Demonstrators in Yemen have continued to protest against a new law granting immunity to President Ali Abdullah Saleh and his officials. The unity government approved the law despite daily protests demanding that Saleh be put on trial for the killing of hundreds of people in the crackdown on the popular uprising against his 33-year rule. The law was passed in accordance with the transfer agreement that Saleh signed in Saudi Arabia late last year. Saleh is scheduled to hand over power to his vice president, Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, on February 21.
Gunmen have ambushed a Pakistani border patrol, killing 14 paramilitary soldiers in south-western Pakistan, the Associated Press reports citing a security official. The attack on the Frontier Corps occurred on Wednesday near the city of Quetta in Baluchistan province, Mohammed Rafiq said. The attackers then fled to the hills.
The United States White House is denying it was in any way involved in organizing the assassination of Mostafa Ahmadi Roshan, an Iranian chemistry expert and director at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility. White House spokesman Tommy Vietor said the US had absolutely “nothing to do” with Roshan’s death and that the US condemns “all acts of violence, including acts of violence like that being reported today.” Earlier on Wednesday a US State Department spokeswoman refused to answer a question about whether Washington was involved in the assassination or whether the administration views Roshan as an innocent victim. Reports say two assailants on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to Roshan’s car. The bomb later exploded killing the scientist and his driver.
A prosecutor has been shot dead by a defendant who was standing trial over claims that he had paid his employees improper wages. The trial was taking place in the Dachau administrative court near the city of Munich. A police spokesman said the 54-year-old defendant pulled out a gun and repeatedly shot the 31-year-old prosecutor, killing him. The defendant was then overpowered by police who took him into custody. The spokesman said he didn’t know what specific security measures the court had or how the defendant had managed to get inside with a gun.
Soviet intelligence agent Gevork Vartanyan died in a Moscow hospital aged 87. Born in February 1924, Vartanyan has been working as an intelligence officer since he was 16. In 1943, Vartanyan’s intelligence group prevented a terror attack aimed at the Big Three leaders participating in the Tehran conference – Joseph Stalin, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. For his input, Vartanyan was awarded an honorary title of Hero of the Soviet Union.
The US is sending more Navy task force personnel to Iranian waters, according to media reports. A new group of the US Navy led by Carl Winson aircraft carrier has arrived to the Indian Ocean. Another group led by aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln is heading to the Arabian Sea. The Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group is now in the Middle East as well. The US Fifth Fleet said the sailors, marines and airmen aboard the ships arrive after Iran’s recent threat to close the Strait of Hormuz. The USS John C. Stennis is not expected to return to the Persian Gulf, but will oversee Iran’s naval activities.
The hacktivist group Anonymous has encouraged followers to target the Copyright Information and Anti-Piracy Center (CIAPC). The center had persuaded the Helsinki District Court to force ISP Elisa to block access to the file-sharing site The Pirate Bay. CIAPC, a non-profit group, took the website to court in Helsinki last year on behalf of the Finnish recording industry association. The ruling was issued on Monday. Anonymous have reportedly encouraged a focus on “every country” like Finland that has begun “a campaign of censorship.”
French journalist Gilles Jacquier has been killed and another Western journalist wounded as they visited the center of Syria’s uprising, the city of Homs, on Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the journalists were near the Akrama neighborhood. They were reportedly hit by grenades or rocket fire, activists claim. Syria’s Addounia TV said at least eight people were killed and 25 wounded in the attack which killed the journalist.
A 16-year-old teenager in Tajik capital Dushanbe has confessed to killing Parviz Davlatbekov who was dressed as Santa Claus during New Year’s holidays, the Tajik Interior Ministry said on Wednesday. Davlatbekov, 24, was killed in Dushanbe on January 2. The ministry said the murder, allegedly committed by three university students, was not a religiously-motivated crime, but the victim’s relatives said the assailants shouted out “Infidel!” during the attack.
One local resident has died and seven others have been injured during scrap metal collection at Tsugol military testing site in Russia’s Baikal Region. The explosion took place near the village of Step in Olovyaninsky District on Tuesday, when local residents entered an area where live ammunition is used, Interfax reports. Investigators say the blast occurred after people tried to disassemble one of their finds. Sappers have been working on the scene on Wednesday.
