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17 October, 2012


Colombian government and FARC rebels arrive in Oslo for peace talks

­The representatives of the Colombian government and FARC rebel group have arrived in Oslo as the sides are preparing to start peace talks in efforts to end the longest-running conflict in Latin America, AFP reports. The negotiations – their first peace talks in a decade - will begin at an undisclosed location near Oslo on Thursday. "The two parties are here," a source in Oslo told the news agency on Wednesday. Next week more in-depth negotiations will be held in the Cuban capital of Havana. Over the past 50 years the conflict between Colombian authorities and leftist guerillas has claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.


Turkey retaliates after Syrian mortar shell lands in border province

Turkey’s armed forces have fired back against Syria after a mortar shell landed inside Turkey's Hatay border province, the provincial governor’s office said in a statement. No injuries or deaths were caused. Turkey began retaliating earlier this month when Syrian mortar shells killed five people in the Turkish border town of Akcakale. The country’s foreign minister has warned that Turkey will respond forcefully to every Syrian shell that lands on Turkish soil.


Texas man pleads guilty in plot to kill Saudi ambassador

­A US man with an Iranian passport has pleaded guilty to charges he had planned to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador. Manssor Arbabsiar entered the plea in the US District Court in Manhattan. Arbabsiar had been charged in a $1.5 million plot to kill the ambassador at a restaurant by setting off explosives. President Barack Obama's administration has accused agents of the Iranian government of being involved in the plot. A trial had been scheduled for January.


Egypt's new ambassador to Israel says Cairo committed to peace treaty

Egypt's new ambassador to Israel Atef Mohamed Salem Sayed Elahl took up his post on Wednesday. “I came with a message of peace and… we are committed to all the agreements we signed with Israel,” he said on presenting his credentials to President Shimon Peres. Egypt signed a peace treaty with Israel in 1979. New Jordanian ambassador Walid Khalid Abdullah Obeidat also formally took up his post on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The post had been empty for the past two years, in apparent Jordanian displeasure over the collapse of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks. Jordan signed a peace accord with Israel in 1994.


Zimmerman trial date set for June 10

A Florida judge on Wednesday set a June 10, 2013 date for the trial of George Zimmerman. He has pleaded not guilty on grounds of self-defense after being charged of second-degree murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin. The 17-year-old was killed in February at a gated community. The trial is likely to last three weeks. Debra S. Nelson, the new judge to the case, was appointed in late August. An appeals' court found that the former judge made disparaging remarks about Zimmerman's character and advocated for additional charges against him.


Policeman killed, 9 wounded in Kenya grenade blast

A Kenyan police officer was killed and nine others wounded Wednesday after suspected Islamists hurled a grenade at them during a house raid. Eight officers were seriously injured, regional police Chief Aggrey Adoli told AFP. The attackers may be Kenyan supporters of neighboring Somalia’s Shebab, an Al-Qaeda linked insurgent group. Police had reportedly shot dead one of the attackers, while the other was killed by one of his own grenades. The raid was carried out after a tip-off in the coastal Likoni region, just south of Kenya's main port Mombasa.


Armstrong steps down from charity

Lance Armstrong has stepped down as chairman of the charity he founded, Livestrong, the foundation said on Wednesday. The US anti-doping officials earlier issued a report detailing his use of performance-enhancing drugs for years as a premier cyclist. Separately, one of his corporate sponsors, Nike Inc. has ended its sponsorship of Armstrong, Reuters reported.


Russian sailors, Estonian abducted off Nigeria

Unidentified assailants have boarded the Liberty 249 ship off Nigeria and took six Russia nationals and one Estonian citizen hostage, the ship owner Bourbon of France announced on Wednesday. The incident took place on October 15, Interfax reported. The ship, which was not hijacked, is heading to the Nigerian port of Onne in the Niger River Delta.


