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Egyptian army: Troops kill top Sinai militant
2014.04.13 02:41:38

Egyptian troops killed an alleged militant in the restive Sinai Peninsula where fighters have increasingly targeted security forces since last year's ouster of president  Mohamed Morsi.

Nour al-Hamdeen was "one of the most prominent and dangerous extremists", military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Ali said in a statement.

Hamdeen was ambushed by troops on a road to Al-Tuma village in the northern Sinai, and was killed in the ensuing firefight.

The army has poured troops into the mountainous and underdeveloped Sinai bordering the Palestinian Gaza Strip and Israel, to combat growing militancy.

[AFP]



Tags: Egypt | Muslim Brotherhood | Mohamed Morsi

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Peaceful protest in the town of Idlib
2014.04.13 01:30:59

This video uploaded to Youtube is said to show a peaceful protest in the town of Idlib rallying people across Syria and calling on the international community to help save the people of Aleppo.

MWC cannot independently verify the conflict of this video.



Tags: Syria

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Gunmen taken over police station
2014.04.13 01:27:21

Gunmen have taken over a police station in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Kremlin militants are already holding state buildings in several cities, Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said on Saturday.

"Armed men in camouflage fatigues have taken the police station in Slavyansk," Avakov wrote on his Facebook page, adding that "the reaction will be very strong." He did not provide any other details.

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia

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Russia neighbours press NATO for backup
2014.04.13 01:21:12

Ex-Soviet countries fearing spillover from  the Ukraine crisis have asked NATO for land forces and other backup, potentially moving the region one step closer to a new Cold War.

The calls from Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania; which all border Russia and have sizable ethnic Russian populations and Ukraine's neighbors Poland and Romania come as the United States accuses Russia of wanting to "create chaos" to have a pretext for more military intervention.

"We hope NATO's increased presence in the Baltic region is not just temporary and limited to reinforced air patrols," Estonian Defense Minister Sven Mikser said on state radio this week.

Mikser, who is to meet with NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen in Brussels on Monday, added that talks are ongoing "about having NATO rotating land units in our region".

Poland's Jaroslaw Kaczynski, leader of the right-wing opposition, says he believes installing US military bases in his country would be the only way to  counter Russian President Vladimir Putin's "expansionist ambitions".

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | NATO

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Ukraine crisis could unite US and EU
2014.04.13 01:19:48

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble on Friday portrayed the Ukraine crisis as an opportunity for the European Union and the United States to revamp their relationship after the  fallout of the NSA spying scandal.

"I am confident that the Ukraine crisis will help us to strengthen transatlantic ties and rediscover our common interests," Schaeuble said in a speech on the sidelines of the annual IMF/World Bank spring meetings.

Moscow's "backslide into patterns from the previous century" has caused both sides of the Atlantic to move closer together, he said.

"Like no two actors on the global stage, the United States and Europe share common values, common strengths and common interests when it comes to shaping the global order of the 21st century."

Schaeuble contrasted the Western embrace for a globalized world based on cooperation and equal partnership with the "hegemonic" attitude on display during Russia's annexation of Crimea.

"Globalization and empires don't go together," Schaeuble told an audience at the Council on Foreign Relations.

[AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | United States | European Union

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US levies more sanctions over Crimea takeover
2014.04.13 01:18:45

The US Treasury Department is sanctioning the former vice speaker of the Ukrainian parliament, six Crimean separatist leaders and a Crimea-based gas company over Russia's takeover of the Crimean Peninsula.

David Cohen, the undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, on Friday called the Crimean Peninsula "occupied territory" and said the US would continue to levy costs on those involved in what the U.S. deems are violations of Ukraine's sovereignty.

The Treasury Department action freezes any assets within US jurisdiction held by those sanctioned and also bans U.S. citizens from conducting transactions with them.

[Associated Press]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea | United States

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Crimea-based gas company
2014.04.12 04:45:06

The United States on Friday imposed sanctions on a Crimea-based gas company, Chernomorneftegaz, effectively putting it off limits to Russia's state-controlled Gazprom, which was expected to bid for a stake in the company.

