The UN Human Rights Council is going to call for a full UN inquiry into the massacre in the Syrian town of Houla, Reuters reports. The UN top right body will hold emergency session on Friday after over 100 people, including many children, were slaughtered in Houla on May 25. A draft resolution, circulated late on Thursday at the council, condemns the "killings confirmed by UN observers" in attacks that involved "the wanton killings of civilians by shooting at close range and by severe physical abuse by pro-regime elements and a series of government artillery and tank shellings of a residential neighborhood".
Israel has handed the bodies of 91 Palestinians to authorities in the West Bank. The remains belong to those who died in past decades while carrying out attacks on Israel. The move is aimed at encouraging peace talks which collapsed in 2010 after Israel refused to stop building settlements on land seized from Palestinians. If the talks fail again, the country's Defense Minister says Israel could define the borders of a future Palestinian state unilaterally.
The Ukrainian Foreign Ministry has angrily denied that racially motivated riots will be held in Kiev during the Euro 2012 football tournament. “We consider some media reports in the United Kingdom on alleged racist sentiment in Ukraine as absolutely unacceptable and not reflecting the real state of things,” said Ukraine’s information policy chief Oleg Voloshin. Earlier this week, BBC broadcast a documentary showing footage of Ukrainian hooligans attacking Asian football fans.
A young Sudanese woman, aged around 20, has been sentenced to death by stoning. Accused of adultery, she is now being held in prison near Khartoum, shackled with her baby son. Human rights groups condemned the ruling, saying it violated international standards. The activists say the woman is illiterate. Although Arabic is not her native language, she did not have a lawyer or interpreter in the courtroom. The activists also say she needed a psychiatrist – she appeared to be in a state of shock from the social and family pressures she is under.
US representative in the United Nations Susan Rice has called Syria’s preliminary report on the Houla massacre “a blatant lie”. The Syrian Foreign Minister earlier told journalists that an investigation into the massacre showed armed groups, not government forces, were responsible for the killings of over 100 civilians. The UN Human Rights Council is set to discuss the incident in Houla on Friday.
A Boston federal appeals court has ruled that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act unconstitutionally denies federal benefits to married gay couples – by defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman only. Now the ruling is to be approved by the US Supreme Court. Now it only applies to states within the circuit, including Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Puerto Rico.
Police have detained at least 80 people after an unsanctioned rally in central Moscow. A few hundred people gathered to demand the people’s constitutional right to meetings and rallies. Russia’s constitutional article 31 specifies this right, so opposition supporters traditionally gather on the 31st. Law enforcement officials, however, insist that all rallies must be sanctioned by city authorities.
Ukrainian Prosecutor’s Office has confirmed that two suspects in April blasts have been arrested. Both are locals in their 40. The four explosions struck the city of Dnepropetrovsk during the morning rush hour, injuring 31 people, among them 10 children. The investigation is still underway.
A preliminary investigation into the Houla massacre showed that armed groups, not government forces, are responsible for the deaths of at least 100 civilians, according to the Syrian Foreign Ministry. The report’s findings were disclosed during a press conference held in Damascus.Opposition supporters claim government forces shelled the area after large demonstrations against the regime on May 25th. The also said pro-regime fighters known as shabiha stormed the villages after the shelling, killing women and children in their homes.
One of the men suspected of organizing the April 27 bombings in the Ukrainian city of Dnepropetrovsk has been detained by the police, according to an unnamed source within Ukraine’s Security Services. Four explosions struck the city during the morning rush hour, injuring 31 people, among them at least 10 children. The blasts went off at a series of locations in the city center, with all of the devices hidden inside garbage bins. An investigation is still underway.
SpaceX Dragon has splashed down in Pacific Ocean, completing the first private space flight to the International Space Station. On May 25, Dragon became the first commercial unmanned space vessel to successfully dock with the ISS.
At a congressional hearing, top US officials have voiced their opposition to proposals of bringing the internet under United Nations control. “The US consistently opposes the extension of intergovernmental controls over the internet,” said Philip Verveer, US deputy IT policy chief, as cited by AFP. The move "could jeopardize” both the vibrancy and economical and social benefits of the internet, a staff memo issued before Thursday's hearing said. BRICS countries are pushing through an idea of a takeover of the internet, currently controlled by private shareholders, by a UN supranational agency.
