Seven armed militants have been killed and two others, including a local Taliban local leader, arrested in Afghanistan’s north-eastern Kunar province. This was during a joint operation performed by Afghan troops and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). “Based on intelligence, a unit of special operation forces of Afghan soldiers and NATO-led coalition troops raided a compound in the Marawara district overnight, killing seven armed miscreants,” Xinhua quoted ISAF spokesperson Sabawoon Hotak as saying.
An American man who chose not to identify himself was released after being held, as he said, for more than nine months by a Shiite militia in Iraq. He described the incident as a “kidnapping.” “I was taken inside Baghdad and kept in and around different locations within the city,” he said. In his words, the captors were from the Promised Day Brigade, which is known to be a branch of the Mahdi Army – a militia controlled by the anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. The American also noted that his kidnappers explained to him he was set free as “a gift to me, my family and to the American people.” Though he did not name himself, US-issued military and contractor ID cards exposed by lawmakers identified the man as Randy Michael Hultz. He said he was deployed to Iraq early in the war as an active-duty soldier but left the military after 15 months. He said he then worked in a “civilian capacity” until being kidnapped last June. The US citizen has been now taken into the Green Zone and turned over to the United Nations mission in Iraq. he was transferred to the US Embassy in Baghdad late on Saturday.
Lawmakers from both houses of the Egyptian parliament have approved a quota ensuring that 50 of 100 seats in the panel set to write the country’s new constitution will be taken by Islamist-leaning parliamentarians. The other 50 panel members will also be chosen by parliament, and will most probably be legal experts, academicians and Muslim and Christian scholars. Elections to the two chambers took place over a three-month period, with the Muslim Brotherhood winning a majority in both houses.
Chaleo Yoovidhya, the man credited with creating Red Bull, has died in Thailand from natural causes, according to Thai media reports. In the 1960s Chaleo started small Thai pharmaceutical company TC Pharmaceuticals, and later formulated an energy drink prototype called Krathing Daeng – or Red Bull in English. The drink became popular amongst blue collar workers and truck drivers in Thailand. In 1987, Chaleo and Australian entrepreneur Dietrich Mateschitz launched an international variant of the drink. Forbes ranked Chaleo as the 205th richest man in the world.
The Palestinian political party Fatah says the Islamic Republic has been bribing Hamas to counteract reconciliation efforts. The accusations follow Hamas leaders' visit to Iran. Fatah maintains that Iran wants Palestinians to remain divided. Relations between Iran and the Palestinians have been on the rocks since Tehran refused to support Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad.
The new Syrian opposition force is made up of the liberal National Movement for Change, the Islamist Movement for the Fatherland, the Bloc for Liberation and Development, the Turkmen National Bloc, and the Kurdish Movement for a New Life. The group would act independently from Syrian National Council, but says it was “not set up in opposition to anyone other than Assad's regime, but rather to unite the opposition outside the SNC."
Shenouda III, the pope of the Egyptian branch of Christianity, the Coptic Orthodox Church, has led the country’s religious minority for 40 years. The patriarch was a guardian for some 10 million Copts during the times of increasing tensions with Muslims. Spiritual leader has been suffering from liver and lung problems for several years.
Saudi Arabia is sending military equipment to Syrian rebels, a top Saudi diplomat said Saturday. "Saudi military equipment is on its way to Jordan to arm the Free Syrian Army," he was quoted as saying by Agence France-Presse. According to the diplomat, this is “a Saudi initiative to stop the massacres in Syria.”
The world's biggest electronic payment system, SWIFT, cut off Iranian banks Saturday. The Belgium-based system, which facilitates the bulk of global international financial transactions, halted services for Iran at 1600 GMT. The measure seeks to put more pressure on Tehran over its nuclear program. "The EU decision forces SWIFT to take action," SWIFT Chief Executive Lazaro Campos said on Thursday. EU has already introduced more than ten rounds of sanctions against Iran in an attempt to curb its nuclear program, which Iran claims is strictly civilian.
North Korea will invite “experienced foreign experts on space science and technology and journalists” to observe a controversial satellite launch, the Korean Committee for Space Technology declared on Saturday. The US and other countries say the operation is a disguised missile test, but North Korea insists it is a part of their space research program. Washington warns any launch would be a grave provocation, as UN Security Council resolution 1874 bans North Korea from employing ballistic missiles for any purposes. On Friday, Pyongyang announced its plans for mid-April to send a satellite into orbit via a long-range rocket to mark the 100th anniversary of late President Kim Il-Sung’s birth.
The Syrian opposition is only ready to resolve the crisis currently gripping the country via a repeat of the Libyan scenario, the Secretary General of the Arab League, Nabil Al-Arabi, announced on Saturday. “The Syrian opposition believes that the way out of this crisis is only possible through the “Libyan scenario,” and negotiation attempts with the president Bashar Assad will lead to nothing,” Al-Arabi was quoted as saying by one Egyptian newspaper.
John Demjanjuk, the former Nazi watchdog prosecuted for war crimes in Germany and Israel, died in a retirement home. Demjanjuk was convicted of colluding with Nazis in the killing of 28,000 Jews at the Sobibor death camp in Poland. In 2011, he was sentenced to five years in prison by a Munich court. However, the former soviet POW who later became an American citizen never begun serving his prison sentence due to poor health.
Swedish rescuers have found the crash site of a Norwegian C-130 Hercules military transport aircraft that went missing during an exercise on March 16. Five people were reportedly on board. Debris from the plane was found 2,000 meters up on the slopes of Kebnekaise Mountain. Rescuers say the crash site is unreachable from the ground. The aircraft was taking part in Cold Response 2012, Norway’s biggest military drill in years.
Philippine authorities are to auction the one-time property of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. Prime real estate in a Manila suburb and the northern mountain resort city of Baguio will be sold through public bidding in the end of April. The starting price is about $7.3 million. "We are confident that... the strategic location of the properties would attract more bidders, generating higher value," said an official from the Presidential Commission on Good Government.
Robert Bales, the soldier accused of killing 16 Afghan villagers, has arrived at a US military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Bales was arrested in Afghanistan and then flown to Kuwait, prompting anger from Afghan officials. He is accused of carrying out a bloody rampage, in which nine children and seven other civilians were killed in Afghanistan's Kandahar Province.
During a TV interview, French President Nicolas Sarkozy chided his youngest son for throwing vegetables at a policewoman at the Elysees Palace, the president’s official residence. Fifteen-year-old Louis Sarkozy and his friends pelted an on-duty officer with tomatoes and wadded paper balls on March 8. President Sarkozy also noted that raising children is the hardest thing in the world, and that leaving his son alone with his friends was risky. The French President has three sons and a daughter from three marriages.
Mexican Congressman Francisco Moreno Merino has been asked by his party to drop a bid to run for the Senate in July elections after an insulting remark he made, calling all pretty women prostitutes. The comments by might make the country’s former ruling Institutional Revolutionary Party lose the female vote, which the party had hoped to win. The Congressman provoked a scandal by mentioning a folk saying about anyone having his own faults, while part of it literally says that “there are no pretty women who do not become prostitutes.”