The US Congress has green-lit $50.5 billion in emergency relief for the victims of Superstorm Sandy after a 62-36 Senate vote; it passed through the House two weeks ago. The measure has been sent to President Barack Obama for final approval. The package is meant to aid homeowners and businesses affected by the October 2012 storm, in addition to funding some local government projects. Sandy resulted in over 130 deaths and is thought to be behind billions of dollars in property damage.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has approved an $18.4 million loan for Mali in an effort to aid the stabilization of the African state economy over the next 12 months. The IMF hopes that the endorsement will prompt other donors such as the World Bank, the African Development Bank and France to provide financial assistance. The war-torn country faces a $110 million budget deficit unless the development aid starts floating from donors, the IMF said.
A search-and-rescue mission is underway in northern Italy after a control tower in the Aviano air base lost contact with a US F-16 fighter jet at around 1900 GMT on Monday, ANSA state news agency reported. The Italian coast guard joined the search mission as the jet is presumed to have gone down in the Adriatic Sea, ANSA reported without citing its sources. The status of the pilot is unknown and airbase officials have so far refused to comment.
At least two people have been wounded after a small car bomb exploded in Beirut, local media reports. According to officials the blast took place next to an office belonging to the Shiite Muslim Amal, opponents of Hezbollah in Lebanon. Following the explosion, the local militia caused panic by firing live ammunition in the Hay el-Sellom district.
Saudi Arabia is to build separation walls to segregate sexes at locations that employ both men and women, local media reported on Monday. The order issued by the country’s labor minister requires that a barrier be taller than 1.6 meters. The decision follows December’s criticism by the head of the religious police of the labor ministry, saying that women have been harassed at their workplace.
The British embassy in the Libyan capital say it was aware of reports of a potential threat against it. The announcement comes just days after London strongly recommended its citizens to leave the city of Benghazi due to the "specific and imminent threat" against Westerners. Fears of an attack on British nationals have mounted since at least 38 hostages were killed in after the In Amenas gas plant, near the Libyan border, was taken by armed militants. Libyan officials said they did not know about such reported threats, with the British embassy yet to elaborate on the situation.
The Japanese government loosened safety standards in 2008 to facilitate production of Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner with its made-in-Japan technology. Sources close to the matter told Reuters the decision was made by an advisory panel to Japan's transport ministry due to strong pressure from All Nippon Airways (ANA) and Japan Airlines (JAL). The ministry was also being urged to support Japanese firms that supply 35 per cent of the components for the 787. There is no evidence the revised standards contributed to the current technical problems experienced by the Dreamliner, from fuel leaks to battery meltdowns.
Russia will help financially-troubled Cyprus, but only after the EU agrees to pay the biggest part of the potential bailout, Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev told a leading German business newspaper. Speaking to the paper in Davos the PM said "We think the main burden to solve these problems should be taken on by Cyprus and the EU states. But we are not refusing to help under certain conditions." Preliminary estimates of a draft bailout deal put the bill at 10 billion euros. Nicosia has also recently asked Russia for a five-year extension to repay the 2.5 billion euro loan it took out in 2011, which was originally due in 2016.
An earthquake with 6.6 magnitude rocked eastern Kazakhstan on Monday night, the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre reported. The epicenter of the quake was registered 227 km to the east of Almaty at a depth of 2 km. The quake was shortly followed by two aftershocks. There is no information about potential casualties or damage to property.
At least 11 soldiers have died in central Yemen after a car bomb exploded next to a military checkpoint, a local security official said. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said that one suicide bomber was inside the car. No one has claimed responsibility so far, but the security official suspected al-Qaeda involvement. The blast took place in the town of Radda - 85 kilometers from the capital Sanaa – which is believed to have become a base for al-Qaeda in the last year or two.
French and Malian troops have seized control of the city of Timbuktu, AFP reports. Troops surrounded the city after capturing the airport from militant Islamists. Earlier Monday, rebels burnt down a Timbuktu library full of ancient manuscripts before fleeing the area. French and Malian troops have been pushing against Islamist rebels who seized the north of the country last year, imposing strict Sharia law on residents.
The African Union will contribute US$50 million to the International Mission of Support in Mali (MISMA), Burkina Faso President Blaise Compaore said Monday. The contribution is part of the estimated $360 million needed for the operation of African-led MISMA, delegates attending the two-day AU summit in Addis Ababa say, Xinhua reported. The post-operation restructuring of the Malian army may require another $300 million. A dozen African nations will bring the total of troops for the operation to 5,000 or 6,000, Compaore said.
A suicide car bomber killed eight soldiers and wounded 10 in southern Yemen on Monday, local officials said. The attack at an army checkpoint in the town of Radda was likely a retaliatory move by Al-Qaeda militants, Reuters quoted an official as saying. Yemeni forces earlier in the day shelled insurgents in the southern province of al-Bayda.
