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30 April, 2012


Soldiers battle junta for control of Mali

­ Soldiers loyal to Mali's ousted president are fighting the junta forces who took power in a coup a month ago, Reuters reports. Witnesses say heavy gunfire was heard near military barracks in the center of Bamako, north-western African state's capital. There are also reports that the pro-presidential unit had taken up positions around the airport and entered the state broadcaster's building. "These are elements of the presidential guard from the old regime, and they're trying to turn things around," military junta spokesman Bacary Mariko told Reuters, adding that "we have the situation under control." President Amadou Toumani Touré  was toppled in March by mutinous soldiers who were angered by his government's handling of a Tuareg rebellion in the country's vast northern desert.


Seized cargo vessel Sakhalin sold off in Hong Kong

The cargo ship Sakhalin, which had been seized by Hong Kong naval authorities, has been sold off to pay off the debts of its parent company. Previously, the Russian-Ukrainian crew of 21 said they would sue their Cyprus-based employer for unpaid wages, and demand repatriation costs if the vessel could not return them home. The sailors will now be given tickets to head home later this week, and their salaries will be paid within two months. The vessel was seized at creditors' request on April 4.


Bin Laden’s private papers to be published online

­Documents showing close relations between Osama bin Laden, other al-Qaeda bosses and Taliban commanders are to be published online, on the week marking a year since Bin Laden's death. This comes from White House counter-terrorism official John Brennan, who said the documents would be put online by the US Military Academy's Combating Terrorism Center. The papers were found by US Navy SEALS in the house where Bin Laden was killed in a raid on May 2, 2011.


NATO troops arrive in Kosovo ahead of Serbian elections

­700 NATO troops from Germany and Austria have been deployed to Kosovo to bolster the peacekeeping contingent there. Tensions have been rising between the ethnic Serb and Albanian communities ahead of the Serbian general election on May 6. Pristina has spoken out against Kosovo’s Serb minority voting in the elections, while Serbians say the partially-recognized state of Kosovo is still a part of Serbia. The NATO force in the region currently numbers just under 7,000.


Chinese ship owners want guarantees from state to continue Iran oil import

­Chinese ship owners are seeking insurance guarantees from their government so they can continue importing Iranian crude after the EU sanctions against Iran’s oil exports comes into force on July 1. Tough sanctions will ban EU insurers and reinsurers from covering tankers carrying Iranian crude anywhere in the world.  "(Ship) operators are worried that if the insurance issue cannot be resolved, they will not be able to take orders for shipping Iranian oil any longer," Reuters quotes the head of China's ship owners' association Zhang Shouguo. Chinese insurers and ship owners would not take the risk on themselves and government intervention is necessary, he added.


Libya leader keeps government in power until elections

Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) has decided to keep the interim government in power until the June elections. The NTC is the unelected body internationally recognized as the ultimate power in the country after the overthrow of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi last year. Earlier, rumors of a cabinet shuffle have threatened the fragile peace in the war-torn country.


Obama unveils election campaign slogan

President Obama’s re-election team has unveiled their campaign slogan on Monday. The slogan simply says ‘forward’ and is accompanied by a 7-minute video looking at all Obama has achieved since taking office. The video tries to make the case for Obama's re-election by saying there is still more work to do going forward. It will be screened to his supporters at his re-election rallies, the first of which start in Virginia and Ohio this weekend.


Czech President joins boycott of Ukraine-hosted summit

­The President of the Czech Republic Václav Klaus has joined his German counterpart Joachim Gauck in boycotting a Central European nation’s summit in Ukraine. They are protesting against the alleged beating of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in prison.


7 killed, at least 20 wounded in explosion in Nigeria’s east

­Two motorbike riding suicide bombers drove into a convoy carrying a top police official in the Nigerian city of Jalingo on Monday, detonating their explosives and killing at least seven people, authorities said as quoted by Reuters. The attack targeted Police Commissioner Mamman Sule, but the bombers missed him causing massive damage at a roadside market and blew out the windows of the nearby state Ministry of Finance building, witnesses said. The explosion follows Sunday’s attack on Christians attending church service in Nigeria's northern city of Kano, which killed at least 21 people.


