Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri has called for unity in a new interview amid widening divisions with a rival jihadist organisation rooted in the Syrian civil war. The interview, which the SITE monitoring service dated to between February and April, was released after the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) accused Al-Qaeda of having "deviated from the correct path." "They have divided the ranks of the mujahideen (holy warriors) in every place," ISIL spokesman Abu Mohammed al-Adnani said in a statement posted on jihadi forums. Zawahiri, who succeeded the late Osama bin Laden as leader of the global terror network in 2011, declared Al-Nusra Front to be the official Al-Qaeda affiliate in Syria. More »Qaeda chief calls for unity as jihadist schism deepens
A strong 6.6-magnitude earthquake struck off Papua New Guinea's Bougainville Island on Saturday but there was no risk of a widespread tsunami, seismologists said. The quake, scaled back from an initial reported magnitude of 6.9, hit at 0104 GMT and was centred 59 kilometres (36 miles) southwest of the town of Panguna on Bougainville at a depth of 24 kilometres, the US Geological Survey said. According to the Hawaii-based Pacific Tsunami Warning Center there was no threat of a destructive widespread tsunami based on historical data. "Because it's such a large event there's a possibility of damage in that area," seismologist Emma Mathews told AFP. More »6.6-quake hits off PNG's Bougainville
The United Nations Security Council said the attack which killed at least 58 people on a UN base in South Sudan where thousands of civilians were sheltering may 'constitute a war crime'. Expressing its "outrage" over the attack on Friday, the world body demanded the South Sudan government do more to prevent future attacks against civilians. "The members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms these acts and underscored that attacks on civilians and UN peacekeepers may constitute a war crime," said a statement that was adopted unanimously by all Security Council members. It added: "The members of the Security Council called on the government of South Sudan to immediately take steps to ensure the safety of all civilians and UNMISS Protection of Civilian sites in South Sudan, to swiftly investigate these incidents, and to bring the perpetrators of these egregious acts to justice." Earlier in the day, the UN confirmed that at least 58 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in the attack. More »UN says deadly attack on S. Sudan base may be 'war crime'
Syrian army forces advanced around rebel-held areas of the Old City of Homs, as a car bomb hit a regime-controlled part of the city, killing 14 people. Around 1,200 rebel fighters and nearly 200 civilians are believed to be inside the rebel-held parts of the Old City, under army siege for nearly two years. State news agency SANA said the army had captured buildings in the Bab Hud and Wadi al-Sayeh districts and "killed a number of terrorists in Homs city and around it". Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, confirmed the advance, saying the army was shelling Bab Hud and Wadi al-Sayeh. More »Syria army advances in Homs as car bomb kills 14
The leader of Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamists Abubakar Shekau claimed responsibility for a bombing in Nigeria's capital that killed at least 75 people, in a video message obtained by AFP on Saturday. "We are the ones that carried out the attack in Abuja," Shekau said in the 28-minute video, referring to the deadliest attack ever in Nigeria's capital which targeted a bus station packed with morning commuters. Seated with a kalashnikov resting on his left shoulder and dressed in military uniform, the insurgent commander spoke in both Arabic and the Hausa language that is dominant in northern Nigeria. The message was delivered to AFP in a manner consistent with previous videos from Boko Haram. More »Boko Haram leader claims Nigeria capital bombing in new video
