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2 November, 2012


US renews sanctions against Sudan

The US government has renewed its economic sanctions on Sudan citing unresolved conflicts, such as Darfur. The US State Department noted that Khartoum has made progress in resolving a number of outstanding issues with South Sudan but stressed other ongoing conflicts pose a threat to regional stability and hamper relations with the US. “The ongoing conflict in Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile, and Darfur continue to threaten regional stability and the human rights and humanitarian crises there – including the lack of humanitarian access – are very serious. Outstanding issues with South Sudan, such as the final status of Abyei, also pose such a threat.” In response Sudan slammed US President Barack Obama for the decision, claiming that Washington intended to "harm the vital interests of the people of Sudan.


6.1 quake hits Philippines

A 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit the Philippines island of Mindanao early on Saturday, the US Geological Survey reports. The epicenter of the tremor was located at a depth of 38.1 km, 7 km from the city of Burgos. There has been no immediate reports of damage or casualties.


Northern Malian separatists send peace delegation - report

One of Mali’s most powerful factions has sent diplomatic teams to Algeria and Burkina Faso to negotiate with official Malian representatives, AFP reports. “Currently we have a delegation on its way to Ouagadougou and a second on its way to Algiers,” an aide to Ansar Dine leader Iyad Ag Ghaly said on condition of anonymity. Ansar Dine is one of the three groups that has controlled Northern Mali since the country virtually broke up after a failed coup last March. The rebel factions have imposed strict Islamic law on the region, which includes stonings and whippings.


Egyptian President heads "shocking dictatorial force" – senior Israeli official

A highly-placed aide to Israeli defense minister Ehud Barak has lashed out at the Islamist forces which came to power in Egypt following last year’s Arab Spring. "From this democracy what has sprung is a shocking dictatorial force," Amos Gilad said during a security conference. "Where are all the young people who were demonstrating in Tahrir Square?They have vanished." The Defense Ministry has issued a statement distancing itself from the comments. The election of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt after decades of secularist rule has inflamed rhetoric against neighboring Israel, with whom the country has a long-standing peace treaty.


Response to Benghazi consulate attack was a CIA operation – report

The response to  the US consulate attack in Benghazi, which claimed the life of Ambassador Chris Stevens on September 11th, was predominantly an intelligence operation, according to a report in the Wall Street Journal. Sources claim that two out of the four people killed in the attack, and 23 out of the 30 evacuated, were under CIA command. The US administration has been repeatedly challenged about the apparent lack of security at the site, and the report claims that a mix-up between the CIA and State Department branch of the consulate enabled militants to attain easy access to the consulate.


Egyptian Islamists protest, demand Islamic law in new constitution

More than a 1,000 Egyptian Islamists have protested in Tahrir Square in central Cairo calling for the implementation of Sharia law. Demonstrators chanted “The people want God's rule implemented." A larger demonstration is planned next Friday. References to Islamic law in Egypt’s new constitution have split the nation into two rival camps. Liberals believe that if strong language that will enshrine Islamic law is included, it would turn Egypt to a theocracy, putting civil freedoms in danger.


Iran must investigate female inmate abuse – Amnesty International

­Human rights group Amnesty International has called on Iran to set up an investigation into the mistreatment of female prisoners, after claiming that nine inmates in the country went on hunger strike. The women are supposedly detained at Tehran’s Evin prison, linked to a series of previous scandals and complaints of “degrading treatment” by female guards. Amnesty says all nine are political prisoners and has called for their release.


Japan regulators check Ohi nuclear plant for fault line

Japanese nuclear regulators inspected ground structures at the country’s only operating nuclear power plant on Friday to find if an existing fault line is active. The No. 3 and No. 4 reactors of the Ohi plant in western Japan went back online in July, AP said. All 50 other Japanese reactors went offline for inspection after the meltdown crisis at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear plant in 2011. If a five-member team, led by regulatory commissioner Kunihiko Shimazaki, judges the fault that cuts across the plant is active, Ohi will be closed.


Remains of 110 Napoleonic soldiers buried in Belarus

French Ambassador Michel Raineri has attended a burial ceremony for 110 Napoleonic soldiers in Belarus on Friday. Tens of thousands of French troops died in November 1812. The Russians then attacked French Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte's army as it was crossing the Berezina River on retreat from Moscow. The remains were excavated by a Belarusian Defense Ministry unit. On Friday, they were buried at a cemetery in the village of Studenka, 100km east of the capital, Minsk, AP reported. Belarusian authorities have buried hundreds of remains of Napoleonic soldiers found in the same area in previous years.


Cuba accuses US diplomats on island of subversive activities

Cuba has denounced the US diplomatic mission on the island over “subversive activities” designed to undermine the government of Raul Castro. The Foreign Ministry accused the Americans of illegal classes inside the US Interests Section, and providing internet service without permission, AP said. Participants of the classes are trained to work against Cuba’s interests, the ministry said in a statement published on Friday. The US maintains the Interests Section instead of an embassy and such services have long been provided for Cubans.


