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Yemen says regional al Qaeda's deputy head is dead -state agency
SANAA, Jan 24 (Reuters) - A Saudi national who was second-in-command of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula has died after being wounded by security forces in November, Yemen's state news agency reported on Friday, citing an unnamed senior security official.
Said al-Shehri was wounded in an operation carried out by the security apparatus on Nov. 28 in the northern province of Saada, the source, a member of Yemen's supreme security committee, told the news agency.
He subsequently fell into a coma and then died, the source said, without saying when exactly Shehri had died.
(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing by Raissa Kasolowsky; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Army seals off Mali town after reports of ethnic reprisals
SEGOU, Mali, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Mali's army sealed off the central town of Sevare to journalists on Wednesday following allegations by residents and human rights groups that government soldiers had executed Tuaregs and Arabs accused of collaborating with Islamist rebels.
The allegations, which have been denied by the Malian army, threatened to cast a shadow over a French-led operation to drive Islamist fighters allied to al Qaeda from northern Mali.
They also pointed to a risk the internationally backed military campaign could trigger further racially motivated killings in Mali's desert north, home to complex mix of ethnic groups.
Jailed Pussy Riot member complains of 'death threats'
MOSCOW, Jan 23 (Reuters) - One of two jailed Pussy Riot members said she received death threats and complained of abuse at a prison colony where she is serving a two-year sentence for a punk protest against President Vladimir Putin in Moscow's main cathedral.
But Maria Alyokhina and fellow group member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova said they did not regret the protest, despite describing harsh prison conditions in interviews published on Wednesday by the opposition-leaning Novaya Gazeta newspaper.
An Islamic militant (rear C) in camouflage uniform, stands among Algerian employees who were forced to leave their houses with their belongings at the In Amenas natural gas complex in In Amenas, in this January 16, 2013, photograph secretly taken by a hostage and released by Kyodo on January 23, 2013. REUTERS/Kyodo/Handou
Israeli voters punish Netanyahu but keep him in power
JERUSALEM, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Benjamin Netanyahu set about forging a new ruling coalition on Wednesday after Israeli voters fed up with state coddling of ultra-Orthodox Jews chastised him by propelling an upstart centrist party to prominence.
Tuesday's vote crystallised demands for attention to bread-and-butter issues over the ambitions of religiously fired hardliners, and largely sidelined foreign policy issues such as Iran's nuclear plans and Palestinian aspirations.
Supporters of Yair Lapid's Yesh Atid party celebrate after the exit polls were announced at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv January 22, 2013. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightist Likud-Beitenu party came out on top in Israel's election on Tuesday, exit polls said, but centre-left parties made surprising gains, potentially complicating coalition building. REUTERS/Ammar Awad
Supporters of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's Likud party celebrate after the exit polls were announced at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv January 22, 2013. Exit polls in Israel on Tuesday showed a bloc of right-wing parties winning between 61 and 62 seats in the country's 120-member parliament, potentially enough for a governing majority. REUTERS/Baz Ratner
Obama tells Cameron wants Britain in "strong European Union"
WASHINGTON, Jan 17 (Reuters) - President Barack Obama told British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday that the United States "values a strong UK in a strong European Union," the White House said.
Cameron, who has faced calls from some in his own party for a referendum on whether Britain should exit the EU, postponed on Thursday a much-anticipated speech on Britain's future role in the EU because of the hostage crisis at an Algerian gas plant where Britons and Americans are believed to be among those held.
Obama and Cameron, in a telephone call, also consulted on the Algeria hostage situation, and the leaders expressed support for the French military operation against Islamist militants in Mali, the White House said.
"The prime minister set forth his thinking on UK-EU relations in light of his upcoming speech," the White House said.
The United States is proud to restore relations with #Somalia after more than 20 years.by AmbassadorRice via twitter 1/17/2013 10:04:34 PM
Beyond deepening our commitment to #Somalia’s people, recognition will allow for greater engagement with Somalia’s new leaders.by AmbassadorRice via twitter 1/17/2013 10:04:32 PM
An explosion rocked the University of Aleppo in Syria's second largest city on Tuesday, causing casualties, state television reports. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
Russia suspends operations at consulate in Aleppo, Syria
MOSCOW, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Russia said it had suspended operations at its consulate in Aleppo after two explosions rocked a university in Syria's second-biggest city.
