Week: 19 January, 2014 – 25 January, 2014
Sunday, 19 January 2014
ITALY/INDIA: Italy will take up at the “international level” the trial of two marines in India for the killing of two Indian fishermen, Premier Enrico Letta has said. speaking days before India’s Supreme Court takes up Italy’s challenge to the invocation of an anti-terrorism law against the marines, Letta said his government “plans to send an Italian House delegation to New Delhi” over the issue. The Italian Prime Minister vowed to move at an “international level” on the issue of Marines Massimiliano Latorre and Salvatore Girone, Italian news agency ANSA reported. He did not give details of the actions his government intends to take.
PAKISTAN: At least 20 security personnel were killed and 25 others injured when a bomb struck a military convoy in Pakistan’s restive northwest today. The convoy, which was heading to North Waziristan, was attacked by a remote-controlled bomb near Aamandi Chowk, Razmak Gate on Bannu-Miranshsh Road in Bannu which resulted in the death of 20 security men. Security forces have cordoned off the area while rescue and relief operations continued. The injured are being shifted to a nearby hospital for treatment. Bannu, which stands at the gateway to the semi-autonomous Waziristan tribal region, is 150 kilometres southwest of Peshawar. The town has witnessed a number of attacks and was the scene of a massive jail break in April 2012 during which 384 prisoners escaped from its central prison.
THAILAND: At least 28 people were injured when two explosions hit an anti-government rally site here today; the latest in a series of violence against defiant protesters as they intensified their campaign to oust beleaguered Premier Yingluck Shinawatra. Explosions and gunshots took place near Victory Monument, a major intersection in central Bangkok, that protesters have been occupying since Monday as part of their ongoing campaign to shut down the capital.
SWEDEN: Nine women in Sweden have successfully received transplanted wombs donated from relatives and will soon try to become pregnant, the doctor in charge of the pioneering project has revealed. The women were born without a uterus or had it removed because of cervical cancer. Most are in their 30s and are part of the first major experiment to test whether it’s possible to transplant wombs so women can give birth. There have been two previous attempts to transplant a womb, in Turkey and Saudi Arabia, but both failed to produce babies.
Monday, 20 January 2014
IRAN: Iran’s state-controlled television said the country has halted its most sensitive uranium enrichment work as part of a landmark deal struck at the Geneva conference in November. The broadcast said Iran halted its 20 per cent uranium enrichment programme, which is just steps away from bomb-making materials, by cutting the link feeding cascades enriching uranium in Natanz. It said international inspectors were present on Monday when Iran began implementing its obligations under the historic deal reached in Geneva on November 24. They also monitored the suspension at Fordo, another uranium enrichment site in central Iran. The European Union has voted to lift some economic sanctions on Iran after getting word that high-level uranium enrichment there was suspended.
GENEVA TALKS ON SYRIA: UN’s extension of invitation to Iran provoked sharp reactions from the Syrian opposition, probable delegates saying they would keep away from the ‘Peace talks’ if Iran, a traditional ally of Assad’s government and a military and political backer, is not kept away from Geneva. US too issued statements emphasising their position that Iran could be party to the talks if it agrees to back the formation of a transitional government would full executionary powers in Syria. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon explained that he had held long talks with Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif and is convinced that Iran, as an important neighbouring state to Syria, should be among the 30-some countries that will take part in the diplomatic process. However, Iran rejected the condition that it would have to abide by the 2012 Geneva agreement to participate.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: Central African Republic’s transitional parliament elected the mayor of Bangui, Catherine Samba-Panza, as interim president on Monday, with the task of ending months of sectarian killings and guiding the country to elections. Samba-Panza, elected in a second-round run-off, replaced Michel Djotodia, the leader of the Seleka rebels who seized power in March. Djotodia stepped down on January 10 under intense international pressure after failing to halt the inter-religious violence. Meanwhile, the European Union has decided to send 1000 additional troops to contain the violence.
BANGLADESH: Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia called on the opposition party’s supporters to force the incumbent Awami League government and Prime minister Sheikh Hasina to hold new, fair elections and accused the government of illegally usurping power. Zia was reportedly kept in house arrest and this day marked her first rally in a while.
UN ON UNEMPLOYMENT: The International Labor Organization in its report estimated 201.8 million people were unemployed in 2013. That is 4.9 million more than the previous year. An annual ILO report points to an uneven global economic recovery and says East and South Asia together accounted for more than 45 percent of last year’s increase. The agency puts last year’s global unemployment rate at 6 percent, unchanged from 2012. It says it expects little improvement this year, projecting that the jobless rate will edge up to 6.1 percent and the number of unemployed will rise another 4.2 million.