The authorities in North Korea have completed “the criticism sessions” and are handing down six months in a labor-training camp to those who did not participate in the organized gatherings during the mourning period for the late Kim Jong-il, the South Korean Daily NK website has learned from a source from in North Hamkyung Province. The punishments allegedly concern those who “did not cry and did not seem genuine,” the source said. North Korea’s state-run news agency KCNA has accused the Daily NK of running a smear campaign against the neighboring country. The website writes news about North Korea based on defectors’ reports and information from inside the country.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has sacked the defense secretary, retired Lieutenant General Naeem Khalid Lodhi, for “gross misconduct and illegal action which created misunderstanding” between state institutions. Defense Secretary of Pakistan is the highest bureaucratic position within the Defense Ministry. Lodhi has been accused of triggering a row between the army and civilian leadership. It has escalated in recent weeks over an unsigned government memo that allegedly sought US help in reining in Pakistan’s military leadership. The army warned on Wednesday that criticism of the military by PM will have “serious ramifications.” Gilani earlier said the army acted unconstitutionally by asking the Supreme Court to probe the memo.
The European Commission has threatened Hungary with sanctions for its failure to contain its deficit within sustainable levels. Hungary only remained within the 3 per cent of economic output target last year because of one-time measures, AP quoted EU Monetary Affairs Commissioner Olli Rehn as saying on Wednesday. Belgium, Cyprus, Malta and Poland had taken effective measures, he stressed. Spokeswoman Pia Ahrenkilde Hansen also said the Commission is considering pursuing legal action against Hungary for failing to respect the independence of the central bank, the judiciary and the national data protection authority.
The interplanetary station Phobos-Grunt will start de-orbiting on January 15, the Russian space agency Roscosmos said on Wednesday. If the date proves correct, the probe is likely to fall into the Indian Ocean. Roscosmos considers the period from January 14 to 16 as the most likely window for Phobos-Grunt’s re-entry. On Tuesday, Roscosmos Director Vladimir Popovkin said he did not rule out that the failure of the launch of Phobos-Grunt “could have been caused by outside influence,” referring to the existence of “very powerful devices that can influence spacecraft.” He told Izvestia daily several Russian space launches failed recently at a time when they were flying over the part of Earth not visible from Russia.
Syrian leader Bashar Assad made a surprise appearance in Damascus’s central Umayyad Square to welcome his supporters on Wednesday. The president was joined by his wife Asma and their two children. “I belong to this street,” he said, adding that the plans of “foreign conspirators” will be stopped in Syria. The Syrian leader, surrounded by security guards in the crowd, said he and his supporters would triumph over “the conspiracy.” On Tuesday, Assad pledged to continue the fight against rebels with an iron hand.
Experts working for the French probe into the 1994 downing of Rwandan leader Juvenal Habyarimana’s jet have reportedly cleared now-President Paul Kagame’s aides of involvement, according to their lawyer. The experts concluded that the missile was fired at the plane from a base held by loyalist forces from Habyarimana’s Rwandan Armed Forces (FAR). The theory has not been officially confirmed yet. The genocide that followed the assassination and had other triggers left around 800,000 Rwandans dead. The initial investigation alleged that a commando team from Kagame’s then-rebel Rwandan Patriotic Front fired the missile from an area around the airport.
Anwar Malek, an Arab League observer, has left Syria, saying he was powerless to prevent the current violence in the country. The Arab monitoring mission in that country was not acting independently, he told Al Jazeera, adding that he had found himself “serving” the Syrian regime. The former Algerian observer, who spent more than 15 days in the center of the uprising, Homs, said he “saw scenes of horror.” He also accused the leader of the Arab League mission, Sudanese General Mohammed al-Dabi, of trying to “steer a middle course.” Malek called the Arab mission a “farce”, adding that the observers have been fooled.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has reportedly declared her support for true legal procedures in Ukraine and the release of former Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. In a letter published on the jailed ex-premier’s official website in Russian and Ukrainian, Clinton expressed disappointment over the decision of the Appeals Court in Kiev to uphold the seven-year term for Tymoshenko for abusing power while signing gas contracts with Russia in 2009. Meanwhile, Tymoshenko’s supporters have reported the deterioration of her health at a detention facility in Kharkiv, Interfax reports. They claim she remained unconscious for over two hours on January 6 after unknown drugs had been given to her to treat a viral infection.