Police have arrested an owner of a Brazilian nightclub where 231 people were killed in a blaze early Sunday, a police official said Monday. An arrest warrant was issued for another owner of the Kiss club, said police official Michele Vimmerman. “There were three temporary detentions,” Vimmermann said. Two members of a musical group also were arrested, AFP reported. Survivors said the fire was started by the group's pyrotechnics.
Eight people were killed by gunmen in the town of Gajigana in remote northeastern Nigeria over the weekend, witnesses said. A spokesman for joint military and police forces in Borno state, Lieutenant Colonel Sagir Musa, confirmed the attack on the town, Reuters reported. The state is considered the center of a campaign of violence by Islamist sect Boko Haram. Gunmen killed 23 people in northern Nigeria last week in attacks targeting gamblers and people selling bush meat that Islamist militants disapprove of.
A militant group fighting alongside Syrian rebels claimed responsibility Monday for a suicide car bombing that reportedly killed dozens of people at the headquarters of a pro-government militia in the central province of Hama last week. Jabhat al-Nusra said in a statement posted online that one of its suicide bombers last Monday drove a truck packed with explosives to the militia's complex in the town of Salamiya and blew himself up. At least 42 people, mostly pro-Assad militiamen, were reportedly killed in the blast. The US says Jabhat al-Nusra has ties to Al-Qaeda and has declared it a terrorist organization.
The Palestinian militant group Hamas’ political leader has said that reconciliation talks with the rival Fatah faction are on track and will resume in Egypt on February 9. Khaled Mashaal admitted that “obstacles” over crucial issues such as elections and a future government remain. “We've made good steps in our previous reconciliation talks and we have a timetable to follow,” he told reporters in the Jordanian capital Amman on Monday. He was speaking to reporters following talks on Palestinian reconciliation with Jordan's King Abdullah II.
Islamist militants attacked an oil pipeline on Monday in the Algerian region of Djebahia, some 70km east of the capital Algiers, and killed two Algerian guards, a security source said. Seven people had been wounded in the attack, the source told Reuters. “In comparison to the In Amenas attack, this is a very minor event,” he added, referring to the hostage crisis at a gas plant earlier this month. The region is a stronghold of Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb.
Intense flooding in southern Mozambique has displaced thousands of people, the UN said on Monday. “The official figure is 150,000 people displaced in Gaza province,” UN spokeswoman Patricia Nakell told AFP. A flood surge devastated large areas of the low-lying southern province last Wednesday, provoking a mass exodus. The flooding has killed at least 40 people and is expected to spread further. Aid agencies and the government have set up temporary camps.
Iran has successfully sent a monkey into space, state TV said on Monday. The monkey was reportedly sent up in a Pishtam, or Explorer, rocket to a height of 120km. The monkey returned safely, the reports said, without giving details. Iran seeks to send an astronaut into space as part of an aerospace program. In 2010, Tehran said it launched a rocket into space carrying a mouse, turtle and worms. Western states worry the technology from the space program could be used to develop long-range missiles.
Islamist fighters fleeing Mali's ancient Saharan city of Timbuktu set fire to a South African-funded library containing thousands of priceless manuscripts, the city's mayor said on Monday. “The rebels sit fire to the newly-constructed Ahmed Baba Institute built by the South Africans,” Halle Ousmane told Reuters. This happened four days ago, he added. It was not clear how extensive the damage to the building was. French and Malian troops were securing the city on Monday.
A Delhi Juvenile Justice Board on Monday ruled that one of the six accused in the Delhi gang-rape case is a juvenile and will be tried in the case as a minor. The board has accepted a school certificate to prove the youth is 17 years old, media reports say. The Delhi Police had asked the board to allow a bone ossification test to determine his exact age. As a minor, he can face up to a maximum of three years in a juvenile remand home. Prosecutors will appeal a higher court against the decision.
At least 10 people were killed and 11 others injured after a freight train collided with a bus at a crossing in northeastern China on Monday morning. The accident near the city of Heihe in Heilongjiang province came at the start of an annual travel rush ahead of next month's Lunar New Year holiday. The crossing has no gates and a guard assigned to warn vehicles of coming trains was not at his post.
Tverskoy District Court in Moscow on Monday appointed a legal team to defend former Hermitage Capital fund lawyer Sergey Magnitsky in his posthumous trial. His family and lawyers refused to attend the hearing, calling the trial illegal because it was resumed without agreement from the relatives. Magnitsky died aged 37 after 358 days in jail on suspicion of tax evasion and fraud. Hermitage Capital maintains he was killed because he was investigating a US$230 million theft by law enforcement and tax officials.