Syria-based insurgents argued on Thursday with the Free Syrian Army's exiled leader over the deadline they gave to the government to observe a peace plan to end the violence. "Nobody has the right to issue press releases, take decisions, or speak about operations in the Free Syrian Army's name, except for the FSA command inside Syria," the group's spokesman Colonel Kassem Saadeddine told AFP. Turkey-based FSA chief Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad earlier denied that armed rebels had given the ultimatum to Damascus. Saadeddine warned that “from now on, all decisions will be taken from inside Syria.”
Polish authorities have assured that the use of Soviet symbols is not subject to criminal prosecution in Poland, the Russian Foreign Ministry said. Media reports earlier quoted a Polish official as saying that displaying Soviet symbols during the upcoming European football championship is against the law in Poland. The Russian Foreign Ministry requested an official explanation, saying that the use of force against Russian fans is unacceptable. “We were assured… that Polish laws do not qualify the display of Soviet symbols as something that leads to criminal prosecution,” the ministry said, as cited by Interfax.
Two American tourists kidnapped in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula by Bedouins were released on Thursday, AFP said. Tribal elders reportedly took part in negotiations conducted by Egyptian army and police to release the tourists, security officials said. The tourists, men aged in their early 30s, were abducted late Wednesday near the resort of Dahab on the Red Sea.
Egypt's decades-long state of emergency came to an end on Thursday after its last renewal expired. The ruling military vowed in a statement to "protect" the country, AFP reports. The armed forces will continue its responsibility, “taking into account that the state of emergency has ended, in accordance with the constitutional declaration and with the law,” the statement said.
The commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guards on Thursday visited three islands in the Gulf whose ownership is disputed by Tehran and the United Arab Emirates. Mohammad Ali Jafari and the naval commander, Ali Fadavi, went to the islands of Abu Musa, Greater Tunb and Lesser Tunb, saying they were Iran's “strategic and sensitive territory,” AFP reports. Jafari inspected Iranian combat units stationed on Abu Musa and offered a message of “friendship” to neighboring Arab countries on the Gulf. Iran says the islands have always been part of its territory.
A Pakistani militant group said on Thursday it has never had ties to a doctor who helped the CIA find Osama Bin Laden. A court document on Wednesday stated that Shakil Afridi was imprisoned for 33 years for supporting the Lashkar-e-Islam militant group. “There is no truth to this. We want to get him ourselves,” Abdul Rasheed, one of the group’s commanders, told Reuters on Thursday. “He is a traitor, an enemy of Islam, a greedy blackmailer,” Rasheed said. Pakistani officials earlier said Afridi was jailed based on treason charges for helping the CIA.
A nationwide strike against the 11 per cent fuel price hike hit traffic and closed shops in India on Thursday. Opposition parties and trade unions called nationwide protests and anti-government marches in New Delhi and Mumbai. Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders urged to block 100 intersections in the capital. About 300 trader associations kept markets shut in New Delhi.
A series of bombings in Baghdad on Thursday killed at least 11 people and wounded 25, officials said. The blasts struck a crowded restaurant, a police patrol and the homes of two policemen, AP reports. In northwest Baghdad, a parked car exploded outside a crowded restaurant in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula, killing eight people and wounding 13. Explosions also hit two adjacent homes of policemen in the predominantly Sunni neighborhood of Amariyah. Two people were killed and nine wounded, among them three children. A bomb attack targeting a police patrol in Baghdad killed a policeman and wounding three others.
A German citizen kidnapped in north Nigeria was killed Thursday in a failed rescue attempt, an anonymous security official told the associated press. Authorities are expected to announce that the attempt to rescue Edgar Fritz Raupach from his captors, an Islamic militant group affiliated with Al-Qaeda, went horribly awry. The German engineer was working for the Dantata and Sawoe construction company when he was kidnapped five months ago in the city of Kano, a town racked by violence.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned of a “catastrophic civil war" in Syria after the massacre of civilians in the town of Houla. “The massacres of the sort seen last weekend could plunge Syria into a catastrophic civil war, a civil war from which the country would never recover,” he said on Thursday. The UN chief was speaking at an Istanbul forum of the UN-led Alliance of Civilizations initiative.
