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17 September, 2012


Syrians forced to skip 2012 Hajj

­Syrian Muslims will have to skip the annual pilgrimage to Mecca this year due to a conflict between their government and Saudi Arabia. The Syrian side carried out all the required procedures for pilgrimage season, which is scheduled to begin next month, but Saudi authorities failed to agree on details on time, Syria's SANA state news agency reports. Relations between the two countries have deteriorated badly over the Syrian civil war as Saudi Arabia backs the rebellion seeking the ouster of President Bashar al-Assad's government.


Syrian missiles hit Lebanon

­Missiles fired from Syria hit Lebanese territory on Monday as the Syrian conflict shows no sign of abating. Lebanese security officials confirmed that four missiles fired by two Syrian jets hit a remote area on the edge of the Lebanese border town of Arsal, AP reports. Although no casualties were immediately reported, the incident has been one of the worst cross-border violations during the 18-month-old crisis. Lebanese President Michel Suleiman ordered an investigation into the border shelling Monday, without openly blaming the Syrian government.


Louisiana University evacuated due to bomb threat

­A bomb threat prompted the evacuation of students from Louisiana State University, in Baton Rouge, US. “A bomb threat has been reported on the LSU Campus. Please evacuate as calmy and quickly as possible,” LSU's website says. The campus in Baton Rouge maintains some 30,000 people daily. Last Friday campuses of the University of Texas at Austin and the North Dakota State University in Fargo were evacuated under similar circumstances.


Saudi Arabia skips ‘contact group’ meeting on Syria

­Saudi Arabia stayed away from Monday`s meeting on Syria conducted by the ‘contact group’ that includes Egypt, Iran, Turkey and Saudi Arabia. It was reported that the Saudi foreign minister could not come for health reasons, but he did not send a replacement. Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Saudi Arabia had attended a preparatory meeting last week, and will join future meetings.


At least 5 dead as explosion rocks Azerbaijan chemical factory

­At least 5 people have been killed as a powerful explosion shook a household chemical factory just outside of Azerbaijan's capital, Baku, Itar-Tass reports. According to the agency, a fuel reservoir exploded causing a massive fire. Some 50 fire crews are at the scene trying to put the fire out. The initial explosion was followed by another less strong blast that worsened the fire.


Turkey to exhume former president

­Turkey will exhume the body of former President Turgut Ozal as part of a probe into his death in office in 1993, AP reports. The country’s chief prosecutor's office issued the decision following an official report in June that found Ozal's death suspicious. The former president’s family members claim that he may have been poisoned. Oza was Turkey's president between November 1989 and April 1993. During his time in office he paved the way for country’s modernization.


Tunisian police encircle hardline leader of anti-US protest

A hardline Tunisian Muslim credited with inspiring a mass protest in the country against the US Embassy was surrounded by police at one of the main mosques in Tunis. The Salafi, Abu Yadh, retreated inside the El Fateh Mosque along with dozens of supporters on Monday, the AP reported. Police did not pursue him inside. Several thousand demonstrators stormed the US embassy compound in Tunis on Friday, and looted and burned buildings. Four demonstrators were killed in clashes with police. Abu Yadh claimed that he had called for a peaceful demonstration, and blamed the government for the violence.


Libya sacks Benghazi security chiefs over US consulate attack

Libya's interior minister fired Benghazi’s top security officers in the wake of last week’s deadly attack on the city’s US consulate. The eastern region’s Deputy Interior Minister, Wanis al-Sharef, and the head of national security for Benghazi, Hussein Bou Hmida, were forced to step down, AFP said. The report on the sacking cited two separate statements dated September 12, the day after the attack. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans were killed when the Benghazi consulate was attacked with rocket-propelled grenades during a protest against an anti-Islamic film.


Head of West Africa economic group urges for Mali intervention

Desire Kadre Ouedraogo, President of the Economic Community of West African States, said that the bloc “can no longer hesitate” to combat terrorism in Islamist rebel-controlled northern Mali. The country’s political and military authorities should speak “with one voice” on the proposed intervention, the AP quoted Ouedraogo as saying. Foreign ministers of the bloc are currently meeting in Abidjan to discuss the situation. The proposed intervention has yet to be approved by the UN Security Council. Earlier this month, Mali's interim government requested a military intervention in the country. Leaders of the March coup in Mali's capital of Bamako oppose foreign intervention.


Greek minister warns of ‘Syrian migration wave’

Greece must prepare itself for a possible influx of illegal immigration from Syria, the country’s minister of public order said Monday. Nikos Dendias reportedly discussed the issue with Prime Minister Antonis Samaras. “Measures were discussed... to fortify the Aegean Sea,” AFP quoted Dendias as saying. “A migration wave is starting to show, it has not yet reached Greece in large numbers, currently it is heading to Turkey, Jordan and Iraq,” he said, adding that the country “must be ready.” More than 250,000 Syrians have fled to neighboring countries to escape the conflict that has ravaged their country for the past 18 months.


