Fourteen construction workers have died in a fire in Istanbul, Turkey, the Associated Press reports. According to Necmi Kadioglu, the mayor of Istanbul's Esenyurt district, the workers died late on Saturday when a fire engulfed a giant tent they were staying in at the construction site of a shopping mall. "We suspect the fire might have originated from an electrical heater," Kadioglu said.
Nicolas Sarkozy has warned that France will pull out of the EU's “open border” Shengen agreement unless the union toughens up its immigration policy. Speaking at an election rally on Sunday, the French president pledged to halve the number of illegal immigrants if he is re-elected. Border control has been a key issue as the country heads towards the first round of the coming presidential poll in April.
Public anger over unemployment in Spain has caused the official commemoration of the 2004 Madrid train bombings to be postponed by a day. The delay is because of the nationwide rallies called by the country's two biggest trade unions, which drew thousands onto the streets on Sunday. Protesters are outraged byr reforms that make it easier and cheaper for companies to fire workers. The country's unemployment rate is currently soaring with more than one in five Spaniards out of work.
Two American drones have fired missiles on a suspected Al-Qaeda weapons hideout in southern Yemen, according to Agence France Presse citing witness. Rockets were also fired from the sea, adds the witness. There are no immediate reports of casualties. The strike targeted a hill overlooking the town of Jaar in the restive province of Abyan, an area of southern Yemen where Al-Qaeda gained strength after the ousting of President Ali Abdullah Saleh last year. At least 33 suspected Al-Qaeda militants were killed in air strikes delivered by Yemeni and US air forces in Abyan and Al-Bayda provinces on Friday and Saturday, say local officials.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has announced his country does not fear military action, according to Iranian media reports. "The Iranian nation doesn't fear your bombs and warships and planes. Such weapons are worth nothing," the Fars News Agency quoted him as saying. The statement comes after Western countries imposed tough sanctions on Iran, with many of them saying they do not rule out military option. "You say to Iran all options are on the table. Leave them there until they rot,” the president stated.
After three years without gold at the World Athletics Championships, Elena Isinbayeva has finally regained her position at the top. On Sunday, the Russian needed just two jumps to win the pole vault event in Turkey. Isinbayeva set a world record of 5.01 meters last month, but failed to improve on that, failing at 5.02 after ensuring gold with 4.80 meters. It was Isinbayeva's fourth indoor world title in total.
About 200 Syrians have crossed into Turkey since Saturday, Agence France Press reports, citing an official. He said that Syrians had been crossing into Turkey at a rate of 40 to 50 a day, but these figures tend to increase. Some 12,000 Syrian refugees are accommodated in the camps along the Turkish-Syrian border.
The Afghan government has denied allegations of smuggling that could involve some officials in its US-funded air force. Earlier reports said military aircraft had been used to ferry drugs and illegal weapons around the country. The Afghan Defense Ministry said on Sunday the claims were “baseless,” AP reports. NATO forces have reportedly been investigating the allegations, which came from Afghan officers.
An Egyptian military tribunal on Sunday acquitted an army doctor on a charge of public obscenity. Earlier, a protester had claimed she was forced to undergo a virginity test while in detention. The tribunal denied the humiliating tests even took place, despite admissions by generals, AP reports. Seven women had said they were forced to undergo such examinations. Samira Ibrahim, one of them, won a civilian court ruling last year. It affirmed the tests were taking place at military jails and ordered the practice be halted.
At least 14 youths wearing Western-style “emo” clothes and haircuts have been stoned to death in Baghdad in the past three weeks. Shia militants appear to have started a campaign against such youths, naming on Saturday more youths targeted, Reuters reports. Militants threatened to kill the youths if they do not change the way they dress. Iraq’s interior ministry last month described the “emo” subculture as "Satanism" and ordered a community police force to stamp it out.
UN and Arab League envoy Kofi Annan held a second meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday in an effort to start a national dialogue in the country. UN officials said that the second round of talks was “positive," and Annan “feels optimistic.” He reportedly gave al-Assad “concrete proposals” to end the crisis. After the first meeting on Saturday, the Syrian leader rejected a proposal for a dialogue with the opposition. Leaders of some opposition groups with whom Annan met in Damascus on Saturday also rejected the proposal.
A museum dedicated to car manufacturer Enzo Ferrari has opened in Modena, Italy. The former Ferrari house will now be known as Museo Casa Enzo Ferrari museum. The first installations include an exhibit about Enzo’s time as both a driver and an engineer, AFP said. A selection of vehicles associated with Ferrari have been loaned from other collections and museums.
Malaysian minister Shahrizat Abdul Jalil said she will resign as Women, Family and Community Minister on April 8. The move will follow accusations that her family misused a 250 million ringgit ($83 million) government loan meant for a cattle project, AP said. Instead, the money was reportedly spent on condominiums, vacations and a Mercedes car. The scandal was dubbed “Cowgate”. Shahrizat said on Sunday she had nothing to do with the project run by her husband and three children. She will stay on as chief of the women's wing in the ruling Malay party.
Iran’s envoy to Lebanon has said Tehran would strike back if Israel targeted his country’s nuclear reactors. Ghazanfar Ruknabadi said Iran would not “hesitate to respond to any military action by the Zionist entity,” Lebanese media report on Sunday. Ruknabadi also assumed that continued Israeli threats to strike Iranian nuclear reactors were “mere talk.” The envoy recalled that former US President George W. Bush had used the same policy against Iran but had never “dared to do so.”