RUSSIA/DAGESTAN: An Islamist group from Russia’s North Caucasus has threatened to attack the Sochi winter Olympics in a video published online. In a warning to President Vladimir Putin over next month’s Games, the hosts and visitors were singled out for target: “If you hold the Olympics you will receive a present from us… for you and all those tourists who will come over. It will be for all the Muslim blood that is shed every day around the world – be it in Afghanistan, Somalia, Syria, all around the world. This will be our revenge.” The video says two men from the group Vilayat Dagestan, linked to an Iraqi faction called Ansar al-Sunn carried out the two attacks in Volgograd last month that killed 34 people and injured more than 100. Dagestan, in Russia’s North Caucasus, has seen years of fighting between the Russian army and Muslim groups seeking independence.
PAKISTAN: A Taliban suicide bomber blew himself up near the Pakistan Army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi Monday, killing 13 people, including six soldiers, a day after a blast inside a cantonment killed 20 troops.The bomber, who was riding a cycle, detonated his explosives after being intercepted by soldiers in Royal Artillery Bazar, which is very close to the army’s General Headquarters and other important military buildings. Twenty-four others were wounded in the attack. Witnesses said two students wearing uniforms were among the dead. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif canceled his visit to Davos to attend the World Economic Forum due to the blast.
Tuesday, 21 January 2014
ENGLAND: French footballer Nicolas Anelka, who plays for English club West Bromwich Albion, faces a minimum of 5-game suspension after he was found to perform the Quenelle, a neo-Nazi gesture or salute introduced by French comedian and performer Dieudonne M’bala M’bala. The English Football Association released a statement saying Anelka made a gesture which was “abusive and/or indecent and/or insulting and/or improper”, and additionally, “an aggravated breach in that it included a reference to ethnic origin and/or race and/or religion or belief”. The quenelle has been at the centre of controversy ever since Dieudonne first performed it and the French government has time and again tried to ban it. The gesture is symbolic of a resurgence of right-wing extremism in parts of Europe.
AFGHANISTAN: More than 60 Afghan de-miners working in the province of Herat were kidnapped by unknown gunmen. They were working for a British agency called the Halo Trust. The provinvial police are investigating the case but no individual or group has claimed responsibility for the kidnappings. The workers were clearing mines left from the 10-year Soviet occupation of Afghanistan beginning 1979. A commercial province, businessmen and their relatives are often abducted in Herat for ransom.
SYRIA: Peace talks scheduled to open on 22nd January were suffering from yet further strains, as the invitation extended to Iran by UN chief Ban Ki-moon was retracted within two days. US had pushed for Iran’s non-involvement, while the Syrian opposition coalition had threatened to fully abandon if Iran was present. On the other hand, Russia called the decision a ‘mistake’ and the Syrian government accused the UN of selective favouritism. Iran called the situation ‘deplorable’ and said the foreign ministry said it expected from Ban the real reasons for the turn-around. On the same day, a three-member international legal team released a report that condemned both the Syrian government as well as factions of the armed opposition of committing numerous human rights violations. The report can be found at http://static.guim.co.uk/ni/1390226674736/syria-report-execution-tort.pdf.
PAKISTAN: Following two days of back to back terror attacks, the Pakistani Army attacked militant bases in North Waziristan. At least 25 miitants, mostly thought to be from Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, have been killed.
Wednesday, 22 January 2014
PAKISTAN: A roadside bomb killed 20 Shiite pilgrims in a separatist province, and gunmen opened fire on workers administering polio vaccinations, killing three people.
SYRIA TALKS: Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has called for free and fair elections in Syria, saying it would respect any outcome. Rouhani also said his nation is “ready to engage” with its neighbors on most important issues of the day. Rouhani says “the best solution is to organize a free and fair elections in Syria” and that once the ballots are cast “we should all accept” the outcome. Iran was barred from participating in the Swiss-based talks to end Syria’s civil war.
UKRAINE: Two people died in clashes between police and protesters in Ukraine’s capital Kiev, the first fatalities since protests began in November against the government’s rejection of a planned treaty with the European Union in favour of support from Russia. Protesters say the two men were shot dead by police snipers, but the government claims soldiers are not using live ammunition.
