Thousands of Chilean students have taken to the streets of the country’s capital to call for education reforms. According to student group leaders, between 5,000 and 7,000 marched across Santiago. Police estimate the number at 2,000, saying 50 were detained. They broke up the rally when several hundred protesters crossed a police barrier and attempted to march to the Ministry of Education. Police officers used tear gas and water cannons, with the streams of water knocking over some of the students. The rally was considered unauthorized by the authorities as, according to the police, the organizers had not applied for permission 48 hours before the event. Among the protesters’ demands was free quality education, and protesting the expulsion of about a hundred students who joined last year’s protests over the crisis of education reform in the country. The year 2011 saw seven months of massive rallies in Chile in which students took part along with families and teachers.
Thousands of Czechs have taken to the streets of Prague and other major cities to protest changes to the pension and healthcare systems, as well as austerity measures promoted by the center-right government of Prime Minister Petr Necas. They also called on Necas’ Cabinet and President Vaclav Klaus to resign. Around 2,000 demonstrators protested outside the Czech public television building against what they called biased reporting on their rallies. Several thousand protesters also rallied in Brno, the country's second-largest city, while hundreds took part in demos in other regions of the country.
The US sergeant suspected of shooting 16 Afghan villagers in the Kandahar Province has asked John Henry Browne, a lawyer from Seattle, to represent him. Browne said he has met with the sergeant’s family and will travel to meet the soldier, who is also from Seattle, wherever he is in custody, unless he is returned to the Joint Base Lewis-McChord soon. The sergeant’s name has not yet been disclosed, although it is known that he was flown to Kuwait on Thursday, prompting fury from Afghan lawmakers who had been demanding for him to be tried locally. John Henry Browne has previously handled several military cases and is best known for representing Colton Harris-Moore, also known as the “Barefoot Bandit,” who stole airplanes while he was on the run.
Bahrain has recalled all of its diplomats and shut down its embassy in the Syrian capital Damascus, according to the Kingdom’s news agency BNA. The statement, made by Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry, urged all Bahraini nationals to leave the country immediately. The move came a day after Saudi Arabia and Italy closed their missions in the conflict-torn country.
Turkey is considering establishing a “buffer zone” along its border with Syria, due to escalating numbers of refugees fleeing the country. So far there is no detail on how such a zone would operate or where exactly it would be located. Over 1,000 Syrians have fled the country in the last twenty-four hours, Interior Minister Besir Atalay said on Thursday as cited by the Associated Press. Since last summer, some 14,700 Syrians crossed into Turkey, according to Interior Ministry data.
Argentina will sue any companies over oil exploration in the Falkland Islands, the country’s Foreign Minister Hector Timerman announced. Speaking at a news conference, he said that Argentina will bring civil and criminal charges in order to "sanction the companies involved." The statement refers to British explorer Rockhopper, which has a license to explore oil and gas in the North Falklands. It has been seeking a partner to invest in the $2 billion Sea Lion project. Also, British companies Borders and Southern Petroleum, and Falkland Oil and Gas Limited are both set to drill wells to the south of the islands later this year. Timerman called their activities "illegal" and "illegitimate." Companies which support oil exploring activity either financially or logistically will also be included in the suits. The conflict appears due to Argentina's long-standing claim to sovereignty over the Falkland Islands, which Britain does not recognize.
A Norwegian military plane has gone out of contact while on duty, with local officials not ruling out the possibility that it could have crashed in northern Sweden. The crew was supposed to pick up personnel in the Swedish city of Kiruna, where the plane was heading from Evenes, in Norway. “We have to assume that we are looking for a plane that has crashed,” Norwegian military spokesman John Espen Lien said. At least four of the five people on board are said to be Norwegian nationals. A rescue operation by Sweden’s and Norway’s rescue services and military is underway.
A joint team of Syrian, UN and Organization of Islamic Cooperation staff will begin visiting besieged Syrian towns this weekend to assess the humanitarian situation. UN Aid Chief Valerie Amos said in a statement that the mission is to be led by the Syrian government, and the team will "gather information on the overall humanitarian situation and observe first-hand the conditions in various towns and cities."
A team of divers, evading 24-hour police surveillance and a special laser detection system, have stolen the ceremonial bell of the Costa Concordia. The giant cruise ship has been submerged off the coast of Italy after hitting a rock and sinking on January 13. Officials say the theft may have occurred two weeks ago undetected.
Two soldiers have been killed, and another wounded in a shooting near a military base in the French city of Montebaun. An attacker opened fire at three soldiers in uniform as they withdrew cash from an ATM, a state official told Agence France-Presse. Large numbers of police are involved in a search for the attacker, who fled scene on a scooter. A similar shooting happened, Sunday, when a 30-year-old soldier was shot by an assailant on a motorcycle in the city of Toulouse.