The Dragon spacecraft has left its parking spot at the International Space Station, the first step in coming back to Earth. The SpaceX Dragon was unbolted from the orbiting outpost early Thursday morning, and astronauts used a robot arm to move it away, AP said. The first private spacecraft to dock with the ISS, laden with old equipment and some scientific samples, is due to splash down in the Pacific. The Dragon earlier delivered a cargo ship to the space station.
The Moscow Garrison Court has sentenced Vladimir Lazar, a former serviceman of the Russian General Staff's Military-Technical Department, to 12 years in prison for spying for the US. Lazar was charged with high treason in the form of espionage, the press center of the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) said on Thursday. Investigators found that in December 2008, Lazar passed a large number of scanned images of printed maps containing secret state information to US intelligence service agent A. Lesment, Interfax reports.
The Syrian government has released 500 prisoners who were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the revolt, Syria's state TV said on Thursday. According to the report, “500 people involved in the events taking place in Syria, without blood on their hands, have been released,” Reuters said. Peace envoy Kofi Annan urged President Bashar al-Assad to free detainees during their meeting two days ago.
Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has said that those responsible for last week's massacre in Syria should be punished. Ahmadinejad declined to say who he believed was behind the attack. “It seems unbelievable to me that a government would engage in killing its own people,” he told France 24 on Wednesday, adding that he was “not excluding anyone from this responsibility.” UN investigators blame pro-government gunmen for at least some of the carnage in Houla.
Colonel Qassim Saadeddine of the rebel Free Syrian Army (FSA) in Homs has reportedly given the government of President Bashar al-Assad a 48-hour deadline to observe a UN ceasefire. If there is no response by the time, the FSA will "no longer be bound" by the plan, he warned in a video. But the FSA head, Colonel Riyadh al-Asaad, later told Al-Jazeera from the Turkish border that the FSA was “committed to the Kofi Annan plan.” He said there was no deadline, but expected international envoy Kofi Annan to announce “the failure of this plan.”
At least seven people were killed when Al-Qaeda-linked militants attacked Yemeni troops guarding the town of Radda. Four militants and three soldiers died during the attack late on Wednesday night, the Yemeni Defense Ministry said, as cited by Reuters. The town in the al-Baydah province 170 km southeast of the capital, Sanaa, was briefly seized by the militants earlier this year. The attack came as the Yemeni army is continuing major offensive on militant strongholds in the south.
Two American tourists have been kidnapped while traveling in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, security officials said. Armed Bedouins snatched the two while the men, aged in their early 30s, were traveling by car from Dahab to the resort of Nuweiba early on Thursday, AP reports. Bedouins have kidnapped tourists recently to pressure authorities to release detained relatives or to improve living conditions in their areas.
US Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman, who are on a visit to Malaysia, said Thursday it was time to arm Syria's opposition. “It's time to act,” the Republican McCain said in Kuala Lumpur, as cited by AFP. “It's time to give the Syrian opposition the weapons in order to defend themselves. It's not a fair fight,” he said. During their talks with the Malaysian leadership, McCain and Lieberman, an independent, expressed “repugnance and anger and disgust” at the behavior of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the recent massacre in Houla.
The number of Afghan civilian fatalities has dropped 36 per cent so far this year compared with last, according to UN officials. The office of the senior UN envoy for the country, Jan Kubis, said that 579 civilians were killed in the first four months of this year, down from 898 in the same period of 2011. The number of wounded dropped from 1,373 to 1,216 in the January to April period, AP said. The envoy called the trend promising, but warned that too many civilians are still being caught up in the violence.
Chinese officials have detained about 600 Tibetans in Lhasa after two protesters against Chinese rule over Tibet set themselves on fire on Sunday. One of the men died according to Xinhua. The protests have continued through Wednesday. The total number of those detained could not be independently confirmed because foreign journalists are barred from entering Tibet, Reuters reports.