One of the four French hostages freed after 10 months in captivity in Syria said Saturday he was "very happy to be free", Turkey's Dogan News Agency reported. Didier Francois, smiling broadly and wearing a long beard, spoke briefly to a journalist at a police station in the small Turkish town of Akcakle near the Syrian border, according to images broadcast by the Turkish agency. Francois, along with his colleagues Edouard Elias, Nicolas Henin and Pierre Torres, were found by Turkish soldiers on the border, with their hands bound and blindfolded, Dogan reported. We just came from Syria," Francois said. More »French hostage says 'very happy to be free'
A year after promising to continue Hugo Chavez's legacy, Venezuela President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to lead an oil-rich country plagued by economic crisis, violent protests, and rampant crime. Inflation now flirts with 60 percent, there is an acute shortage of foreign currency reserves, and basic goods ranging from meat to toilet paper are seeing recurrent shortages. In October, as the economic crisis worsened, the national assembly granted him special powers for a year, permitting him to rule by decree -- but with no tangible results yet. Considered a moderate when he came to power, Maduro has governed "by extremism, for extremism," said Carmen Beatriz Fernandez, of the Datanalisis Institute, who lamented the president has not sought "greater range to govern more easily." Tensions erupted on February 4, when students took to the streets to denounce the country's rampant crime after the attempted rape of a young woman. More »Venezuela in crisis as Maduro limps to a year in power
Pope Francis attended an emotional night of prayers for hot-button social issues including domestic abuse, prison overcrowding and unemployment to mark the Good Friday before Easter. The prayers read out at each of the 14 stops along the way were written by Italian bishop Giancarlo Bregantini, known for his outspoken condemnation of the mafia. A particularly potent prayer recited on Friday was about the economic crisis -- an issue close to Francis from his time as archbishop of Buenos Aires at the height of the economic collapse in Argentina. More »Social prayers at Pope Francis ceremony for Good Friday
Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika clinched a fourth term on Friday, despite his poor health, winning a landslide victory in an election marred by low turnout and his rival alleging fraud. The 77-year-old incumbent who voted from a wheelchair on Thursday scooped 81.53 percent of the votes, while his main rival, Ali Benflis, received 12.18 percent, Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz told a news conference. Benflis, who had already cited "serious irregularities" across the country on polling day, swiftly refused to recognise Bouteflika's re-election. His supporters celebrated in Algiers after polls closed late Thursday and Friday's papers anticipated his re-election before the results were announced. More »Algeria's Bouteflika wins 4th term, rival rejects result
Turkey's embattled premier made a formal complaint to the country's top court on Friday, saying secret recordings spread on the Internet were a violation of his family's rights. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told the Constitutional Court that the failure of social media websites to remove leaked recordings featuring him and his family were a violation of their right to privacy and freedom of communication. Erdogan's government blocked Twitter and YouTube last month after they were used to spread audio recordings implicating the prime minister and his inner circle in a vast corruption scandal that emerged in December. The ban on Twitter was overturned on April 3 after the Constitutional Court ruled it was a breach of free speech rights -- a ruling condemned by Erdogan who sees the judiciary as packed with political opponents. More »Turkey PM appeals to top court over Internet 'privacy breach'
And according to President Vladimir Putin, they are not -- absolutely, categorically not -- elite Russian special forces. So who are the members of this mysterious military or paramilitary force operating in eastern Ukraine, nicknamed "little green men" by many here? They also appear to be almost identical to those who operated in Crimea before the peninsula's annexation by Russia last month. That is a far cry from the hodge-podge of military surplus and camping attire thrown on by the ordinary separatists -- who are also more likely to chat proudly. More »Who are the 'little green men' helping Ukraine's rebels?
