Algeria to Raise Death Toll From Islamist Siege at Gas Complex

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 9:05 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Algeria is expected to raise the death toll from the hostage crisis at a natural gas complex, as preliminary reports showed that at least 80 people were killed.

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal was expected to announce updated casualty figures at a news conference on Monday.

The Algerian government has said at least 32 militants and 23 foreign and Algerian hostages were killed in the four-day Islamist siege of the facility that ended Saturday with a final government assault.

On Sunday, special forces searching the complex at In Amenas in eastern Algeria found 25 more bodies, but the corpses were so disfigured that it was hard to tell whether they were hostages or militants.

Philippine officials said Monday that six of those killed at the complex were Filipinos, while four other Filipinos were missing. The dead also include three British workers, one American, one French citizen and one Romanian.

About 20 other foreigners were unaccounted for, among them 10 Japanese workers.

Islamist militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the attack in the name of al-Qaida. In an Internet statement released Sunday, he said 40 militants from Muslim and Western nations carried out the raid. Algerian security forces killed most of the hostage takers in Saturday's assault and later identified the bodies of two militants as Canadians.

Algerian authorities detained five surviving militants during a search of the area on Sunday. Security forces also were trying to clear away land mines placed around the complex by the kidnappers.

Belmokhtar said the raid was in response to French military operations against other al-Qaida-linked militants in neighboring Mali.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that responsibility for the killings “lies squarely” with what he called the “terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack.” French President Francois Hollande welcomed what he described as Algeria's “most appropriate” response to “coldly determined terrorists.”

Algerian troops carried out an initial rescue mission at the complex on Thursday, helping almost 700 Algerian workers and more than 100 foreigners to escape.

The foreign hostages included Americans, Austrians, Belgians, Britons, Colombians, French, Japanese, Malaysians, Norwegians and Romanians. The complex is jointly run by Algerian, British and Norwegian firms.

Obama Using Two Bibles at Swearing-In

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 8:35 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

When U.S. President Barack Obama takes the oath of office, he will place his hand on two Bibles.

The first is the Bible used by former President Abraham Lincoln, the 16th president of the United States, when he took the oath of office for the first of his two terms in 1861. The second Bible is the so-called “traveling Bible” used by slain civil rights leader Martin Luther King, Junior.

Monday is the official government holiday honoring Reverend King who was assassinated in 1968.

President Obama was officially sworn-in for a second term Sunday during a brief, private ceremony at the White House, making Monday's public event ceremonial. He used his wife Michelle's family Bible for the oath Sunday.

The presidential term ends on the Constitutionally-mandated date of January 20, which fell this year on a Sunday when courts and public offices are closed. Tradition holds that in such cases the president is sworn-in privately on the 20th with the public ceremony taking place on the following Monday.

Monday's swearing-in will be the fourth time Mr. Obama takes the oath of office.

Mr. Obama was also sworn-in twice for his first term in 2009. During the first ceremony, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court stumbled over one of the words while administering the oath, so the oath was given again one day later.

As a result, Mr. Obama will be the first president since Franklin Delano Roosevelt to take the oath of office four times. Mr. Roosevelt, though, was elected four times, in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944.

Also Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden took the oath of office on a Bible that has been used by his family since 1893.

3 Afghan Police Killed in Kabul

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 6:45 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Afghan officials say a suicide squad launched an eight-hour assault in the capital on traffic police headquarters Monday, killing three traffic police officers. Authorities say all five attackers were killed in the standoff in Kabul.

Officials say 10 people were wounded in the assault, including four police.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The assault on the police complex, located near parliament, began early Monday with a huge car bomb explosion.

Officials say three of the assailants were killed in the early part of the attack. Two other insurgents managed to get into the building and fought a gunbattle with Afghan forces.

Authorities say a NATO unit arrived on the scene, but the unit's participation in the operation was reported to have been minimal.

The insurgent attack in Kabul is the second in less than a week. On Wednesday, six Taliban militants attacked the Afghan intelligence agency in downtown Kabul, killing one guard and wounding dozens. Security forces killed all the attackers.

Americans Honor Martin Luther King

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 6:35 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Americans are honoring the memory of civil rights icon Martin Luther King Jr. on Monday with a federal holiday marking his birthday.

King was a Baptist preacher who fought discrimination and racism in the 1950s and 1960s, mainly in the southern United States, where blacks were subjected to unequal treatment in society and at times the target of violence.

King, an advocate for non-violent protests, was assassinated in 1968 at the age of 39. There is now a monument in his honor in Washington.

King gained prominence after leading a successful protest against segregation on the buses in Montgomery, Alabama. Under that system, blacks were required to sit in the back of the bus and, if the vehicle was full, they had to give up their seats to white people.

The landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964 made segregation illegal. That same year King won the Nobel Peace Prize.

Ugandan Troops Kill Kony Bodyguard

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 5:55 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Ugandan troops have killed a top bodyguard of Lord's Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony.

A Ugandan army official said Monday that troops killed the rebel known as Binani during an operation Friday in the eastern part of the Central African Republic, near South Sudan.

Ugandan troops have been working as part of an African Union force, with the help of U.S. military advisers, to hunt Kony and other LRA members.

The LRA was once based on northern Uganda and is accused of killing, kidnapping and mutilating tens of thousands of people across central Africa over the past 25 years.