Thursday, 23 January 2014
INDONESIA: Indonesian national police have indicated that they may not have the jurisdiction to further investigate claims of abuse against the Australian Navy. The police have been investigating claims made by asylum seekers that the Australian Navy abused them while forcing them back into Indonesian waters earlier this month.
NEW ZEALAND: An evangelist from New Zealand has been found guilty of importing nine kilograms of methamphetamine and heroin into Darwin. The Supreme Court heard 41-year-old Bernadine Prince was found with more than $2 million worth of drugs in her luggage in May last year. Prince maintained she did not know the drugs were concealed inside seven empty backpacks in her luggage. She claimed the backpacks were given to her in Kenya to sell to Australian churches. She could face a maximum sentence of three years’ prison and a $340,000 fine.
AUSTRALIA: A 16-year old boy has been sentenced to seven years in prison for breaking into a 23-year old woman’s home and sexually assaulting her. The presiding judge gave the order with the remark that the guilty failed to show the level of remorse that he had expected from him. The boy will be eligible for supervised release in just over three years.
Friday, 24 January 2014
THAILAND: Thailand’s Constitutional Court has unanimously ruled an election scheduled for February 2 can legally be delayed. It also ruled that the Election Commission would have to agree on a new date with the government. Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra had called the general election to try to defuse anti-government protests. The commission said the potential for violence and the absence of registered candidates in some areas meant the vote should be delayed.
PAKISTAN: A court in Pakistan has sentenced a British man to death for blasphemy for claiming to be a prophet of Islam. Mohammad Asghar, a British national of Pakistani origin, was arrested in 2010 in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, near Islamabad, for writing letters claiming to be a prophet, police said. The special court inside Rawalpindi’s Adiala Jail, where Asghar is being held, rejected defence claims that the 65-year-old has mental health problems.
SYRIA GENEVA TALKS: The Syrian government and its opponents will hold their first joint meeting on Saturday to launch peace talks aimed at resolving nearly three years of civil war, after negotiations almost collapsed before they began. They will spend the first two days discussing a plan to provide humanitarian access for the city of Homs, where rebels are surrounded in central districts by forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, diplomatic sources said. The face-to-face meeting had been planned for Friday, but the opposition said early on it would not meet the government side unless it first agreed to sign up to a 2012 statement by world powers calling for a transitional government in Syria. The government rejected the demand and said its negotiators would leave Geneva unless serious talks began within a day.
US: A Sikh can be allowed to enter the US military with turban and beard, the Pentagon has said, noting that the approval in this regard would be given on a case by case basis and there is no universal or automatic approval to the new relaxed religious norms.
Saturday, 25 January 2014
LIBYA/EGYPT: At least four Egyptian embassy personnel have been kidnapped in the Libyan capital Tripoli, the Libyan foreign ministry said. Another embassy official was seized in the Libyan capital on Friday. Several kidnappings of officials in Libya recently have been blamed on militias. They are often paid by the government, but their allegiance and who controls them remain in doubt.
UKRAINE: Efforts to resolve Ukraine’s unrest in the capital Kiev by peaceful means are “futile”, the interior ministry said. Minister Vitaliy Zakharchenko said negotiations with the protesters had failed. He blamed “radical groups” for the unrest, adding protesters had arms. The comments came as protesters tried to seize the energy ministry. Officials said it was “an act of terrorism”. Protests broke out in late November after the government’s rejection of a planned treaty with the EU. The crisis escalated this week when two activists were shot dead during clashes near the main protest camp on Kiev’s Independence Square. The opposition says they were killed by riot police or snipers – the government denies the claim.
SYRIA GENEVA TALKS: Syria’s opposition and government have met briefly face to face in what is being hailed a small but significant step in talks aimed at “saving Syria”. The initial gathering in Geneva lasted half an hour mediated by the UN’s Lakhdar Brahimi, reports said. Delegates in Geneva are aiming at small concessions, not a full peace deal. “Ending terrorism and violence” is the top priority, Syrian officials said. They insisted it is too early to discuss President Bashar al-Assad’s position.
PERU: Public prosecutor Marco Guzman cleared ex-president Alberto Fujimori’s government of charges relating to forced sterilizations of mostly indigenous and poor men and women during the 1990s. Guzman said his investigations suggest the operations were consensual, and were carried out legally. Fujimori is serving a 25-year jail sentence, his convictions related to human rights abuses and crimes in the country’s internal conflict.