UN Syria envoy calls on Assad government to start truce

The international envoy on Syria conflict called on Damascus on Wednesday to take the lead in a proposed ceasefire during a Muslim holiday later this month. Lakhdar Brahimi said in Beirut that if the Syrian government takes the first step, everyone he has talked to in the opposition will also observe the truce. Damascus earlier cited as the biggest barrier to a proposed truce the lack of a unified rebel leadership to agree to it. Both sides have ignored truce agreements in the past. Brahimi acknowledged that such a truce would be a “microscopic” step to end the conflict.


Five found dead at Fero's Bar fire in Denver

Firefighters responding to fire at Fero's Bar & Grill in Denver have discovered five people dead inside. Denver police Det. John White confirmed the deaths, AP said. The fire at the bar was reported early Wednesday.


Aide to leading Russian opposition activist detained

Konstantin Lebedev, an aide to the Russian opposition Left Front leader Sergey Udaltsov, was detained on Wednesday, Udaltsov’s lawyer Violetta Volkova said. Lebedev was detained under a criminal case dealing with preparations for the organization of mass riots. Volkova said on Twitter she had no doubts that Udaltsov will also be detained. Udaltsov was delivered to the Investigative Committee on Wednesday for questioning. The committee said earlier the same day that it had opened a criminal case against Udaltsov and a number of other opposition activists into preparations for mass riots.


Kurdish rebels vow reprisal if Turkey attacks Syrian Kurds

Turkey's Kurdish rebels will retaliate against any Turkish attacks on Kurds in Syria, the second in command of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) said. “Turkey should stay out of this conflict and stop its scheming,” Murat Karayilan, who heads the PKK in the absence of its jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan, told Swiss daily Le Temps. The PKK “will support the Syrian Kurds,” he said an interview published Wednesday. “If the Turkish army attacks them... we will carry out very violent reprisals on Turkish territory.” Many of Syria’s more than 2 million Kurds have remained distanced from the rebels fighting the Syrian government. Karayilan also said the PKK “absolutely remains open to all negotiations” with Ankara.


US embassy in Stockholm evacuated over suspect envelope scare

The US embassy in Stockholm was evacuated on Wednesday, a spokesman for the mission said. “We’ve evacuated the embassy while we are investigating a possible security incident,” AFP quoted Jeff Anderson as saying. “We are working together with the Swedish authorities,” the spokesman added. Swedish police said that a patrol had been dispatched to the embassy after “a letter with unidentified content had arrived at the embassy.” The letter contained an unidentified white powder, news agency TT reported.


400 plants and animals added to threatened ‘Red List’

Over 400 plants and animals were added on Wednesday, to the “Red List” of species threatened with extinction. Of the 20,219 species now on the list, 4,088 are critically endangered, AFP said, citing a report of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Nearly 6,000 others were considered endangered, while more than 10,000 species were listed as vulnerable. IUCN Global Director for Biodiversity Conservation Jane Smart stressed that 25 per cent of the world's mammals, 13 per cent of birds and 41 per cent of amphibians are at risk of extinction.


Greeks launch 2 days of strikes against new austerity cuts

Greek protesters on Wednesday started a two-day round of strikes against austerity cuts. Associations of lawyers, notaries, pharmacists and doctors will walk off the job ahead of a general strike on Thursday called by the country's main unions, AFP said. Journalists staged a one-day walkout. “Wage-earners and pensioners have exclusively borne the weight of the economic crisis while the tax cheats who created it are in the clear,” said leading union GSEE, which represents private sector employees. It will be the fourth general strike this year against Greece’s economic policies.


Three Turkish soldiers killed in Kurdish militants’ attacks

Kurdish militants attacked military outposts in southeast Turkey overnight, killing three Turkish soldiers, security sources said. Guerrillas of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) launched the raids at Cukurca in Hakkari province, a mountainous area bordering Iraq and Iran, Reuters reported. The Turkish military were searching for the militants in the Turkey-Iraq border region.


Body of late Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk flown home from Beijing

The body of former Cambodian King Norodom Sihanouk was flown home from Beijing on Wednesday. Thousands of mourners lined roads to the airport in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, AP reported. The 89-year-old Sihanouk died in Beijing, where he had been receiving medical treatment since January. His body is expected to lie in state at the Royal Palace for three months. Sihanouk pioneered his nation through postwar independence. He served twice as king before abdicating the throne for good in 2004.


