Voters in Tunisia are choosing their first freely elected president in a major step toward democracy. Beji Caid Essebsi has won the first round, picking up 39 percent of the vote. Essebi represents the Nidaa Tounes party, which is secular-leaning and is challenging the interim leader, Moncef Marzouki. Tunisia was the first country to get rid of its leader in the so-called Arab Spring in a relatively bloodless coup, which inspired other uprisings in the region.
Seven Afghan policemen have been killed at a checkpoint in northern Afghanistan according to an official, which was reported by AP. Five other policemen were injured, while five militants died. There were also casualties in the Kunar province in the east of the country, with at least three civilians and 28 insurgents being killed. "There are casualties among civilians who are stuck in the battlefield but we don't know how many right now," said Abdul Ghani Musamem, spokesman for the provincial governor. Meanwhile a 22 year-old cameraman, Zubair Hatami, died from wounds suffered in a suicide earlier this month at a French-run school in Kabul.
Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott wants more focus on the economy and job creation after he introduced a Cabinet reshuffle after 14 months in charge of the country. He promoted Scott Morrison to the position of Social Services Minister, Reuters reports. Morrison, who was the former Immigration minister, had been behind the controversial program of turning back boats carrying thousands of asylum seekers looking to enter Australia. Meanwhile, Defense Minister David Johnston lost his job following a series of public gaffes. Abbott also appointed a second woman to his cabinet. Susan Ley was promoted to minister for health and minister for sport. The other woman in the Cabinet is Foreign Minister Julie Bishop.
Israeli police have arrested four Jewish extremists who belonged to the Lehava group. They are opposed to Jews and Arabs mixing together and they have looked to stir up racial tensions, according to AP. Last week 10 Lehava members, including its leader, were arrested by police on the suspicion of promoting violence. The group has sought to break up Arab-Jewish couples and has looked to stop Arabs and Jews working together. Last week, three Lehava members were charged with setting a bilingual Hebrew-Arabic school in Jerusalem, which happened in November.
The 10th Russian convoy with humanitarian aid has arrived in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions of eastern Ukraine, the Russian Emergencies Ministry told Tass news agency. Currently, the trucks are unloading, and then they will return to Russia. Ninety trucks have come to Donetsk and 90 to Lugansk with “food, medical supplies, construction materials, and New Year gifts.” A total of 900 tons of aid were delivered to Donetsk, and over 500 to Lugansk. Previous convoys have delivered over 12,000 tons of aid to the struggling regions since August.
South Korea has stopped American poultry imports because of an outbreak of bird virus in the US, the Agriculture Ministry has announced. The country said it is a “quarantine measure” to prevent the HPAI virus from entering the country, noting that 18 countries including South Korea are suffering from it. Two strains of avian influenza - H5N2 and H5N8 - have been found in farms in Washington State. Korea says that that neither of the viruses have been found in US products.