A bomb blast struck a Catholic church in the central Nigerian city of Jos on Sunday. The National Emergency Management Agency said a suspected suicide explosion happened at Finber's Catholic Church, Rayfield, Jos, causing numerous casualties, Reuters reports. Jos has been plagued by ethnic and sectarian conflict in the past decade. Islamist sect Boko Haram has claimed responsibility for a wave of bombings against churches in Nigeria.
A North Korean orchestra has arrived in Paris for a joint performance with a French orchestra, led by a South Korean conductor. The Unhasu Orchestra landed in Paris on Sunday, Korean Central News Agency said. In the first concert in Europe, the North Korean orchestra will perform with the Radio France Philharmonic Orchestra on Wednesday. South Korean Chung Myung-whun, the French orchestra's musical director, will be conducting, AP reports.
St. Petersburg Governor Georgy Poltavchenko has signed amendments which envision criminal liability for the dissemination of propaganda about homosexuality and pedophilia among minors. The legislation carries fines ranging from 5,000 rubles ($168) for individuals to 500,000 rubles ($16,800) for legal entities. Human Rights Watch had urged the city governor to reject the bill, saying attempts to put homosexuality and pedophilia on the same footing are unacceptable, Interfax reports. Some Russian human rights and gay rights watchdogs had also said the legislation was too “discriminatory.”
UN envoy Kofi Annan will hold a second meeting with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad on Sunday, United Nations officials said. During their talks on Saturday, Assad rejected any immediate negotiations with the opposition as long as “terrorist groups” threaten the country. The opposition leaders have also rejected dialogue. On Saturday morning, government troops shelled the northern city of Idlib for hours and moved to encircle the town. Earlier this week, Syria launched an assault to crush the opposition in the north.
Hezbollah has praised Bahraini protesters seeking reforms, saying the government should respond positively with “the rightful demands.” The protest movement in Bahrain is peaceful “despite the brutality of the regime,” Hezbollah said in a statement over the weekend. It also urged the Bahraini authorities to “prevent bloodshed of the innocent as well as to save the country from the state of oppression.” Last year Bahrain suspended flights to Lebanon after Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah blasted Manama for bringing in troops from Gulf States to suppress the Shia-led protests.
Five people were killed and 69 wounded in a grenade attack at a bus station in central Nairobi, the Kenya Red Cross said on Sunday. A grenade was reportedly tossed from a passing vehicle into the Machakos bus terminal near the central business district early Saturday evening, Reuters said. No group has claimed responsibility. Police blamed al Shabaab, the Somali militant group linked to Al-Qaeda. The group had pledged to carry out attacks in Kenya until it pulls its soldiers out of Somalia.
The Japanese on Sunday marked one year after an earthquake and tsunami hit the country and was followed by a radiation crisis. A year ago, the magnitude 9.0 earthquake hit the northeast coast, killing nearly 16,000 and leaving nearly 3,300 missing. The day was marked with a moment of silence and prayers. Anti-nuclear rallies were held in Tokyo and other places. Authorities had earlier imposed a 20-km no-go zone around the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s wrecked Fukushima after the nuclear disaster.
At least 10 people were killed and 26 others were injured in a blast in the Mamakhel area on the outskirts of Peshawar on Sunday. The bomb reportedly went off minutes after a funeral had concluded. Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Deputy Speaker Khusdil Khan, who was present at the funeral, remained unhurt. Some initial reports suggested it was a suicide bomb attack. Others say the bomb was planted on a motorcycle.
Israeli aircraft on Sunday killed two Palestinians, including a 12-year-old boy, according to medical sources in Gaza. The boy was killed the northern Gaza Strip, Reuters said. A Palestinian militant was reportedly killed in a separate strike in Gaza City. The Israeli military confirmed one air strike early Sunday as cross-border violence continued for a third day. Three rockets fired from Gaza landed in southern Israel overnight and Sunday, Israeli police said, reporting no injuries.
A US service member has been detained for allegedly shooting Afghan civilians, NATO has said. Multiple Afghan civilians were wounded in a shooting incident in Kandahar province on Sunday, NATO forces spokesman Capt. Justin Brockhoff said. The shooting was not inside a NATO or US base, but further details are unclear, AP said. Three Afghan civilians have been reported dead, although NATO said immediately that no one had been killed. Those wounded Afghans are receiving care at NATO medical facilities.
Two freight trains have collided near the Aur station in the Jewish Autonomous Region in Russia’s Far East, in. Twenty-nine cars and a locomotive derailed as a result, and two people have reportedly sustained injuries. The incident paralyzed the traffic on this part of the world’s longest railroad.
Thousands of Venezuelans have joined demonstrations across the country to show their support for President Hugo Chavez, who is recovering from cancer surgery in Cuba, the Associated Press reports. A crowd marched through the streets of Caracas, dancing, beating drums and waving flags. Chavez posted a message in his Twitter account cheering the demonstrators saying “We will live and we will win!” Surgeons removed a tumor from the same part of the pelvic region where a previous tumor was removed in June. The Venezuelan leader maintains that his health problems will not prevent him from running for re-election in October.