The International Monetary Fund has approved a four-year, 28 billion-euro ($36.7 billion) bailout for Greece, part of a rescue package which is hoped to save the country from a possible default predicted for the end of March. The IMF’s approval comes after Eurosone countries formally approved their share of an initial 130 billion-euro rescue. Earlier, Greece completed a government bond swap deal with private investors in a debt exchange, swapping $232.5 billion worth of privately-held bonds with new ones worth less than half their original value.
A Riga court has reversed the decision to ban a march by Waffen SS veterans in the city on Friday. The yearly procession was previously ruled to be a hazard to public safety by the city administration, due to potential clashes with rival anti-fascist demonstrators. Around 150,000 Latvians served in the Waffen SS, the Nazis' non-German regiments, during World War II.
Saudi Arabia will begin a relief operation for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey, and Jordan in cooperation with the local authorities, says Saudi Ambassador to Lebanon Ali Osseiri. The Saudi Red Crescent will cooperate in the relief effort for Syrian refugees, the envoy told Ash-Sharq Al-Awsat newspaper. Jordanian authorities estimate that about 80,000 Syrian refugees have legally entered the country. The number of refugees in Turkey is estimated at 14,000. Some 7,000 Syrian refugees have crossed into Lebanon since March of 2011.
Norwegian police on Thursday apologized for failing to stop Anders Breivik on his shooting rampage. “On behalf of the Norwegian police I want to apologies that we did not arrest Anders Behring Breivik sooner,” Norwegian National Police Commissioner Oeystein Maeland said. He presented an evaluation report on the police response to the July 22 twin attacks that left 77 people dead. Breivik, who has been charged with “acts of terror,” is scheduled to go on trial on April 16.
At least 13 civilians, including women and children, have been killed by a roadside bomb in southern Afghanistan on Thursday. Two others were wounded, officials in Uruzgan province said. The bomb went off when a civilian car went over it.
Nigeria’s government has reportedly held first indirect peace talks with Islamist sect Boko Haram. Two mediators close to Boko Haram carried messages to the sect's leader Abubakar Shekau and government officials, Reuters said, citing its sources. The office of President Goodluck Jonathan has not commented on the issue. Boko Haram wants to impose sharia law across a country split equally between Christians and Muslims. The group has killed hundreds this year in bomb and gun attacks.
Most members of Israel’s security cabinet support an attack on Iran to end its nuclear program, an Israeli newspaper said on Thursday. Influential columnist Ben Caspit wrote in the Maariv daily that a majority of the 14-member security cabinet was leaning in favour of a pre-emptive strike on Tehran’s nuclear facilities. At this point eight ministers “tend to support” Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Ehud Barak Barak’s position, who favour the strike, Caspit said. Six others object to the move. The assessments are based on talks between the PM and his ministers. The security cabinet has not yet held a decisive meeting on the issue.
The Taliban has announced it is suspending talks with the United States. The militant group’s spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said on Thursday that Washington “kept changing the terms of the negotiations.” The Taliban only wanted to discuss prisoner transfers and the establishment of a political office in Qatar, he said. US negotiators wanted to broaden the discussion. They did not want the Afghan government included in the talks, Mujahid said.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has called on NATO-led forces to move out of Afghan villages and remote areas. Karzai proposed on Thursday that NATO forces should be pulled back to its main bases. Afghan troops are ready to provide countrywide security, he added. Karzai told the US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta that the transfer of authority could happen before the current target date - the end of 2014. Afghan lawmakers on Thursday blasted the US for flying the soldier to Kuwait who allegedly killed 16 villagers on Sunday.
French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe has said the international community should not arm the Syrian opposition due to the risk of civil war. Arming the opposition could lead to “a catastrophe even larger than the one that exists today,” he said. Speaking on France-Culture radio Thursday, Juppe said that the Syrian people were deeply divided. “If we give arms to a certain faction of the Syrian opposition, we would make a civil war among Christians, Alawites, Sunnis and Shiites,” he warned.
Some Iranian MPs were furious with President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s jokes while being questioned at a session of parliament on Wednesday. “Ahmadinejad’s answers to lawmakers’ questions were illogical, illegal and an attempt to avoid answering them,” deputy Mohammad Taqi Rahbar said. “With an insulting tone, Ahmadinejad made fun of lawmakers' questions and insulted parliament.” Several MPs said they would seek the president's impeachment. Ahmadinejad, the first president to be summoned by parliament, had to testify over several allegations. They included the accusation that he had mismanaged the economy and defied the authority of the supreme leader. The questioning came as hard-liners strengthened their position in parliament following the March 2 elections.