Beijing said Monday it has successfully tested a heavy air force freighter Y-20. The plane took off from its development base near the northwestern city of Xi'an on Saturday, media reports say. The plane compares to the US Air Force's C-17 cargo planes and can fly 44,000km with 66 tonnes of freight. It was designed to fill the need for a stronger, long-range heavy lift capacity. China now uses Russian IL-76 freighters, which were first built in the 1970s. The Y-20 will use Russian jet engines until China develops replacements.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said the next round of talks between Tehran and six world powers has been delayed because Western states and Iran cannot agree on the venue. The Russian side is ready to discuss the Iranian nuclear problem anywhere, he said Monday. The essence of the talks is more important than any environment that a certain venue could offer, he added. Moscow hopes that the participants of negotiations will “stop behaving like little children” and settle the venue issue, he said.
Tehran has denied Western media reports of an explosion at the country’s Fordow nuclear facility. Deputy Head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization (AEOI) Seyyed Shamseddin Barbroudi on Monday dismissed the allegations as "sheer lies," reiterating that there has been no explosion at the facility, Press TV said. Chairman of Iran's Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee Alaeddin Boroujerdi described the “false” report as the West’s propaganda stunt ahead of the nuclear negotiations between Iran and the six world powers.
French and Malian forces took control of the airport in Timbuktu, northern Mali, overnight, France 24 quotes a Malian officer as saying. The French-led forces are preparing to continue their advance and take the rest of the town on Monday. Timbuktu was taken under the control of the Islamist militants in June 2012. The French and Malian forces encountered no resistance when approaching the city. A day earlier the troops were able to seize the town of Gao, east of Timbuktu.
The signing of a peace deal for troubled eastern Democratic Republic of Congo was "canceled" Monday, United Nations officials said. The M23 a rebel group formed by army mutineers briefly seized Goma in November and still control significant territory. “Talks are still continuing,” AFP quoted Eri Kaneko, a spokeswoman for UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, as saying. Leaders from Africa's Great Lakes region were expected to sign an agreement aimed at ending recurrent unrest in the mineral-rich eastern DR Congo.
A gunman opened fire at the Twilight Exit bar in Seattle's Central District on Sunday night, wounding two people, media reports say. The suspected shooter was reportedly shot after being confronted by officers and died at the scene. The gunman opened fire about 10:15pm local time and hit two people. A man is said to have been shot in the left leg and was rushed to Harborview Medical Center. The second bar victim, a 20-year-old woman, was shot multiple times in the legs and also rushed to Harborview.
Authorities in Iran have reportedly arrested 11 journalists after accusing them of cooperation with foreign-based Persian-language media organizations. The 11, who were taken into custody late on Sunday, are from six different news organizations, including four daily papers, a weekly and the semi-official ILNA news agency, the AP said. Iran has in recent years denounced foreign Persian-language media organizations, describing them as arms of US and British intelligence agencies. Tehran has also warned of severe repercussions for journalists and activists over contacts with the outlets.
Myanmar has cleared its arrears to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank and secured a huge debt write-off by the Paris Club creditor countries. On Monday, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the arrears owed to it had been cleared with the help of Japan, Reuters reported. The government also said the creditors in the Paris Club had agreed to cancel half of the arrears Myanmar owed them in two stages, rescheduling the rest over 15 years. “These agreements result in total debt relief of around US$6 billion, that is, more than 60 per cent of total debt,” the government said.
Two barges loaded with crude oil struck the Vicksburg Railroad Bridge in Mississippi, causing an oil spill in the Mississippi River. The US Coast Guard said the tank which was leaking contained 80,000 gallons of crude oil. It is unclear how much of this has been lost as a result of the collision, which occurred on Sunday. Oil booms have been set up around the barges, and the US Coast Guard stated that the spill has been ‘contained’.
Fifteen people have been rescued from a Russian fishing vessel that capsized in the Sea of Japan on Sunday, RIA-Novosti reports. Six crew members have been found dead, the Primorye Transportation Prosecutor’s Office said on Monday. The Chance-101 fishing boat with a crew of 30 on board, sank in Japanese waters 50 kilometers east of the Svetlaya village, in Russia's Primorye Territory. The crew included 19 Russians and 11 Indonesians. “As of now, 21 crew members were found [15 alive and six dead], while nine crew members are still missing,” a statement from the prosecutor’s office said.
Ariel Sharon, former Israeli prime minister who has been in a coma for the past seven years, has surprised his doctors by displaying "a certain degree of consciousness," Reuters reports citing an expert who examined him using an MRI scan. Describing the responses displayed by Sharon in the two-hour exam on Thursday as “encouraging,” the doctors remained skeptical of the chances that the former prime minister may soon wake up. "The chances of him getting out of bed are very, very slim," Alon Friedman, a neurological director at Israel's Soroka Medical Centre in Beersheba, said. The machine detected some brain activity when Sharon was shown pictures of his family and also asked to imagine his home, Friedman said. Sharon "might be awake, and there is a chance that he is conscious," though due to paralysis suffered as a result of his stroke he cannot respond physically, he added.