"The activity of the consulate of the Russian Federation in Aleppo ... has been temporarily suspended," the Foreign Ministry said in a brief statement.
It said anyone with consular issues to resolve was welcome to contact the consular section of the Russian embassy in the capital, Damascus.
At least 52 people were killed and dozens wounded in two explosions that rocked the University of Aleppo on Tuesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
Russia has blocked three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad or pushing him from power, and says his exit must not be a precondition for a peace deal.
Russia has said that, if necessary, it will evacuate its citizens from Syria, where more than 60,000 people have been killed in a conflict that began with a government crackdown on protests in March 2011 but has escalated into civil war.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Chile’s emblematic student leader, Camila Vallejo, will run as a candidate in Chile’s parliamentary elections this November, Spanish news agency EFE reports.
Chile’s Communist Party (Partido Comunista) made the surprise announcement on Sunday, indicating that Vallejo will run as a candidate for the district La Florida.
Vallejo served as president of the University of Chile Student Federation. She became an iconic leader of a series of student protests beginning in 2011 that called for access to better public education and an end to for-profit education in Chile.
Read more from EFE (Spanish). Photo credit: REUTERS/Tomas Bravo
Russia opposes Syria crisis war crimes court referral
MOSCOW, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Permanent U.N. Security Council member Russia said it opposed an effort by dozens of countries to refer the Syrian crisis to the International Criminal Court (ICC), calling the initiative "ill-timed and counterproductive".
More than 50 countries asked the Security Council on Monday to refer the conflict in Syria to the court, which prosecutes people for genocide and war crimes, in a letter saying the move would "send a clear signal to the Syrian authorities".
Russia, which like China and the United States is not an ICC member, said the referral would not help end the civil war.
"We believe this initiative is ill-timed and counterproductive to resolving the main task at this moment: an immediate end to the bloodshed in Syria," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
Both Syria's government and those fighting it have been accused of committing atrocities in the 21-month-old conflict, in which 60,000 people have been killed, but the United Nations says the government and its allies have been more culpable.
Russia has used its veto power to block three Western-backed U.N. Security Council resolutions aimed at putting pressure on Syria's President Bashar al-Assad or pushing him from power. It says his exit must not be a precondition for a peace deal.
Syria, a major Russian weapons customer, is not a party to the Rome Statute, which set up the ICC, so the only way the court can investigate the situation is if it receives a referral from the Security Council.
(Writing by Steve Gutterman; Editing by Louise Ireland and Thomas Grove)
French soldiers test equipment at the Malian air base in Bamako January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney
France to add Mali troops, speeding up Africa input
PARIS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - France plans to increase its troops in Mali to 2,500 in the days ahead and is working to speed up the deployment of West African troops for a campaign against Islamist rebels, the government said on Monday.
A defence ministry spokesman told Reuters troops would be sent to bolster the 600 already deployed.
Al Qaeda-linked Islamist rebels launched a counter-offensive in Mali on Monday after four days of French air strikes on their northern strongholds, seizing the central town of Diabaly and promising to drag France into a brutal Afghanistan-style war.
EU foreign ministers to hold special meeting on Mali
BRUSSELS, Jan 14 (Reuters) - European Union foreign ministers will hold an extraordinary meeting in Brussels this week to discuss the crisis in Mali, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Monday.
Discussions will focus on speeding up preparations for an EU training mission to help the Malian forces and other "direct support" for the Bamako government, Ashton said.
"I have convened an extraordinary Foreign Affairs Council this week to take stock of possible EU actions in support of Mali (government) ... to help it cope with the current situation," she said in a statement.
An EU diplomat said the meeting was likely to take place on Thursday.
(Reporting by Justyna Pawlak and Adrian Croft)
A French military armoured personnel carrier is loaded onto a Royal Air Force C-17 aircraft at Evreux in northern France, January 14, 2013. Britain is lending logistical support to France as it sends troops and military equipment to Mali. REUTERS/Andrew Winning
French Defence Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee Palace in Paris following a meeting on the situation in Mali, January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer
Girls walk to class at a secondary school in the Malian capital Bamako, January 14, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Penney
Swiss hold Mubarak millions as Egypt remains volatile
ZURICH, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Switzerland has said it will delay the return of millions of dollars of assets linked to deposed Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak while it evaluates the institutions requesting the money.