Halloween bombing in Colombia leaves 37 injured, 2 bombers killed

A suitcase bomb exploded near a town square in Pradera where 5,000 children were celebrating Halloween, killing two suspected bombers and injuring 37 people, Colombian authorities said. Two boys were hospitalized in critical condition Thursday, AP reported. The two killed were suspected members of a drug-trafficking band allied with rebels from the leftist Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, the regional police chief, Col. Nelson Ramirez, said. They were carrying the suitcase on a bicycle two blocks from the central square of Pradera, in Valle del Cauca state, as the bomb apparently went off prematurely.


Syrian TV says 16 injured in Damascus twin blasts

Twin blasts struck a district of Damascus on Friday and have left 16 people injured, Syrian state-TV said. The explosions occurred in the Zahera area. Witnesses say the two explosive devices went off in swift succession. The blasts were followed by intense shooting.


Hong Kong police arrest 119 in untaxed cigarettes crackdown

Authorities in Hong Kong announced on Friday that they had arrested 119 people and seized 3 million untaxed cigarettes from smugglers running home delivery services of the illicit smokes. Smuggling groups have recently begun sending flyers to public housing estates advertising the cut rate smokes for order by telephone, following a crackdown on the stores. The arrests and seizures in 96 separate cases were carried out from April to October, AP reported. The seized cigarettes were worth US$930,000. In the first 10 months of 2012, 55 million illicit cigarettes worth $17.4 million were seized and 208 distribution centers broken up. Buying or selling untaxed cigarettes in Hong Kong leads to a fine of up to $130,000 and up to two years in prison.


Four Afghan police killed in Helmand insider attack

Four police officers have been shot dead in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province in an insider attack by their colleagues, officials say. The shooting occurred at a police outpost during a shift change, Mohammad Toryali, police chief of Grish district, said on Friday, as cited by AP. The officers on duty were killed by four of their colleagues, he said, adding that the killers fled.


Nigeria ‘open’ to talks with Boko Haram Islamists

Nigeria authorities said Friday that they are willing to end the Boko Haram insurgency through dialogue. “President Jonathan had made it clear that if the people behind Boko Haram are ready to come forward, and table their grievances, then government will be willing to listen,” spokesman for President Goodluck Jonathan, Reuben Abati, told AFP. Abu Mohammed Ibn Abdulaziz, a man who identified himself as a Boko Haram representative, told reporters on Thursday by teleconference that the group was not challenging the Nigerian state and proposed peace talks in Saudi Arabia. His credibility is in question and it was not clear if he was representing Abubakar Shekau, the presumed insurgent leader who has been designated a global terrorist by the US.


Syria executions video by rebels evidence of ‘war crimes’ – UN

A video allegedly showing rebels executing Syrian soldiers shows “war crimes” that could be used as evidence, the UN human rights body said Friday. “It is very likely that this was a war crime, another one,” AFP quoted Rupert Colville, spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay, as saying. He was referring to a video posted on YouTube of what appeared to be Syrian rebels beating around 10 soldiers and executing them with automatic rifles. “Accountability will follow,” Colville said, calling on all parties in the conflict to respect international law.


Refusal to open criminal case over Dubrovka hostage operation illegal – court

The Lefortovsky District Court in Moscow on Friday called investigators’ refusal to open a criminal case against the officials who led the operation to free hostages in the Dubrovka theater in 2002 “illegal”. “The hostages were hurt and died as a result of the negligence and abuse of power by the officials who organized storming the center, not at the hands of the terrorists,” Interfax quoted Igor Trunov, a lawyer for the victims, as saying. The lawyers demanded that the Investigative Committee open a criminal case, citing a decision by the European Court of Human Rights. Some 130 hostages died, and families of the victims accused the authorities of using a poisonous gas during the operation.


Russia Northern Fleet in anti-submarine warfare drill in Barents Sea

The Russian Northern Fleet has practiced weapon employment in an anti-submarine drill in the Barents Sea, Northern Fleet spokesman Yevgeny Kirillov said on Friday. “The naval maneuvers involved a task force from the Severomorsk and Admiral Chabanenko anti-submarine warfare ships,” he told Interfax. Kamov Ka-27 anti-submarine helicopters and Tupolev Tu-142 maritime reconnaissance and anti-submarine warfare aircraft were also taking part. Crews practiced techniques for fighting hostile warships, repelling air attacks, performed torpedo and antisubmarine bomb firing exercises.


Magnitude 4.5 earthquake hits south of Masset, Canada

An earthquake with magnitude 4.5 was recorded 182km south of Masset, Canada, the US Geological Survey said on Friday. The depth was reportedly 10km. On October 28, a magnitude 7.7 earthquake struck off the west coast of Canada, but there were no reports of major damage.