Egypt's top prosecutor has charged 75 people with murder and negligence in connection with a deadly soccer riot last month in the city of Port Said. The February 1 riot left at least 74 people dead. Among those charged on Thursday is Maj. Gen. Issam Samak, who was Port Said's chief of security, AP reports. The list also includes nine police officers and two minors.
An 8-year-old girl was killed and five others injured in a bomb blast in the northeastern Indian city of Imphal on Thursday, officials said. The bomb reportedly exploded under Lamlai police station in the Pangei district. The victims were rushed to a local hospital.
The flow of Syrian refugees into Turkey has sharply increased, with some 1,000 people crossing the border in the last 24 hours, Turkish official said on Thursday. This brings the total number of registered Syrian refugees in Turkey to 14,000. “We expect this to continue as long as the operation goes on in Idlib,” Reuters quoted an anonymous Turkish official as saying. The Syrian city of Idlib has seen fierce fighting over the last few days.
Saudi Arabia has closed its embassy in Damascus and withdrawn its diplomatic staff from Syria. The closure was announced late Wednesday by the official Saudi Press Agency. The kingdom is one of the leading supporters of the Syrian rebels in the Arab world. Saudi Arabia is a main regional rival of Iran, while Tehran remains a close ally of the Syrian government. The Gulf Cooperation Council, where Saudi Arabia is a leading member state, proposed last month that all Arab League nations recall their ambassadors from Damascus.
Palestinian militants fired a rocket into southern Israel on Thursday morning. The attack followed several overnight strikes by the Israel Air Force on targets in the Gaza Strip, the Haaretz daily writes. The attacks have not been stopped, although the two sides agreed to an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire which went into effect on Tuesday. Palestinian militant groups fired rockets sporadically into Israel on Tuesday and Wednesday. Five cities in southern Israel canceled school on Thursday. The Israeli military believe Gaza's small radical Islamist factions are responsible for firing rockets.
Libya’s stock market has opened for the first time since the fall of former leader Muammar Qaddafi. Everything kicked off Thursday with trading in 10 companies valued at $3.1 billion, AFP reports. As Libya is seeking to re-invigorate its economy, most of the shares being traded represent the financial sector, including private banks and insurance firms. Libya hopes to become the main financial link between Europe and the rest of Africa, Ahmed Karoud, the general manager of the stock market, said.
Pakistan will re-open the NATO supply routes that it had blocked in protest against last November’s deadly air strike on its border, officials say. The blockade could be lifted later this month after the Pakistani Parliament approves new terms of cooperation with the US under “tough conditions.” The parliament’s joint session convenes on March 17 to debate new rules of using the NATO supply routes.
The Afghan man who crashed a truck at an airfield as US Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s plane was landing there died on Thursday from extensive burns. The driver was an interpreter working for the foreign forces, US Lt. Gen. Curtis Scaparotti, the deputy commander of American forces in Afghanistan, told reporters. The Afghan man apparently had a container of fuel in the stolen car, which ignited during the crash in Helmand province in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, AP reports. A British soldier was injured when he tried to stop the driver from stealing the truck.
A Swiss couple kidnapped by the Pakistani Taliban and held in North Waziristan since last July have been released, military officials said on Thursday. The former hostages, identified as Olivier David Och, 31, and Daniela Widmer, 29, were handed over to military officials in North Waziristan on Thursday morning and have been transported to Peshawar by helicopter, a military official told Reuters. The couple had been reportedly left at a military checkpoint on a main road in Miranshah. Pakistan's Taliban had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the couple from the Loralai district of south-western province of Baluchistan province on July 1.
Greek prosecutors have pressed charges of treason against unknown suspects over an alleged 2008 plot. The organizers allegedly tried to topple the then-conservative prime minister, Costas Karamanlis. The charges were prompted by press reports about a Russian document revealing the plot, Reuters said, citing its sources. The criminal investigation was prompted by press reports saying the plot was organized to prevent Greece from clinching a pipeline deal with Russia to bring gas to Western Europe. Karamanlis lost the 2009 elections to the socialists in the wake of financial and political scandals.
The US soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers has been flown to Kuwait, according to an anonymous US official. The serviceman, whose name has not been released, was previously detained by the US military in the Kandahar Province, where the shooting spree took place on March 11. Afghanistan's parliament called the incident barbaric, and demanded a local public trial for the soldier. The US military did not preclude the possibility of a trial in Afghanistan, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said the soldier could face capital punishment.