The move, along with penalties on six Crimean separatists and a former Ukrainian official, is the third round of US sanctions since the Ukraine crisis erupted and lays down a harder line ahead of talks among US, Russian, Ukrainian and EU officials in Geneva on Wednesday. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea | United States

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Anti-terrorism laws
2014.04.12 03:15:25

Amnesty International urged Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour to reject "flawed anti-terrorism laws.

In a statement issued on Friday, the organization said "new counter-terrorism legislation set to be approved by Egypt’s president is deeply flawed and must be scrapped or fundamentally revised."

It said the the draft bill "would give the Egyptian authorities increased powers to muzzle freedom of expression and imprison opponents and critics.

Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Deputy Director, Hassiba Hadj Sahraoui, said according to the statement that these deeply flawed draft laws "can be abused because they include an increasingly broad and vague definition of terrorism."



Tags: Egypt | Amnesty International

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Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate
2014.04.12 03:14:06

Syria's Al-Qaeda affiliate and its allies have repulsed an assault by rivals on a town on the Iraqi border in fighting that killed 86 people, a monitoring group said on Friday.

Sixty of the dead were fighters of Al-Nusra Front or its Islamist allies killed pushing back their Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) rivals from districts of Albu Kamal they had captured early on Thursday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP the rebels regained full control of Albu Kamal after reinforcements poured in.

ISIL withdrew to the T2 oil site, 60 kilometers (35 miles) southwest of the town and where a Syria-Iraq pipeline runs, he said, after executing seven fighters of a rival Islamist brigade.

The clashes have prompted soldiers on the Iraqi side of the border to reinforce their positions.

The border crossing itself on Syria's side remains in the hands of the mainstream rebel Free Syrian Army, said a rebel chief and an AFP reporter on the Iraqi side who saw the FSA flag flying over it.

With their attack on Albu Kamal, ISIL fighters wanted to link up with their comrades over the border in Iraq, said Abdel Rahman.

Iraqi troops put up blast walls and sand berms on their side of the crossing as a precaution, the AFP correspondent reported.

Albu Kamal has been under the control of fighters opposed to the Damascus regime since November 2012, but Al-Nusra and its allies forced out former ISIL allies in heavy fighting in late February.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria

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Egypt ambush
2014.04.12 02:56:35

Soldiers in Egypt ambush, kill man they describe as a leader of al-Qaida inspired group. [AP]



Tags: Egypt

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Two killed in a shoot out
2014.04.12 02:52:04

Egyptian state TV is reporting two people killed in a shoot out with security forces in the Nile Delta area. It described those killed as Muslim Brotherhood "elements". [Reuters]



Tags: Egypt

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Al Jazeera journalist's letters to fellow detainee
2014.04.12 02:44:54

Al Jazeera has obtained letters from Abdullah al-Shami to fellow prisoner Mohamed Soltan. The Al Jazeera Arabic journalist has been held by Egypt's military appointed authorities since August without charge.

In the letter al-Shami talks about attempts by his friends, family and fellow prisoners to end his 81-day hunger strike, which he says is taking a toll on his health.

I can barely stand on my legs. Yet, I know battles aren't won by good wishes and hopes.

A-Shami is one of four Al Jazeera journalists held by Egypt's government. Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy, and Baher Mohamed from the network's English channel are falsely accused of providing information to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.

Their trial has been adjourned until April 22.



Tags: Egypt | Al Jazeera

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Transfer of Syria's chemical weapons
2014.04.12 02:42:34

The transfer of Syria's chemical weapons out of the country under an international accord is back on schedule, a maritime task force in charge of the operation said on Friday.

"After a period without loading and retrieval of chemical substances from Syria, the operation is still on schedule," public affairs officer Simen Rudi said in an email.

On April 4, "the security situation was considered good enough and eight new containers" were loaded onto Danish cargo ship Ark Futura in Syria's Mediterranean port city of Latakia, Rudi said.

Another seven containers were loaded on Thursday.

"This means that the operation is still on schedule, but the previously mentioned security situation will influence whether the operation is completed at the estimated time or not," he said.

On April 3, an international coordinator told the UN Security Council that Damascus can still meet a June deadline for eliminating its chemical weapons but must resume the stalled transfers.

Syria suspended the transfers for what it said were security reasons.