Iran atomic chief claims ‘explosives’ cut power at Fordo nuke facility

Explosives destroyed lines powering Iran’s underground nuclear facility at Fordo last month, the head of Iran’s atomic agency claimed. “On... 17 August, 2012, the electric power lines from the city of Qom to the Fordo complex... were cut using explosives,” AFP quoted Fereydoon Abbasi Davani as saying. Davani made the remarks during a meeting of member-states of the UN’s atomic agency on Monday. The official did not attribute the outage to sabotage, but said that the day after the power line blasts, “agency inspectors requested to conduct an unannounced inspection.” Fordo, a key site for Iran's nuclear program, is located deep inside a mountain to protect it against air strikes.


Mali Islamists destroy saint's tomb – officials

Islamist rebels destroyed the tomb of a Muslim saint in one of Mali’s northern regions currently under their control, local officials said. “The Islamists on Saturday destroyed the mausoleum of Cheik El-Kebir, 330 kilometres from Gao,” AFP quoted a local politician as saying. “Twelve of them arrived at the site. They demolished the mausoleum with hammers, picks,” he said. Two months ago, Islamists destroyed two tombs at the ancient Djingareyber mud mosque in Timbuktu. They seized control of most of northern Mali in the wake of a coup attempt in the capital of Bamako.


Turkey kills some 500 Kurdish rebels in one month – PM

Some 500 Kurdish rebels were killed over the past month by Turkish security forces, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Monday. Over the past 10 days, 123 Kurdish rebels were killed during an ongoing military operation in the southeastern city of Hakkari, the country’s border with Iraq. Hakkari was the site of frequent clashes between the separatists and government forces, AFP reported. The Turkish army staged nearly 1,000 operations over the last six months to drive out rebels belonging to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).


Afghan soldier wounds one in insider attack

An Afghan soldier fired on a vehicle at a base shared with NATO forces, wounding a foreign civilian worker, officials said on Monday. The soldier targeted a vehicle driving inside Camp Garmser, a shared base in the southern Helmand province, which he believed was carrying troops, the AP quoted NATO forces spokesman Maj. Adam Wojack as saying. Another Afghan soldier disarmed the attacker and took him into custody. Sunday’s attack came the same day an Afghan police officer shot and killed four American servicemembers in Zabul, also in the country’s south.


Kenyan preacher charged with deadly riots freed on bail

A Kenyan court released on bail a radical Muslim preacher charged with inciting deadly riots. Abubaker Shariff Ahmed was charged with three counts of inciting violent protests in Kenya's main port city of Mombasa, after the assassination of Islamist cleric Aboud Rogo Mohammed last month. Ahmed, also known as Makaburi, is accused by the US of supporting Al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants. Judge Elvis Micheka told the court on Monday that there were no “compelling reasons to deny the accused his constitutional rights of being out on bond,” AFP reported. Ahmed denied encouraging the violence that killed three officers and wounding over a dozen others.


UN nuclear watchdog to hold more talks with Iran

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) will hold further talks with Iran aimed at clarifying concerns about its controversial nuclear program, agency chief Yukiya Amano said on Monday. The UN’s nuclear watchdog is “firmly committed” to more dialogue with Tehran, Reuters quoted Amano as saying during the IAEA's annual gathering of member-states. The IAEA is hoping to reach an agreement with Tehran “without further delay,” despite a lack of progress so far. Amano did not specify when the new round of talks would take place.


Syrian warplanes bomb Lebanese farmland – reports

Two Syrian warplanes reportedly bombed farmland near a border town in northeast Lebanon on Monday, Lebanese officials said. No casualties were reported. The farmland of Khirbet Dawoud is 10 kilometers inside the Lebanese border. Three missiles were fired during the incident, Lebanese media reported. The raid came in the wake of a Sunday night attack by rebels against a Syrian Army checkpoint in the border region, killing four soldiers and one officer.


Danish police defuse explosives found on street in capital

A pedestrian discovered a bag of explosives on a street in the Danish capital of Copenhagen early on Monday. Police sealed off the street in the Sydhavn district while dogs searched the area for other explosives. “Something points to the explosive being of military origin,” Reuters quoted police Deputy Chief Superintendent Henrik Jakobsen as saying. Police are attempting to determine how the explosives got there, he said.


7 killed in Baghdad Green Zone bombing

At least seven people were killed when a suicide bomber slammed a car packed with explosives into one of the gates of Baghdad’s heavily guarded Green Zone on Monday. Twenty-six people, including eight security officers, were wounded in the blast, the AP quoted a hospital official as saying. The bombing, which also torched several cars, took place near the bridge over the Tigris River during the morning rush hour. The Iraqi parliament and many of Baghdad’s governmental offices, embassies and foreign missions are located in the Green Zone.


