24 March, 2015
Russian FM visits Cuba, calls to end blockade
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to Cuba has called to end the illegal trade and financial embargo imposed on Cuba. Lavrov also said the two countries are planning to cooperate closely in energetics, transport and civil infrastructure, biotechnologies, healthcare, and civil aviation. According to Lavrov, Russian companies are interested in investing in the Caribbean country’s development. Cuba is the first stop of the Russian foreign minister’s tour of Latin America. The official is to visit Colombia, Nicaragua and Guatemala later this week.
Tunisia museum reopening delayed, security boosted
Tunisia’s national museum has delayed its reopening on Tuesday, officials said, as security was boosted around the site of last week’s jihadist massacre that killed 21 people, AFP said. “The Interior Ministry says that for security reasons we cannot receive a large number of visitors,” the museum’s representative, Hanene Srarfi, said. Several events had been planned for Tuesday to protest against the attack.
US & allies launch 14 airstrikes against ISIS
The US and its allies staged 14 airstrikes on Islamic State (also known as ISIS, or ISIL) targets in Syria and Iraq, Reuters reported. The strikes were conducted between Monday morning and Tuesday morning, the Combined Joint Task Force said. Five Islamic State fighting positions, four tactical units, a checkpoint and a vehicle were hit near the Syrian city of Kobani, the statement claimed. In Iraq, eight strikes near Bayji, Fallujah, Mosul, Sinjar and Tal Afar hit tactical units, vehicles, storage facilities and other targets.
‘Normandy 4’ meeting on Ukraine due in Paris on Wednesday – Kiev
Authorities in Kiev have confirmed that a meeting of political directors in the Normandy format will be held in Paris on Wednesday. Representatives of Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France will discuss the implementation of the Minsk peace agreements. Ukraine will be represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Vadim Pristaiko, RIA Novosti reported.
Canada expands anti-ISIS mission into Syria
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper is expanding the country’s military mission against Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) militants into Syria, Bloomberg said. Harper is reportedly seeking approval from lawmakers for a one-year extension of the current mission and authorization to expand attacks into Syria. The mission has been focused so far on airstrikes in Iraq. Harper’s Conservative Party has a legislative majority.
UEFA elects Platini for 3rd term as president
UEFA on Tuesday elected Michel Platini unopposed for a third straight term as president of European football’s governing body. The French football legend promised to run the world’s most powerful continental federation with more “democracy,” AFP reported. He also offered more cooperation with the heads of other confederations.
Tunisia again closes airspace to western Libya
Tunisia has again closed its airspace for flights from western Libya, Reuters reported. The move comes days after it allowed Libyan planes from Tripoli back for the first time in around six months. “We’ve suspended temporarily again Libya flights for security reasons,” a Transport Ministry official said on Tuesday, without elaborating. Militants killed 20 foreign tourists in an attack on the national museum in Tunis last week.
Houthis take Yemen town 100km north of Aden – reports
Houthi fighters and allied army units captured the town of Kirsh, about 100km north of Yemen’s second city of Aden, on Tuesday, Reuters reported. The capture followed heavy fighting with forces loyal to President Abdu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, local officials and residents said. The area lies about a 40-minute drive to the north of a major airbase, al-Anad, which remains in the hands of Hadi, who is based in Aden.
US-led coalition begins surveillance flights over ISIS-held Tikrit
The US-led coalition targeting the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) has begun surveillance flights over the extremist-held city of Tikrit, AP reported. Intelligence is being sent to Iraqi forces fighting to retake Saddam Hussein’s hometown, a senior official said Tuesday. The flights, which began Saturday, mark the first time the coalition has been involved in the offensive. Up to now it largely has been supported by Iranian advisers including Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Quds Force.
Yemen Shiite militia kills 5 protesters in Taez
Shiite Houthi militiamen opened fire on Tuesday at demonstrators in the strategic Yemeni city of Taez, killing five protesters and wounding 80 others, AFP reported, citing a local official and medics. The gunmen attacked the demonstrators as they gathered for a third consecutive day to protest the militia’s arrival in Taez. Houthis have sent thousands of troops south from the capital Sanaa, which they control.
Iraq’s request to US-led coalition for Tikrit airstrikes ‘imminent’ – report
Iraq’s request to the US-led coalition for airstrikes in the campaign to retake Tikrit from ISIS insurgents is “imminent,” Reuters quoted a senior Western diplomat as saying Tuesday. The coalition has so far not taken part in the campaign. If it accepts the request, the move would see by far the biggest collaboration between Iraqi forces, Iranian-backed paramilitaries and the US and its allies.
30 people killed in central Yemen as Shiite rebels advance south
At least 30 people have been killed in clashes between pro- and anti-government forces in central Yemen, AFP reported, citing tribal sources. Meanwhile, Shiite rebels backed by forces loyal to the ousted president are advancing into southern Yemen, AP reported. The rebels and soldiers from an army battalion loyal to ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh have taken over the governor’s office in the southern regional capital of al-Dhalea, according to eyewitnesses. Rebel forces reportedly clashed with militias loyal to current President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who has taken refuge in the southern city of Aden.
US drone kills 9 Pakistani Taliban in Afghanistan
A US drone strike killed at least nine Pakistani militants in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province early Tuesday, Reuters reported, citing intelligence officials. The strike, part of a drone campaign against Pakistani militants in Afghanistan, was near the site of fierce fighting on the Pakistani side of the border in recent days. Fighter jets have been pounding positions in the Tirah Valley in the Khyber region. The military says it has killed scores of militants, and at least seven soldiers have also been killed.
Gunmen attack vehicles on highway in E. Afghanistan, kill at least 13
Gunmen in eastern Afghanistan attacked passing vehicles on a highway during a midnight assault Tuesday, killing at least 13 people, AP reported. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack in Wardak province’s Sayad Abad district, where Taliban fighters hold a great deal of territory. The gunmen opened fire on three separate vehicles in the attack, including a bus traveling from Kabul. Several recent attacks have also targeted buses in the country.
5 injured in shooting near university in Tennessee
Five people have been injured in a shooting near the Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee. Two of the injured were taken to hospital via medical helicopter. Local Clarksville police are still searching for the gunman, while the incident took place at around 9pm local time. It is not known if the shooting was connected at all to the university, though Austin Peay State did issue a statement, saying, “Although there does not appear to be a danger to the university community, please take precautions to ensure your safety,” according to Reuters.
13 dead in Afghanistan after militants attack passenger bus – report
At least 13 people were killed and two others injured after gunmen shot at a passenger bus in Afghanistan’s eastern Wardak province, Xinhua News Agency cited an official source as saying. Police are investigating the incident.
Over half of Vanuatu’s population affected by Cyclone Pam – UN
More than 165,000 people living on the South Pacific island of Vanuatu have been touched by Cyclone Pam, the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said. The body also confirmed that the death toll has risen to 16. “Around 166,000 people, more than half of Vanuatu’s population, have been affected by Tropical Cyclone Pam on 22 islands,” the UN office said. OCHA warned that “food stocks and water reserves are being exhausted and will not last more than a couple of weeks across the affected islands.” It added that somewhere between 50 and 90 percent of homes have been damaged by the storm and “around 65,000 people are in need of temporary emergency shelter.” Cyclone Pam hit Vanuatu on March 13, with the damage categorized as catastrophic. Houses, roads and bridges were destroyed as the wind speeds reached 300 kph (186 mph).