Nigeria outlaws sorcery charges for kids

­A law that makes it illegal to accuse children of witchcraft and sorcery has been adopted in the Nigerian state of Akwa Ibom. Children were branded witches in the region for many years, but the authorities in Akwa Ibom spent large sums of money to deal with the issue. Some activists who tackled the problem said that churches were to blame for the accusations.


World Bank resumes aid to Myanmar after 25 years

The World Bank has approved an $80 million grant for Myanmar to support its reforms. The first assistance after a quarter-century absence will go for infrastructure projects in villages in poor rural areas, the bank said on Friday. The focus will be on the most urgent needs in education, health, infrastructure and the private sector to boost job creation, AFP reported. The move followed the decision of the board of directors in Washington to approve a new strategy for helping the country. The World Bank closed its Yangon office in 1987.


Investigation of criminal case into Hermitage Capital’s Magnitsky over

The investigation of the criminal case over Sergey Magnitsky, the lawyer of the Hermitage Capital Foundation, who was accused of dodging tax payments and died at a pre-trial detention center, is over. The news was announced by investigative sources in the Russian Interior Ministry. It was also confirmed by the foundation, which said its lawyers were unable to further study the materials of the case. Investigative sources told RIA Novosti they sent the case to prosecutors to bring an indictment and said the defense lawyers were only limited in time to study the materials. The investigation was suspended after Magnitsky died in 2009, but it was resumed later. Investigators said he failed to receive timely medical treatment.


Ahmadinejad backs down in judiciary clashes after Khamenei criticism

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has backed down from a public dispute with his country's judiciary, saying he will focus instead on alleviating pressures over Western sanctions. The retreat comes a day after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned government officials and politicians against public disputes, AP said. Ahmadinejad had publicly criticized Iran's judiciary chief last week for rejecting his request to visit Evin prison, where an aide is being held. In a letter to Khamenei, Ahmadinejad pledged to end the dispute.


Russian Pacific Fleet ships leave for anti-piracy mission in Gulf of Aden

A squadron of Russia’s Pacific Fleet ships has left the Far-Eastern port of Vladivostok for its anti-piracy mission in the Gulf of Aden. The squadron includes the destroyer Marshal Shaposhnikov, tanker Irkut and rescue boat Alatau, Itar-Tass said on Friday, citing the fleet's press service. The ships, led by Rear Admiral Vladimir Vdovenko, will call in at the Indian port of Mumbai and will hold joint naval drills with India's Navy. The squadron, which includes an air group with two Ka-27 helicopters and marine infantry divisions, is also expected to visit ports of Thailand, South Korea, Djibouti and Seychelles.


Polish paper editor resigns over article on presidential plane crash

The editor-in-chief of Polish newspaper Rzeczpospolita, Tomasz Wrobelewski, has resigned over a controversial article on the 2010 plane crash that killed eight crew and 88 passengers, including then Polish President Lech Kaczynski. The article published on October 30 claimed explosives were found at the scene of the crash, but Polish military prosecutors immediately refuted the report. Wrobelewski said in a notice on the paper’s website that he was stepping down to protect the newspaper’s “good name,” RIA Novosti reported.


Japan accuses US airman of assaulting young boy on Okinawa

Tokyo suspects a US airman of assaulting a young boy on the southern Japanese island of Okinawa on Friday. Authorities said the airman, 24, is suspected of entering an apartment and punching the 13-year-old boy before breaking a TV set and trying to escape through a third-floor window. The airman fell and was taken to a military hospital, AP reported. The incident comes just two weeks after a curfew was imposed on all 52,000 US troops in Japan. The move followed the arrest of two Navy sailors for allegedly raping a local woman.


Over 1 million face food shortages in Haiti after Sandy

More than a million people in Haiti have been left short of food, after the country was battered by Hurricane Sandy, a senior United Nations humanitarian official said Thursday, UN News Centre reports. Johan Peleman, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs’ (OCHA) operation in Haiti, said that relief workers are still consolidating data of the destruction caused by the storm and a full picture of the situation will take some time. Between 15,000 and 20,000 people have seen their houses completely destroyed, damaged or flooded as a result of the storm, he added.


UN chief expresses concern over Bahrain’s ban on protests

The UN's chief has voiced concern over restrictions Bahraini authorities have imposed on public demonstrations and other public gatherings, UN News Centre reports. “The Secretary-General believes these restrictions could aggravate the situation in the country and urges the Government of Bahrain to lift them without delay,” General-Secretary Ban Ki-moon’s spokesperson said. Ban also called on protesters to “ensure that any demonstrations are, in fact, peaceful,” the spokesperson added, noting that “recent violence that reportedly killed two police officers is unacceptable.” Bahraini authorities prohibited protest gatherings and rallies on October 30, a day after police cracked down heavily on demonstrators, once again during the 20-month fatality-riddled unrest. Meanhwile on Thursday a civil court sentenced an online activist to six months in prison on charges of insulting the Gulf nation's king in Twitter posts. The activist, whose name was not released, was among four people arrested last month for allegedly defaming Bahrain's Sunni monarch.