Up to 45 wounded in bomber attack on US-Afghan base - reports

Up to 45 Afghan soldiers were wounded after explosives placed in the vehicle were detonated near a major US-run base in the Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday morning. “The bomber detonated explosives right in front of a joint base shared by the Afghan army and foreign forces, wounding 45 soldiers,” Reuters quoted  the deputy governor for Paktia, Gul Rahman Mangal, as saying. Initial reports put the number of those injured at ten. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in the Zurmat district. Militants fired at the base after the explosion, the coalition said, adding that there were no NATO casualties.


Five dead, 30 wounded in bus crash in southern Russia

­A bus has collided with a car near Russia’s southern city of Stavropol, with five people killed and about 30 injured in the accident. According to the prosecutors, children were among those hurt. The crash happened at 6:10am local time (02:10 GMT).


Criminal case opened against Russian opposition activist

­Russia's Investigative Committee has launched criminal proceedings against opposition activist Sergey Udaltsov. The charges of “organizing mass disorder” are connected with the controversial footage of a secretly-recorded meeting, which was then broadcast in the documentary “Anatomy of a Protest-2”, first aired on October 5. If found guilty Udaltsov could face up to 10 years in jail.


One killed, 3 injured in helicopter crash in Siberia

One passenger was killed and three others injured in a helicopter crash at the Yurupchen-5 oilfield in the Krasnoyarsk territory of Siberia, the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry's local department said on Wednesday. The helicopter was carrying 12 people, including oilmen and two crew members, Interfax reported. According to initial reports, the helicopter hit an obstacle with its tail boom and fell.


Ten injured as suicide bomber hits US-Afghan base

A suicide car bomber blew up his vehicle near the gate of a US-Afghan Combat Outpost Zurmat in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday morning. Ten Afghan troops were injured, mostly by falling debris, AP said. Many of the injured soldiers were in rooms inside the base that collapsed, and the explosion shook houses nearly 3km away. It appeared that the bomber detonated his car before reaching the actual gate of the camp in Paktiya province's Zurmat district. There were no casualties among international forces.


24 Boko Haram members killed in Nigeria city – military

Nigeria’s military claimed on Tuesday that 24 Boko Haram members were killed in violence that rocked the city of Maiduguri after attacks launched by extremists. “All the attacks were repelled. Twenty-four Boko Haram terrorists were killed,” a military task force in the city said, as cited by AFP. There were reportedly no civilian casualties and one soldier was wounded. The military engaged suspected Boko Haram Islamists in gun battles through the night and into Tuesday following a spate of blasts and gunfire in a neighborhood seen as a stronghold of the Islamist insurgents.


Feds raid lab tied to meningitis outbreak

Federal agents raided the Massachusetts pharmacy connected to meningitis outbreak, which killed 16 people and infected 231 others, local police reported. Agents from US Food and Drug Administration along with police officers searched the New England Compounding Center (NECC) located in Boston’s suburb. The raid came as more meningitis cases were announced and a wider probe was called for into whether NECC had broken any of the federal laws when distributing the drugs.


Iran protest EU gagging of satellite TV

­Iran has slammed France's Eutelsat and Arqiva of Britain for their decision to stop broadcasting 19 Iranian state television channels, including Press TV in English and the Al-Alam channel in Arabic. Tehran called the move politically motivated, lacking legal justification and an attack on freedom of speech. The shut-down of satellite channels came on Monday as the EU imposed new sanctions against the Islamic Republic, including an embargo on import of Iranian natural gas.


US sailors arrested for alleged rape in Japan

­Japanese police have arrested two US sailors for the alleged rape of a Japanese woman in Okinawa. The two 23-year-old suspects were identified as Seaman Christopher Browning and Petty Officer 3rd Class Skyler Dozierwalker of the Fort Worth Naval Air Base in Texas. Japan has lodged a protest with the US Ambassador to the country, who pledged full cooperation with the investigation. Okinawa hosts some 25,000 American troops, and local population has on several times protested their presence due to noise, safety concerns and crime.