Kony is wanted by the International Criminal Court for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

South African Court Convicts Nigerian for Deadly Bombing

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 5:20 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

A South African court has found a Nigerian man guilty on terrorism charges for masterminding bombings that killed 12 people in 2010.

The court ruled Monday that Henry Okah was guilty on 13 charges related to the twin car bombings in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, that came as the country celebrated its Independence Day. The court has not said what sentence it will give Okah.

Authorities arrested Okah in South Africa a day after the bombings. He denied having a role in the attack.

He is accused of leading the militant Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), which he also denies.

MEND has carried out numerous attacks against Nigeria's oil industry, demanding a bigger share of the oil wealth in the Niger Delta region. Many of its members surrendered their weapons in 2009 under a government amnesty program.

India’s Supreme Court to Hear Plea to Shift Venue of Rape Trial

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 5:00 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

India's Supreme Court has agreed to hear a plea requesting a change of venue for the trial for one of the six men accused in the brutal rape and murder of a woman last month in New Delhi.

The New Delhi court said Monday it would agree to consider the request Tuesday.

The lawyer for defendant Mukesh Singh says it would not be possible for his client to receive a fair hearing in the city where the December 16 attack took place.

It is not clear if overall proceedings will be delayed by the change of venue hearing in the Supreme Court.

Five of the six men, including Singh, are set to face trial beginning Monday in a special fast-track court established to circumvent India's notoriously slow justice system. The sixth suspect is under 18 and will be tried separately in a juvenile court.

The expedited proceedings are in response to public outrage over the brutality of the attack. The defendants are accused of beating the woman and her male companion with an iron rod and using the rusty rod during the sexual assault of the woman.

The unidentified victim died of her internal injuries on December 29 in a Singapore hospital, where she had been taken for treatment.

The woman's rape and death sparked outrage across the country. Protesters have called for tougher rape laws, major police reforms and a transformation in the way India treats women.

Syrian Opposition Delays Forming Government

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 4:40 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

The Syrian opposition has postponed forming a transitional government.

After a meeting in Istanbul, opposition leaders said Monday they have created a five-person committee to consult with opposition forces, the Free Syrian Army and what the opposition called “friendly” countries before making proposals on an interim body.

The Syrian National Coalition was formed in November and has since been recognized by more than 110 countries as the legitimate representative of the Syrian people. It is calling for President Bashar al-Assad to leave power.

Fighting in Syria continues as rebels try to end Mr. Assad's 12-year rule, and government forces battle what they describe as “terrorists.”

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said 70 people died in fighting Sunday.

The United Nations says at least 60,000 people have been killed since the conflict began in March 2011.

Algeria: 80 Dead at Gas Complex

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 3:36 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Algeria's prime minister is expected to announce Monday the latest details of the militant takeover and military raid of a desert natural gas complex that left at least 80 people dead, including militants.

The toll jumped Sunday when officials combing through the complex found 25 more bodies, which they said were so disfigured it is hard to tell if the remains were of militants or hostages.

Officials in the Philippines said Monday that six of the victims were Filipinos, and that four of its nationals remain missing.

Many of the dead were foreign hostages held when Islamist militants seized the In Amenas gas complex Wednesday. So far, nationals from Britain, Romania, the United States, Japan and France have also been confirmed dead.

Islamist militant leader Mokhtar Belmokhtar claimed responsibility for the attack. In an Internet video posted Sunday, he said he was acting in the name of al-Qaida and that 40 militants from Muslim and Western nations carried out the raid.

Belmokhtar said the attack was an answer to the French military operation against other al-Qaida-linked militants in Mali.

Algerian forces captured five militants alive during a Saturday raid on the complex. Algeria's official news agency said the militants killed seven hostages during the raid, while Algerian troops killed 11 of the kidnappers.

A number of militants and hostages were also killed earlier during the crisis, while other hostages escaped unharmed.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said Sunday that responsibility for the killings “lies squarely” with what he called the “terrorists who launched this vicious and cowardly attack.” French President Francois Hollande welcomed what he described as Algeria's “most appropriate” response to “coldly determined terrorists.”

Algerian Communications Minister Mohamed Said said the Islamist assailants came from six nations. He said Algerian experts are tying to clear away land mines the militants laid around the gas complex.

Nearly 700 Algerian workers and more than 100 foreigners escaped the militant attack last week.

The foreign hostages included Americans, Austrians, Belgians, Britons, Colombians, French, Japanese, Malaysians, Norwegians and Romanians. The complex is jointly run by Algerian, British and Norwegian firms.

Taliban Claim Attack on Afghan Capital

Posted January 21st, 2013 at 3:35 am (UTC-5)
Leave a comment

Afghan officials say a suicide car bombing followed by other explosions and gunfire has rocked the capital, wounding 10 people, including four police.

Authorities say the early Monday attack in Kabul targeted traffic police headquarters located near parliament.

Police say two of the assailants were killed at the entrance. They say at least two other attackers entered the building and engaged in a fire fight with security forces that lasted more than five hours.

Officials say a NATO unit arrived on the scene, but the unit's participation in the operation was minimal.

The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack.

It is the second insurgent attack inside Kabul in less than a week. On Wednesday, six Taliban militants attacked the Afghan intelligence agency in downtown Kabul, killing one guard and wounding dozens. Security forces killed all the attackers.