2 South African mines reopen amid unrest

Two South African mines reopened after suspending operations last week over laborer strikes and unrest. Aquarius Platinum's Kroondal platinum mine and Xstrata's chrome mine near Rustenburg reopened on Monday, Reuters reported. Anglo-American Platinum (Amplats), the world's biggest producer of platinum, will resume work at its Rustenburg mines on Tuesday. Workers at platinum mines in the region went on strike after police shot and killed 34 miners at Lonmin's Marikana platinum mine on August 16.


Omani blogger sentenced for ‘slander’

A journalist and blogger in Oman was sentenced to a year in prison for alleged antigovernment writings. Mukhtar bin Mohammed bin Saif al-Hinai, an employee at the Azzaman daily newspaper, was convicted on Sunday of “slander and violations of media codes,” the Oman News Agency reported. The report provided no further details. Azzaman came under fire last year for reporting that angered several governmental officials, the AP said. The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders criticized Oman in August for convicting 20 activists, including prominent bloggers, on charges of illegal assembly and of insulting the nation’s ruler.


16 missing in China expressway cave-in

Chinese rescuers are searching for workers trapped in the collapse of a highway tunnel under construction in the country's southeast. The incident occurred on Sunday night near the city of Ganzhou in Jiangxi province, the AP said. The tunnel is part of a 3,429-kilometer expressway spanning from the north of the country to the south.


Syria contact group to hold first meeting in Cairo – Iran

The foreign ministers of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey will hold their first high-level meeting on the Syrian conflict in Cairo on Monday, Iranian news agency IRNA reported. Egyptian President Mohammad Morsi and Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi are expected to conduct a separate bilateral meeting, the report said. The UN-Arab League peace envoy to Syria, Lakhdar Brahimi, will supposedly attend part of the foreign ministers' meeting, Iranian agency Fars reported. Iran hopes to expand the contact group to include its allies Iraq and Venezuela, Salehi said.


Baghdad suicide bombing kills 4

­A suicide bomber in a car packed with explosives set off a blast near the entrance to Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone. The explosion killed four and wounded 11.


Pakistan tests nuclear-capable missile – military

Islamabad successfully test-fired a cruise missile capable of carrying a nuclear warhead, the Pakistani military claimed. On Monday, a specially equipped vehicle at an undisclosed location test-fired the Hatf-VII ‘Babur’ missile, the army said in a statement. The missile reportedly possesses a range of 700 kilometers, stealth features and can cruise close to the ground. Senior army officials and scientists attended the test launch.


Hundreds in violent protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, over anti-Islam film

Hundreds of Afghans engaged in a violent protest in Kabul over the anti-Islamic film ‘Innocence of Muslims,’ AFP quoted local police as saying. Protests over the film have swept the Muslim world, taking place around the globe since last Tuesday.


US, Japan agree on new missile defense system

­US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta announced that Washington and Tokyo have agreed to install a new missile defense system in Japan, in a bid to counter North Korea. With tensions rising between Tokyo and Beijing over the Sekaku (Diaoyu) Islands, officials claimed that this system is not directed against China. The US assumed responsibility for Japan’s defense in 1951 after signing a post-WWII security treaty.


Mass destruction as Typhoon Sanba hits Korea

­Tens of thousands of people have been forced to evacuate, and hundreds of sea and air passenger services were canceled, as a powerful typhoon made landfall in southern South Korea on Monday. With winds reaching 155 kilometers per hour, it left more than 10,000 homes without power and damaged road networks. No casualties have so far been reported. Sanba is expected to hit the Russian Far East by September 18th.


Soyuz lands in Kazakhstan after ISS mission

­The Soyuz TMA-04M spacecraft carrying Russia's Gennady Padalka and Sergei Revin, as well as NASA astronaut Joseph Acaba, has landed in Kazakhstan. The international trio has spent 124 days in space as part of the Expedition 32 mission to the International Space Station. After the successful landing, Russian cosmonaut Yury Malenchenko, NASA astronaut Williams and Japan’s Akihiko Hoshide remain on the ISS.


Territorial dispute in E. China Sea hits US radar

­Washington is concerned that the territorial dispute in the East China Sea between Japan and China could drag other nations into the conflict. "I am concerned that when these countries engage in provocations of one kind or another, over these various islands, that it raises the possibility that a misjudgment on one side or the other could result in violence, and could result in conflict – and that conflict would then … have the potential of expanding," US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters. The Senkaku/ Diaoyu islands have been the source of a territorial dispute for over a week now with demonstrations taking place across China.


More than a dozen Mexican government sites hacked

­Hackers in Mexico have hijacked more than a dozen websites belonging to political parties and local governments. The group Ciber Protesta Mexicana says its criticism of the Mexican government on the nation's Independence Day is not connected to the international Anonymous movement. Hacked pages displayed a black screen with text denouncing violence in Mexico, the July 1st election results and President-elect Enrique Pena Nieto.