The four-way agreement on Ukraine thrashed out in Geneva is the first sign of progress between Russia and the West in a months-long standoff, but a litany of problems remain unresolved, analysts said. Russia is clearly keen to avoid sanctions that could hurt its already fragile economy and President Vladimir Putin is wary of provoking a military conflict with the West or a civil war in Ukraine, they added. But with Putin still insisting that the pro-West Ukrainian government which took over after the fall of president Viktor Yanukovych is illegitimate and the rights of Russian-speakers in Ukraine violated, it is hard to see a rapid end to the crisis. The turbulence in Ukraine, which began in November 2013 with pro-EU protests against Yanukovych, has spiralled into the worst confrontation between Russia and the West since the Cold War and led to the annexation of Crimea by Russia from Ukraine. More »Russia, West still far from breakthrough in Ukraine crisis
Turkish President Abdullah Gul ruled out Friday a Russia-style job swap with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan but said he had no firm plans yet for his political future. Asked about speculation of a Putin-Medvedev-style job swap, Gul said: "I do not believe that such a formula would be appropriate for a democracy." But he added: "I don't have any political plan for the future in today's circumstances." Vladimir Putin became president of Russia for a third term in 2012 after a term as prime minister when Dmitry Medvedev served as head of state Gul and Erdogan co-founded the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) but their close alliance has frayed because of differences over such controversial issues as the Twitter ban and the government's handling of mass street demonstrations. Nihat Ali Ozcan, an academic from Ankara's TOBB University, said Gul's remarks were quite ambiguous and did not completely rule out a bid for prime minister's post. More »Turkey president rules out Russia-style job swap
High-flying diplomacy in Geneva might have forged an accord meant to soothe the war fever threatening Ukraine. But the pro-Moscow separatist insurgents on the ground in eastern Ukraine, where they occupy 10 towns, are having none of it. Terms hammered out by Russia and the West calling on them to disarm and leave the seized municipal buildings and police stations are being met with a firm "Nyet". In Kramatorsk, one of the towns under their control, where they occupy the town hall and are camped outside a nearby military base still held by Kiev, the rebels stressed their defiance. More »Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine say 'Nyet' to accord
Investigators sought arrest warrants Friday for the captain of a South Korean ferry that capsized two days ago, as divers overcame strong currents and near zero visibility to enter the submerged vessel for the first time. The coastguard said a joint investigation team of police and prosecutors had applied for arrest warrants for the ferry's captain, Lee Joon-Seok, 52, and two of his crew. Earlier, prosecutors said Lee had handed the helm to his third officer before the ferry capsized. More »Arrest warrant for S. Korea ferry captain as divers enter ship
A close advisor to Francois Hollande resigned on Friday after allegations about a conflict of interest and his extravagant lifestyle dealt a fresh blow to the beleaguered French president. In a statement to AFP, senior political advisor Aquilino Morelle, 51, said he was stepping down but denied any wrongdoing in a scandal that has put the spotlight on his collection of 30 pairs of bespoke shoes. More »Bespoke shoes scandal claims scalp of Hollande aide
Japan said Friday it would redesign its controversial Antarctic whaling mission in a bid to make it more scientific, after a United Nations court ruled it was a commercial hunt masquerading as research. The bullish response, which could see harpoon ships back in the Southern Ocean next year, sets Tokyo back on a collision course with environmentalists. Campaigners had hailed the decision by the International Court of Justice, with hopes that it might herald the end of a practice they view as barbaric. "We will carry out extensive studies in cooperation with ministries concerned to submit a new research programme by this autumn to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), reflecting the criteria laid out in the verdict," said Yoshimasa Hayashi, minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries. More »Japan to redesign Antarctic whale hunt after UN court ruling
The Kremlin is preparing a new culture policy for Russia focusing on its distinctive civilisation and traditional values, which observers say has political ends amid Moscow's standoff with the West. At the end of four hours of questions Thursday in his annual call-in, President Vladimir Putin waxed philosophical on what it means to be Russian. Tapping into perceived "traditional cultural values" of Russian civilisation, the culture ministry is drawing up a government strategy that observers say has all the trappings of a new state ideology, echoing Soviet legacy. The authors preparing the document, who are kept secret, believe that such a policy must be based on the thesis that "Russia is not Europe" and generously quote from Putin's speeches. More »Russia's new culture policy a weapon against West