Swiss authorities have frozen about $700 million in assets connected to Mubarak and his entourage. Since Mubarak was toppled in February 2011, Egypt's new rulers have made three formal requests to Switzerland for judicial assistance to recover the money.
Pakistan Shi'ites to bury bomb victims after meeting PM
QUETTA, Pakistan, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of Pakistani Shi'ite Muslims began burying their dead in a mass grave Monday amid tears and pictures of the fallen, ending a three-day protest over one of the worst sectarian attacks in the country's history.
Thousands of people from Shi'ite Hazara community had been holding vigil next to the bodies of the 96 people killed in Thursday's bombings to demand better protection from a rising tide of sectarian attacks.
Egyptian court accepts Mubarak appeal, orders retrial
CAIRO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - Egypt's Appeals Court accepted an appeal by ousted former president Hosni Mubarak and his former interior minister on Sunday, allowing him to be retried over the killing of protesters in the 2011 uprising.
Mubarak and former interior minister Habib al-Adli were sentenced to life in prison in June last year in a court ruling that saw them responsible for the deaths of protesters killed by security forces trying to quell the uprising.
"The court has ruled to accept the appeal filed by the defendants ... and orders a retrial," Judge Ahmed Ali Abdel Rahman said.
Roadside bomb kills 14 Pakistani soldiers in North Wazirisitan
MIRANSHAH, Pakistan Jan 13 (Reuters) - A roadside bomb killed 14 Pakistani soldiers in the northern border region of North Waziristan on Sunday, a day after the Pakistani Taliban leader circulated a leaflet calling for attacks on the military to cease in the area.
Intelligence officials said the explosion occurred on a road about 50 km (30 miles) south of the provincial capital of Miranshah. Twenty-one soldiers were wounded in the attack.
(Writing by Katharine Houreld; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
EU says Egypt to receive $6.5 bln in grants and loans
CAIRO, Jan 13 (Reuters) - European Council President Herman Van Rompuy, visiting Cairo, said on Sunday the European Union and other financial institutions had offered Egypt over 5 billion euros to support Egypt's democratic transition.
"The European Union and associated financial institutions have offered an amount of more than 5 billion euros, or more than $6.5 bln, in grants, concessional loans and loans for a period of 2012 and 2013 to support Egypt's democratic transition," Rompuy told reporters.
France says struck Mali rebel positions around Gao
PARIS, Jan 13 (Reuters) - French forces struck Islamist rebel positions around the northern Malian town of Gao on Sunday using four Rafale fighter jets deployed from France, the French defence ministry said, confirming earlier reports from residents.
The strikes hit rebel training camps, logistics depots and infrastructure, the ministry said in a statement.
Russia tells Syrian opposition to seek dialogue with Damascus
MOSCOW, Jan 13 (Reuters) - The Syrian opposition should propose its own ideas for dialogue with Damascus in response to those aired by President Bashar al-Assad in a speech a week ago, Russian news agencies quoted Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Sunday.
"President Assad came out with initiatives aimed at inviting all opposition members to dialogue. Yes, these initiatives probably do not go far enough. Probably they will not seem serious to some, but they are proposals," Interfax quoted Lavrov as saying after talks with his Ukrainian counterpart in the Ukrainian city of Chernovtsy.
"If I were in the opposition's shoes, I would come up with my ideas in response on how to establish a dialogue."
Pakistan Shi'ites stop Quetta protest after PM sacks minister by Gul Yousufzai
QUETTA, Pakistan Jan 14 (Reuters) - Shi'ite Muslims protesting over one of Pakistan's deadliest sectarian attacks called off their three-day-old sit-in early on Monday after Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf visited them and agreed to some of their demands.
Ashraf told leaders from the Shi'ite Hazara community that the federal government had sacked the chief minister of Balochistan province, one of the protesters' main demands.
Italian consul in Benghazi shot at in car but unhurt
An Italian consul came under fire in his car in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi on Saturday but was unhurt, the Italian Foreign Ministry said.
"He is completely unharmed," said the spokesman.
A security source in Libya who declined to be named told Reuters: "They shot at his car, but the car was armored. He is fine, there are no injuries."
The consul, Guido de Sanctis, is based in Benghazi.
Security for Westerners in Libya's second city has been an acute concern since the U.S. ambassador was killed along with three other U.S. embassy staff in an assault on the U.S. consulate in the city on the anniversary of the September 11 attacks.
