Security forces in Iraq have retaken most of the town of Jurf al-Sakhar near Baghdad from Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) militants, local officials said Saturday, Reuters reports. Retaking the town marks one the biggest gains for Iraqi authorities in months and could allow then to prevent the Sunni insurgents from getting to close to the capital and maintaining a link with the Sunni strongholds in Anbar province to the west of Baghdad as well as infiltrating the mainly Shiite south.
The head of British opposition Labour party in Scotland, Johann Lamont, has stood down, telling the Daily Record newspaper that she quit with immediate effect, a month after the Scotland independence referendum. Lamont was reportedly discontent about criticism of her within the party, and not enough autonomy for the Scottish wing of the party. Some Labour officials in Westminster "do not understand the politics they are facing," she told the newspaper, calling them "dinosaurs." "I am standing down so that the debate our country demands can take place," Lamont added. Her move comes ahead of national elections next May.
A 26-year old Iranian woman, who was convicted of murdering a man she has accused of raping her when she was a teenager, was hanged in Tehran’s Evin Prison Saturday, the official IRNA news agency reported. Reyhaneh Jabbari failed to get a reprieve from the victim’s relatives within the 10-day deadline stipulated by Sharia law, which has been in force in Iran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.
Russia is ready to help fight extremism, but has never struck any deals with the US-led coalition on exchange of intelligence concerning the Islamic State militant group, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in an interview with Sergey Brilyov of Rossiya 1 TV. “There is no agreement saying that we will exchange information in the framework of activity by the US-created so-called coalition for fighting the Islamic State. Likewise there’s no agreement on Russia sending experts to train the Iraqi army,” he said. Russia is according to Lavrov directly supporting governments of Syria and Iraq in their fight against the extremist organization.
The World Health Organization (WHO) reports 10,141 cases of the deadly Ebola virus have been registered through Thursday. The death toll from the outbreak rose to almost half of all infected, with 4,922 killed by the disease, WHO says. Eight countries have been affected, with several West African states suffering the most.
Egypt has declared a three-month state of emergency in parts of North Sinai, where 33 security personnel were killed in two attacks on Friday, according to Reuters. The first attack, killing 30 people, was a car bomb explosion, reportedly followed by militants firing rocket-propelled grenades, hitting a vehicle with ammunition, leading to another blast. Hours later, gunmen opened fire on a checkpoint, killing three more people. No one claimed responsibility for the attacks, but officials said they were similar to assaults carried out by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis (Champions of Jerusalem) militant group. Islamist militants have stepped up attacks in the Sinai Peninsula after the Egyptian military overthrew President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
A coalmine collapsed, killing 16 workers in Urumqi, a regional capital in China's northwest, Reuters reports citing the official Xinhua news agency. When the accident occurred on Friday night, 33 workers were in the mine, according to local officials. Eleven of them were injured and six escaped. It’s not yet clear what caused the accident, but Chinese mines have been notorious for poor safety conditions. In an effort to increase safety standards in the mining industry, China plans to shut down around 2,000 small coalmines by 2015.
A shallow, 5.2-magnitude earthquake struck northern Greece on Saturday, said the country's earthquake observatory. Starting 10km (6 miles) below ground at 3:16am (00:16 GMT), its epicenter was 20km (12 miles) from the northern town of Arta and 249km northeast of the capital, Athens, according to the observatory. No victims or damage have been reported. Earthquakes of various impacts occur regularly in Greece.