The United Nations said Friday at least 58 people were killed and more than 100 others wounded in an attack against one of its bases in South Sudan sheltering thousands of civilians. The top UN official in the war-torn nation, Toby Lanzer, praised peacekeepers from India, Nepal and South Korea for preventing what could have been a massacre of up to 5,000 people, and vowed the world body would use "lethal force" again to protect civilians under their protection. "We will do everything necessary to protect the lives of people in our protection, including the use of lethal force," Lanzer told AFP. In the clearest account yet of Thursday's incident in the government-controlled town of Bor, Lanzer described how a group of around 350 armed youths in civilian clothes "used extremely violent force to breach the perimeter" of the UN base. More »At least 58 killed in S.Sudan attack on UN base
The Nigerian military admitted on Friday that most of the 129 girls abducted by Boko Haram Islamists in a shocking school raid in the country's restive northeast remained missing. A security source said there were fears the girls were being used as human shields or sex slaves by the Islamists. The military had claimed on Wednesday that all but eight of the girls snatched from their school in the state of Borno managed to escape the gunmen's clutches, contrary to comments by the state government and the school principal. Borno state education commissioner said that 30 girls had now escaped from the Islamists. More »Nigeria admits most kidnapped schoolgirls still missing
Toronto's scandal-plagued mayor Rob Ford, who has admitted to binge drinking and smoking crack, has launched his bid for re-election. "I soldier on day in, day out because of you people,” said Ford said, flanked by his family and volunteers waving "Ford for Mayor" signs, the Toronto Star reported. Ford was first elected in a landslide in October 2010, picking up the support of 47 percent of Toronto voters, who liked his promises to cut taxes, focus on customer service and slash wasteful spending. More »Scandal-plagued Toronto mayor launches re-election bid
With no results to show since the Boeing 777 carrying 239 people disappeared on March 8, Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott has set a one-week deadline to locate the plane which is believed to have crashed in a remote area of the Indian Ocean west of Perth. Searchers have extended the hunt beyond the normal 4,500 metre (15,000 feet) depth range of the US Navy's Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) called Bluefin-21. Australia's Joint Agency Coordination Centre (JACC) announced that the mini-sub had been deployed on a new mission as operations run round the clock. The unmanned Bluefin-21 which maps the seafloor by sonar, has searched 110 square kilometres (43 square miles) to date, JACC said. More »Sub dives deeper in hunt for missing MH370
At least 20 people were killed and another 70 injured by gunmen posing as peaceful protestors who stormed a UN base in South Sudan, the US ambassador to the world body said. Samantha Power strongly condemned Thursday's "brazen, inhuman attack on unarmed civilians" where 5,000 people are sheltering inside the base of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), in the war-ravaged town of Bor. "The United States strongly condemns the recent attacks by armed groups in South Sudan that have purposefully targeted civilians as well as UN Mission in South Sudan sites and personnel," Power said. "This latest outrage against the people of South Sudan is an affront to the international community and violates fundamental principles of civilian protection," Power said, adding that UNMISS sites should be considered "inviolable". More »Gunmen kill 20 in attack on S. Sudan UN base
A Chinese court on Friday sentenced four anti-corruption protestors to between two and three-and-a-half years in jail over their role in small-scale demonstrations, furthering a crackdown on rights activists. The four were associated with the New Citizens Movement, a loose network whose members held peaceful protests in Beijing last year, carrying banners calling for officials to disclose their assets as a measure against graft. They were sentenced for "gathering a crowd to disturb public order", Beijing's Haidian district court said on an official microblog. Ding Jiaxi, a well-known human rights lawyer, was jailed for three-and-a-half years, while veteran activist Zhao Changqing was jailed for two-and-a-half years, the court said. More »China court jails four anti-graft activists for protests
Ailing incumbent Abdelaziz Bouteflika was poised to clinch a fourth presidential term despite chronic health problems after Algerians voted Thursday in an election that saw 70 people wounded in protests. In his first public appearance in two years, a smiling Bouteflika arrived at a voting centre in Algiers mid-morning in a wheelchair, waving but making no comment to reporters covering an election tainted by fraud warnings and boycott calls. More »Algeria's ailing Bouteflika poised to clinch 4th term