(Reporting by Marie-Louise Gumuchian in Tripoli and Catherine Hornby in Rome; Editing by Kevin Liffey)
Amateur video purports to show Syrian military forces carrying out air assaults on Damascus and al Rastan in Homs province. Deborah Gembara reports.
The Pentagon is weighing options in Mali following French air strikes on Friday against Islamist rebels, including intelligence-sharing with France and logistics support, a U.S. official told Reuters.
"Discussions are ongoing," the official said on condition of anonymity.
Western governments, particularly former colonial power France, voiced alarm after the al Qaeda-linked rebel alliance captured the central Malian town of Konna on Thursday, a gateway towards the capital of Bamako 375 miles (600 km) farther south.
REUTERS: PENTAGON WEIGHING OPTIONS IN MALI INCLUDING LOGISTICS SUPPORT, INTEL SHARING WITH FRANCE-US OFFICIAL
French President Francois Hollande announced that he has sent forces to Mali to help the government fight Islamist insurgents. Deborah Gembara reports.
The public viewing deck of western Europe's largest building, the Shard, is set to open on February 1. REUTERS/Luke Macgregor
Malian army retakes central town from Islamists
BAMAKO, Jan 11 (Reuters) - Mali's armed forces retook the central town of Konna from Islamist rebels with French military support on Friday, a Malian defence ministry official and residents said.
"The Malian army has retaken Konna with the help of our military partners. We are there now,” Lieutenant Colonel Diaran Kone told Reuters.
A local shopkeeper confirmed that the army had entered the town, which had been seized on Thursday by the al Qaeda-linked insurgents who control Mali's desert north.
(Reporting By Bate Felix; Writing by Daniel Flynn; Editing by Andrew Heavens)
France carried out air strike in Mali -foreign min
PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - France's air force carried out an air strike in Mali on Friday as it supported government forces trying to halt a push south by Islamist rebels who control the north, Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius said.
Asked at a news conference whether there had been an air strike since France began its military intervention a few hours earlier, Fabius replied, "Yes."
He said as far as he knew France was the only country that was assisting the Malian government militarily for now.
(Reporting by John Irish and Vicky Buffery; Writing by Catherine Bremer)
People attend funeral prayers for a victim who was killed by a bomb blast, in Mangora, Swat valley, January 11, 2013. The death toll from a series of bombings in two Pakistani cities on Thursday, one of the bloodiest days in the country's history, has reached 114, police said Friday. REUTERS/Hazrat Ali Bacha
France says has begun military intervention in Mali
PARIS, Jan 11 (Reuters) - France launched military intervention in Mali on Friday to help the government there stem a push southwards by Islamist rebels who control much of the north, President Francois Hollande said.
He said United Nations Security Council resolutions provided the legal framework for him to respond to a request made on Thursday by Mali's interim president for military assistance. Hollande said he was supported by West African nations.
"French forces brought their support this afternoon to Malian army units to fight against terrorist elements," Hollande said in a brief statement to reporters in Paris. "This operation will last as long as is necessary."
REUTERS: EU TO SPEED UP PREPARATIONS FOR DEPLOYMENT OF MILITARY TRAINING MISSION TO MALI-EU'S ASHTON
The stubborn war in Afghanistan, which has spanned a decade and cost more than 2,000 American lives, has now faded to one key question: How many U.S. troops will remain after 2014?-New Afghan war over U.S. troop levels, by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
This is the issue that will likely occupy President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai when they meet at the White House on Friday. Officials are already batting numbers about, ranging from zero to 20,000.
A man attempts to clear water off a flooded street caused by heavy rain at Hay al-Sellom in Beirut's southern suburbs, January 9, 2013. Heavy rain and snow has affected Lebanon's capital city of Beirut since Saturday, resulting in four deaths and causing traffic chaos across the city. REUTERS/Sharif Karim
New Russian nuclear submarine goes into service
"Comrade commander-in-chief! ... The vessel has been handed over to the Russian navy," Shoigu told Putin in a message shown on state television from the Sevmash shipyard in the White Sea port of Severodvinsk.
Read more on the new class of submarine here.
HONG KONG Hong Kong braced on Friday for further demonstrations and a "stress test" of the city's international airport at the weekend, as nearly three months of anti-government protests showed no sign of abating.