Egyptian state TV says six police officers and a border guard abducted by suspected militants in the Sinai Peninsula last week have been freed. Seven people were let go in the middle of the desert by their captors, AP reported. The military transported them back to the Egyptian capital, Cairo. The move followed an hours-long search operation launched by the country’s military.
The Interior Ministry of the Russian North Caucasus Republic of Dagestan has said that at least two people – a man and woman – perpetrated a twin bombing in Makhachakala on Monday. Police are continuing to search for the suspects, Interior Minister Abdurashid Magomedov said Wednesday. Four people were killed and 46 wounded by the explosions near a building of the Federal Bailiff Service’s branch.
Iranian authorities have barred two potentially powerful candidates from taking part in the coming presidential election. The other eight candidates are mostly hardline politicians loyal to clerical Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Reuters reported. The candidates who were denied participation are ex-President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is considered potentially sympathetic to reform, and Esfandiar Rahim Mashaie, a close aide to outgoing leader Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
A court in Russia’s Urals is set to hear a motion for release on parole by Pussy Riot member Maria Alekhina. The hearing follows an early release denial for Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova almost a month ago. Three members of the punk band were sentenced in August to two years behind bars for the infamous ‘punk prayer’ they performed in the main Russian Orthodox cathedral last year. One of the young women, Yekaterina Samutsevich, was granted release on parole in October.
Vano Merabishvili, the head of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s United National Movement party, has been charged with abuse of power, corruption and embezzlement of Interior Ministry funds. If convicted on the abuse of power charges, Merabishvili could face 7 to 12 years behind bars, according to prosecutors. The charges come after new Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili pledged to hold accountable officials in Saakashvili’s regime who abused their power.
North Korean state media has indicated that Supreme Leader Kim Jong-un has named Kim Kyok Sik, a hardline general, as the country’s new military chief. The news emerged in a dispatch from the North Korean Central News Agency, amid details of a delegation that was seeing off the country’s special envoy on a visit to China, AP reported. Kim Kyok Sik previously occupied the military chief’s post until 2009, and was also the country’s defense minister.
Australia is set to keep commandos and technical advisors in Afghanistan after most of its troops are withdrawn from the country by then end of 2013, Australian Minister for Defense Stephen Smith said after meeting with Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel. Canberra currently maintains 1,650 troops in Afghanistan, out of a total ISAF force in the country of about 100,000. After the ISAF withdraws, it will leave behind a non-combat mission of about 8,000-12,000 soldiers to assist Kabul in maintaining military and police preparedness.
The official North Korean Central News Agency announced a "special envoy" has been dispatched by Kim Jong Un bound for China on Wednesday. Though state media provided few details regarding the nature of the mission, it did mention the presence of Choe Ryong Hae, the country's top political officer overseeing North Korea's army. The timing of the trip could indicate it is related to the North's recent strain in relations with China, which is an economic and diplomatic lifeline, and has grown increasingly frustrated with the country's combative rhetoric against the US and South Korea. Earlier this month China's state-run Bank of China Ltd. announced that it had closed the accounts of the Foreign Trade Bank of North Korea and suspended all transactions. Kim Jong Un has yet to visit Beijing since assuming control of the country from his father, Kim Jong Il, who met with Chinese officials only a few months prior to his death.
Legislation aimed at overhauling the US immigration system is now headed to the Senate floor after approval from a key committee in the House of Representatives. The centerpiece of the bill, a 13-year pathway to citizenship for undocumented immigrants, managed to survive intact. A last-minute inclusion of increased access to high-tech visas secured the vote of an additional Republican senator at the Senate Judiciary Committee, which approved the plan by a 13-5 vote, with all Democrats voting in favor. The bill was drafted by four Democrats and four Republicans, and is being hailed as the most substantial change in immigration law since a 1986 reform under President Reagan. The legislation would create a low-skilled guest worker program allowing entrance into the US for three-year stays. In order to attract greater Republican support, the immigration bill directs an additional $4.5 billion increase for border security, including drones and border patrols.