police dormitory and a police truck. Anti-shale gas demonstrations have increased in the cities of the Algerian Sahara since late December, when Algerian oil company Sonatrach announced it had successfully completed its first pilot drilling in the In-Salah region. More »40 Algerian police wounded in anti-shale gas protest

  • Brazil beefs up police to quell trucker protest

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Brazil dispatched extra police to quell a strike by truckers opposing rising fuel and freight costs, after demonstrations turned violent. Nearing its second week, the strike has hit 11 of Brazil's 26 states. The southern regions of Rio Grande do Sul, Parana and Santa Catarina have been hit especially hard. One driver was killed when he was run over during a Saturday demonstration in Rio Grande do Sul as a lorry driver opposed to the action tried to break through a blockade. More »Brazil beefs up police to quell trucker protest

  • Colombia's ELN rebels release kidnapped mayor

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Colombia's ELN guerrillas have released a mayor they kidnapped in December amid preliminary talks between the rebels and government on opening a peace process, officials said Sunday. The release of Fredys Palacios, the mayor of the western town of Alto Baudo, was first reported by the army early Sunday. "I was released to the community," the mayor told Caracol Radio, noting that he had been released the previous evening. The National Liberation Army (ELN), the second-largest leftist rebel group in conflict-torn Colombia, had unilaterally decided to free Palacios, a military source told AFP. More »Colombia's ELN rebels release kidnapped mayor

  • Estonia's pro-NATO Reform party wins vote overshadowed by Russia

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Estonia's governing pro-NATO Reform party topped parliamentary elections Sunday, defeating a Kremlin-oriented rival amid concerns over a militarily resurgent Russia, but analysts warned that forging a coalition would be difficult. President Toomas Hendrik Ilves is expected to ask Reform chief, outgoing Prime Minister Taavi Roivas, to build a coalition on the basis of the 30 seats his party won in the 101-member parliament. "The Reform Party is the 2015 winner of the parliamentary elections," Roivas announced on Estonia's ERR public television late Sunday as official results showed his centrist Reform party won despite losing three seats. More »Estonia's pro-NATO Reform party wins vote overshadowed by Russia

  • Supporters rally for embattled Argentine president

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Tens of thousands of supporters rallied Sunday for Argentine President Cristina Kirchner, days after a judge dismissed allegations brought against her by a prosecutor who died mysteriously. Seeking to seize the spotlight from a mass rally last month in memory of late prosecutor Alberto Nisman, whose death unleashed a crisis for Kirchner's government, the president's supporters flooded the streets around Congress for her final opening address before the legislature. More »Supporters rally for embattled Argentine president

  • Detained Ukrainian lawmaker released from custody in Moscow

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    A Ukrainian lawmaker said Sunday he was detained by Russian police ahead of a Moscow march to honour opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, who was gunned down near the Kremlin. The parliamentarian, Alexei Goncharenko, was later released from police custody, but must appear before a tribunal on Monday and could still face detention, his lawyer said. "Police have detained me," Goncharenko wrote on Facebook. "I did not shout anything, did not carry any banners or flags -- they simply detained me over the T-shirt." According to a picture posted on Facebook, Goncharenko's T-shirt carried a printed picture of Nemtsov and said in Ukrainian: "Heroes never die", similar to a popular slogan used during last year's pro-Western uprising in Ukraine. More »Detained Ukrainian lawmaker released from custody in Moscow

  • Spanish PM hits back at Greece's Tsipras in austerity row

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy on Sunday called on his Greek counterpart to get "serious" about his country's debt-wracked economy, after Alexis Tsipras accused eurozone partners of undermining its negotiations with Brussels. Rajoy was reacting to comments by Tsipras on Saturday, who said that during talks that earned Greece a four-month extension to its bailout, pressure from certain other European countries "had the character of blackmail" -- pointing especially to Spain and Portugal. He noted that Tsipras's hard-left Syriza party had tried to lay the blame for Greece's problems on Spain and neighbouring Portugal. Both Madrid and Lisbon have filed official protests against Tsipras's comments with Brussels, with Portuguese officials also firing back. More »Spanish PM hits back at Greece's Tsipras in austerity row

  • Syria rebels reject envoy plan to freeze Aleppo fighting

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Syrian rebel forces in Aleppo on Sunday rejected UN envoy Staffan de Mistura's plan for a freeze in fighting in the divided northern city, dealing a blow to his peace efforts. "We refuse to meet with Mr Staffan de Mistura if it is not on the basis of a comprehensive solution to Syria's drama through the exit of (President) Bashar al-Assad and his chief of staff, and the prosecution of war criminals," a newly-formed Aleppo revolutionary commission said. The political and military grouping was set up Saturday at a meeting in the Turkish border town of Kilis attended by exiled coalition chief Khaled Khoja, other opposition figures and Aleppo civil society representatives. De Mistura's proposal "falls short of an initiative to resolve the humanitarian crisis of our people targeted by the regime's use of chemical weapons and barrel bombs prohibited by the international community", it said. More »Syria rebels reject envoy plan to freeze Aleppo fighting

  • Tajikistan parliamentary voting sullied by pressure on opponents

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    The ruling People's Democratic Party of Tajikistan (PDPT) is expected to sweep parliamentary voting Sunday in the former Soviet republic in polling tainted by complaints of pressure from opposition parties. The tightly-controlled Central Asian state's election commission declared the vote valid at roughly 1000 GMT, when it said that almost 75 percent of the 4.3 million electorate had voted. The country's 62-year-old President Emomali Rakhmon, who chairs the PDPT, cast his vote early in the day but did not address the media. Following complaints that citizens lost the ability to communicate via SMS messages during election day, the representative of a major mobile operator confirmed to AFP that the government's communications service had asked operators to disable text messages in the interests of "national security." Muhiddin Kabiri, leader of the largest opposition party, the Islamic Renaissance Party of Tajikistan (IRPT), told AFP that "total pressure" had been applied on its candidates, more than half of whom failed to get registered to stand in the parliamentary vote. More »Tajikistan parliamentary voting sullied by pressure on opponents

  • Radicalisation fear forces Danish boy into juvenile home

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    Danish authorities have forced a 15-year-old Muslim boy into a juvenile home in an unusual move aimed at preventing him being radicalised by his father, a report said on Sunday. Child care authorities in the town of Aarhus feared that the boy's father might persuade him to travel to Syria to fight with Islamic extremists and placed him into care in September, the daily Jyllands-Posten reported. "You cannot force a lone child into care due to a suspicion of radicalisation," the father's lawyer Tage Goettsche told another daily, Berlingske. "You'd typically try to find a foster home," social scientist Hanne Hartoft at Aalborg University told news agency Ritzau. More »Radicalisation fear forces Danish boy into juvenile home

  • German city of Bremen scales back security alert

    AFP News - Mon, Mar 2, 2015

    German authorities Sunday downgraded a security alert in the northern city of Bremen that had led to two temporary arrests and searches of premises that included an Islamic cultural centre. It was Germany's third recent alert after fears of possible extremist attacks led to the cancellation of a January march by the anti-Islam movement PEGIDA in Dresden. More »German city of Bremen scales back security alert

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