Sarkozy threatens action against investigative website

­French President Nicolas Sarkozy says he will press for a law against investigative website Mediapart. The site reported on the alleged funding of Sarkozy’s 2007 election campaign by the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The President calls the report a dirty trick aimed at his re-election campaign.


Ratings cut on 16 Spanish banks

­ Standard and Poor's has downgraded the ratings of 16 Spanish banks, after lowering the credit ratings of the country by two notches last week. Among the worst hit was Banco Santander and its core subsidiary Banco Espanol de Credito S.A. Official figures released on Monday showed the Spanish economy contracted by 0.3 percent in the first three months of 2012, taking the country back into recession.


Bahrain court orders retrial of 21 jailed activists

­Bahrain's highest appeals court ordered on Monday a retrial of 21 men convicted in a military court of leading last year's uprising that threatened the Sunni Muslim monarchy's grip on power.
The retrial will be in a civil court, but the men will remain in jail until their new trial. Among those ordered for retrial is activist Abdulhadi al-Khawaja who has been on hunger strike since February 8.


Two Russians arrested in Bali for drug smuggling

­Indonesian authorities have arrested two Russian men for attempting to smuggle drugs through Bali airport. 30-year-old Yoga teacher Aleksandr Simonov was arrested last Tuesday and 43- year-old designer Sergey Chernykh two days later after arriving on a flight from Kuala Lumpur. “We were suspicious because their stomachs were hard. We then detected hashish capsules in their stomachs after an X-ray,” the Head of Customs Made Wijaya, told reporters.
Simonov had swallowed 88 capsules weighing 915 grams while Chernykh had swallowed 359 capsules weighing 695 grams, Wijaya said. The drugs had a street value of 966 million rupiah which is about $100,000. The customs official says the two “do not know each other” and are believed to have consumed the hashish in India. Both face the death penalty if convicted.


Three dead, one missing in California yacht accident

­Three people have been killed, while another is missing after a yacht collided with a larger ship off the coast of California, officials said. Rescue workers are still combing the waters to find a fourth yachtsman. The accident was said to have taken place on Saturday, during a race from California to Mexico. The fatal incident was the third naval accident off California's coast in recent weeks.


Israeli ex-PM opposes strike on Iran

­Former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert has spoken out against an attack on Iran. "There is no reason at this time not to talk about a military effort, but definitely not to initiate an Israeli military strike," Olmert told Israel's Channel 10 TV. Olmert’s remarks come after Yuval Diskin, Israel's former internal security chief, said the government is misleading the public on the effectiveness of a military strike. Olmert was Israel's Prime Minister when a suspected nuclear site in Syria was attacked in 2007. It was assumed that Israel carried out the strike, a claim Tel Aviv has never confirmed.


Half of Montenegro left without power

­Half the territory of Montenegro has been left without power following a fire at a transformer station in the country's capital region, local media report. Areas affected by the blackout include parts of the capital Podgorica, as well as cities along the Adriatic coast. The cause of the fire has not been disclosed, but repair workers are trying to restore power. Last Tuesday coastal cities and the central region of the country were also left without power after an explosion occurred at another transformer station in the same area.


At least nine dead in Damascus militant attacks

­At least nine people have been killed as a result of a militant attack on various targets in the Syrian capital Damascus, local TV reports. The first attack was a suicide bombing next to the Zain al-Abideen mosque in the Midan district. Insurgents also launched rocket-propelled grenades at the Central Bank and assaulted a police patrol, resulting in four injuries. Security forces are on the lookout for rebels from the Islamist Al-Nusra Front, which claimed responsibility for the attacks.