Russia's Borei-class strategic nuclear submarine, the Aleksandr Nevsky, successfully launched a Bulava intercontinental ballistic missile, Russia's Ministry of Defense said in a Friday statement. The test launch was made from the Barents Sea firing range Kura, located on the Kamchatka Peninsula, from an underwater position. The test completes this year's launch series. Two more tests are to be conducted when Aleksandr Nevsky and the vessel Vladimir Monomakh join the Pacific Fleet in 2015.
The EU Council on Friday approved the introduction of new sanctions against 13 representatives of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk people’s republics in eastern Ukraine and five organizations, TASS said. The names of the new targets to be added to the list of those subject to asset freezes and travel bans will be published on Saturday. The Committee of Permanent Representatives in the EU agreed on November 27 the list of 18 entities and representatives of the republics that would be subject to sanctions.
Pope Francis has called for an end to all forms of fundamentalism and he supported interreligious dialogue, Reuters reported. He said fighting hunger and poverty, rather than military intervention alone, were key to stopping Islamist militants in Syria and Iraq. The pontiff made the statements as he started a three-day trip to Turkey on Friday.
At least 35 people were killed in Friday bomb explosions and gunfire outside the central mosque of Kano, the biggest city in northern Nigeria, Reuters reported. Citing a source in local police, TASS news agency reported at least 64 people were killed and 126 injured in the attack. The blasts took place in the old city while people had gathered for prayers. Three bombs in total exploded at the religious site.
Nearly 600 migrants have been temporarily put up in a basketball arena in the southern Cretan town of Ierapetra. They arrived in a crippled smuggling ship, after more than a week at sea. Red Cross volunteers on Friday fed and clothed 80 children, 150 women and 361 men. About two-thirds of the migrants are Syrians, who qualify for refugee status, while the others include Kurds, Afghans and Palestinians, AP reported. The migrants, who do not qualify for refugee status, will be given the option to return to their country, or be interned in camps pending deportation.
Beijing on Friday passed a smoking ban for all indoor public places and offices, despite the failure of such efforts in the past, AFP said. The new regulation comes into force in June. It also bans tobacco advertising outdoors, on public transport and on nearly every form of media, Xinhua reported. Tobacco kills more than a million people each year in China. The state monopoly on the tobacco industry, which accounts for nearly a tenth of national tax revenue, is seen as one of the biggest obstacles to anti-smoking efforts.
Brazil football legend Pele’s health is improving, but he is still receiving an intensive treatment for a urinary infection, AFP said. Pele, 74, “is in better clinical condition,” according to the Albert Einstein Hospital in Sao Paulo. He is “lucid” and breathing on his own but still receiving hemodialysis, doctors said Friday, describing the treatment as a “temporary kidney support.” The great player was admitted to hospital Monday after he underwent surgery for kidney stones earlier this month.
Finnish MPs on Friday narrowly approved a citizen’s initiative to legalize same-sex marriage, Reuters said. Gay couples have been able to enter into registered partnerships since 2002. Still, Finland was the only country in the Nordic region to not allow same-sex marriage, and has now become the 12th European state to legalize it.
The Czech Interior Ministry is tightening security at government offices after envelopes with deadly doses of poison were sent to two ministries in recent days, Reuters said. The two letters sent by mail from Sweden and Slovenia were intercepted before reaching the addressees of Finance Minister Andrej Babis and Interior Minister Milan Chovanec. Two more envelopes, with harmless substances, arrived to the office of President Milos Zeman and a commercial television station. “We do not want to raise panic but… we need to adopt these security measures,” according to Chovanec. Meanwhile, the Interior Ministry on Friday received another suspicious package and sent it for analysis.
A gunman suspected of opening fire on several downtown buildings and police headquarters has died after being shot, according to police in Austin, Texas. They say the male suspect died early on Friday in what authorities call an officer-involved shooting, AP reported. In the gunfire before dawn, the man had targeted “multiple downtown buildings,” police said. Part of Interstate 35 through downtown Austin was closed as officers tried to secure the scene.
Poor weather is delaying the launch of a Japanese space probe on a six-year mission to mine a distant asteroid, AFP said. Hayabusa2 was set to blast off aboard Japan’s main H-IIA rocket from the Tanegashima Space Center on Sunday. Thick cloud is expected over the weekend, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) said. The 31 billion yen ($260 million) project is sending a probe towards the 1999 JU3 asteroid in deep space. A crater will be blasted in the asteroid to collect virgin materials unexposed to millennia of solar wind and radiation. Scientists hope to find answers to questions about life and the universe.
Police in Austria raided homes, prayer rooms and mosques early on Friday, targeting suspected extremist recruiters, AFP reported. Some 20 arrest warrants were issued, according to police. The mass operation in Vienna and the cities of Graz and Linz involved some 500 police officers. The raids followed a two-year investigation into several people suspected of recruiting young people to fight in Syria, with a Bosnian preacher reportedly being the main suspect. The suspects were also investigated for helping to finance the Islamic State group.
Damascus has said the US “fabricated” accusations that Syrian forces are targeting civilians with airstrikes, Reuters said. “The Syrian Arab Army does not target civilians and will not do so,” SANA news agency quoted Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi as saying. The US State Department said on Wednesday that Syrian government bombings in Raqqa province “had killed dozens of civilians and demolished residential areas.” Washington is getting its information from “terrorist organizations” in Syria such as Islamic State and Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Nusra Front, al-Zoubi said, adding that the US would do better to criticize Islamist militants who have killed American citizens.
French legislators are debating on Friday whether to pressure the government to recognize a Palestinian state. The National Assembly is expected to approve a measure urging the government “to recognize the state of Palestine in view of reaching a definitive settlement to the conflict,” AP said. The vote is scheduled for next week, but President Francois Hollande’s government has the final say. Hollande has spoken in support of international recognition of a Palestinian state, and is pushing to revive peace talks.
Israeli security forces arrested a 17-year-old Palestinian girl who had a knife in her possession on Friday at the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron. Initial investigation indicates that the teenager had planned to stab security personnel, the Jerusalem Post reported. She refused to undergo a routine security check, then threw the knife on the ground, police said.
Pope Francis heads to Turkey on Friday for a three-day trip, attempting use his touch to rebuild bridges with the Islamic world, AFP reported. The pope is also expected to bolster relations between the Roman Catholic and Orthodox churches, whose spiritual leader is Bartholomew, the Patriarch of Constantinople. The pontiff arrives in Ankara, where he will visit the mausoleum of modern Turkey’s founder Kemal Ataturk before being received by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. In Istanbul, Francis will visit Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque. A mass will be held at Istanbul’s small Catholic cathedral, and on Sunday, the pontiff will attend a Divine Liturgy in the Patriarchal church of St George.
Fragments of Malaysian Airlines’ MH17 plane that crashed in eastern Ukraine and remains of the bodies will be transported to the Netherlands on Friday, RIA Novosti reported, citing officials in Kharkov. The fragments of the MH17 that were left behind in Ukraine present no interest for investigation into the air crash, TASS quoted a spokeswoman for the Dutch Security Council, Sarah Vernoy, as saying. The work for collecting the wreckage of the Boeing had been completed at the site and they will be used for reconstructing a part of the plane as specialists believe it will help in determining the cause of the crash.