Sigrid Kaag, coordinator for the international operation, warned that any new delay would make it "increasingly challenging" to stick to the June 30 deadline, according to diplomats in New York.

[AFP]



Tags: Syria

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Al-Qaida inspired group in Egypt
2014.04.12 02:29:01

An al-Qaida inspired group in Egypt has posted a video online showing a suicide bomber attacking a security headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Mansoura, an assault that killed 16 people in December.

The video by Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, also said the suicide bomber previously was injured in Islamist demonstrations against the ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi by Egypt's military.

The comment marks the first time a suicide bomber in the widening campaign of militant attacks striking Egypt has been directly linked to demonstrating Morsi supporters.

The 16-minute video named the bomber as Imam Mahfouz or Abu Mariam. It showed footage of him, wearing a white robe sitting next to Kalashnikov assault rifles, criticizing the Egyptian military for protecting Israeli and helping Syrian President Bashar Assad in his civil war.

"Those of the military are who are killing Muslims... must be killed," he says. "We kill as they killed."

[Associated Press]



Tags: Egypt

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Infighting between rival rebel group
2014.04.12 02:27:10

Activists say the death toll from infighting between rival Islamic rebel groups in eastern Syria has jumped to 68.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says battles are still raging on Friday, for a second day, around Bukamal town in the oil-rich Deir Az Zor province near the Iraqi border.

Rebels from the al-Qaeda breakaway group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and fighters of the al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front and other Islamic groups have been fighting each other in the province for weeks over territory they previously captured together from President Bashar Assad's forces, including oil-fields.

The Observatory said 51 fighters died in fighting around Bukamal on Thursday, when the flare-up started. The Islamic State captured the town, previously controlled by the Nusra Front.

[AP]



Tags: Syria

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Crimean lawmakers adopt new constitution
2014.04.12 02:14:59

Crimean lawmakers adopted a new constitution on Friday, taking another step to cement the region's absorption into Russia despite strong objections from the Muslim Tatar minority.

All 88 deputies present in the 100-seat legislature broke into applause and stood for the Russian national anthem after approving the constitution in the vote at a session ignored by dissenting lawmakers.

"Step by step we have led Crimeans to realize their dream of returning home to Russia," speaker Vladimir Konstantinov told the assembly of the region, which Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev transferred from Russia to Ukraine in 1954. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | Crimea

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Russia is 'more and more' isolated
2014.04.12 02:13:07

Russia is "more and more" isolated over its actions in Ukraine, NATO said on Thursday, while calling for beefed up alliance deployments to defend its eastern members.

"Nobody wants to isolate Russia but Russia is isolating itself internationally more and more every day," the alliance's chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Friday, as tensions remain high over the annexation of Crimea.

The warning shot came a day after NATO released satellite pictures showing up to 40,000 Russian troops massed along the Ukraine border. [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | NATO

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Natural gas to Europe
2014.04.12 02:12:03

President Vladimir Putin on Friday said Moscow would fulfill its obligations to send natural gas to Europe but also said the United States had no business interfering in Russia's talks with Europe  over Kiev's debt.

"We certainly guarantee the fulfillment of our obligations before our European customers in full," Putin said in comments released by the Kremlin.

"The issue is not about us, the issue is about securing transit through Ukraine." [AFP]



Tags: Ukraine | Russia | European Union | United States

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International Monetary Fund
2014.04.12 02:10:29

The International Monetary Fund is able to lend to Ukraine because the country's debt is sustainable, the head of the IMF's European department, Reza Moghadam, said on Friday.

"Debt in Ukraine is sustainable," Reza Moghadam said in a news conference during the IMF and World Bank spring 2014 meetings. [Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine

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G20 backs IMF aid for Ukraine
2014.04.12 02:08:10

The Group of 20 major economies shared a view on the need to work closely together to offer assistance to Ukraine, Japanese Finance Minister Taro Aso said on Thursday.

"G20 economies welcomed and endorsed IMF efforts to work toward offering swift assistance (to Ukraine) on the view uncertainties over geopolitical risks will have a negative impact on the global economy," Aso told reporters after attending a G20 dinner meeting.

[Reuters]



Tags: Ukraine

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