An Israeli hacker has disclosed credit card details of hundreds of Saudis, Egyptians and Syrians. The hacker, who posted the information online under the name of Omer Cohen from Israel, told Ynet website that he was a soldier in an Israeli intelligence unit. He was reportedly prompted by a similar move of an alleged Saudi hacker who disclosed information about thousands of Israelis. The Israeli hacker said he was sorry if any innocent people were hurt and predicted no cyber war between Israeli and Arab hackers after his move.
Unidentified gunmen have attacked a minibus carrying intelligence officers in southern Yemen on Wednesday, officials say. The incident on a main street in the city of Aden reportedly left one killed and eight injured. The authorities believe the gunmen were linked to Al-Qaeda. There have been several attacks on security officers in southern Yemen recently.
The South Korean fishing ship, the Jung Woo 2, got into trouble in the Ross Sea in Antarctica and was sinking, Rescue Coordination Centre of New Zealand said on Wednesday. Thirty-seven crew members were rescued, including two unconscious men who had been severely burned in a fire, AP said. Five crew members reportedly suffered moderate burns. Three missing men are believed to have died in the blaze. It is the third ship to get into trouble in the last year in the area, and some New Zealand politicians are calling for a ban on fishing there.
One bomb disposal expert was killed and eight other policemen were injured when an explosion occurred while they tried to defuse a powerful improvised explosive device in Russia’s North Caucasus republic of Dagestan on Tuesday evening. The bomb discovered in Kizilyurt district comprised of six plastic containers, each holding over 50 kilos of explosives, Interfax said, citing local police. In two other incidents, one soldier was killed and another wounded in a clash with a group of militants in the Kizlyar district on Monday evening, and a policemen and his 15-year-old daughter were injured after assailants fired on them in Tarumovsky district overnight Wednesday.
North Korea’s Foreign Ministry on Wednesday accused Washington of “politicizing” possible food shipments to that country. It said that before the former leader Kim Jong-il’s death the US offered to provide food aid on the condition that Pyongyang halted its uranium enrichment program. At that time, Washington was expected to announce a significant donation of food aid to North Korea, AP said. The offer was reportedly made during the talks that began in July last year.
University Professor Mostafa Ahmadi has been killed in a bomb attack near Gol Nabi Street in north Tehran, Iran’s Fars news agency said. The chemistry expert also worked at the Natanz uranium enrichment facility in central Iran, it added. An assailant on a motorcycle attached a magnetic bomb to the car of Ahmadi on Wednesday morning. The incident, which also injured two other people, coincided with the second anniversary of a explosion in which a senior Iranian nuclear scientist was killed. Tehran earlier blamed the killings of several scientists on Israel and the US.
US ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul has been sworn in at a ceremony, with the participation of Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “There could hardly be a better time for you to serve in this position,” she told McFaul on Tuesday. Clinton also described the relationship with Russia as “the most complex and consequential” the US has with any nation in the world. Prior to his nomination, McFaul was Senior Director for the White House National Security Staff on Russia and Eurasia Affairs. He is considered one of the architects of the “reset” in Russian-US relations.
Voting in the first primary of the US election season has concluded in New Hampshire with Mitt Romney taking the top spot according to early results. Coming in second in the battle for the Republican presidential nomination was Congressman Ron Paul, followed by former governor Jon Huntsman. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney has been well ahead in the opinion polls and the latest win adds to his first-place finish in last week’s Iowa caucuses. Speaking after his victory he said he is focusing on President Barack Obama. Romney said America's future is better and brighter than today's troubled times and that he is the candidate to lead an American recovery.