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Wednesday, January 16, 2013

‘Briton killed’ and ’40 BP workers held hostage’ in Algeria attack

A Briton is among two foreigners killed in a dawn raid by Islamists on a bus carrying engineers near a BP gas field in southern Algeria, according to state media, with reports in France that 40 workers had been held hostage. Several people were also wounded when a bus carrying workers from a gas facility near In Amenas, a town in eastern Algeria, was targeted. After being repelled, the militants travelled to the facility, taking an unknown number of workers hostage. David Cameron chaired a meeting of the government’s crisis committee Cobra this afternoon, while a Foreign Office spokesperson confirmed that “The British embassy in Algiers is liaising with the local authorities.” The raid, claimed by an al Qaeda affiliate, came after Islamists had vowed to retaliate for France’s military intervention in Mali, where its forces have been in action against al Qaeda-linked militants since last week. Militants have claimed the attack is in revenge for Algeria’s support of France’s intervention against rebels in Mali.

Obama unveils gun control plan

President Barack Obama has unveiled sweeping gun control proposals, setting the stage for a showdown with firearms rights advocates. Obama is calling for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines as well as universal background checks on gun buyers. The White House is also proposing limiting ammunition, a ban on armour-piercing bullets and an end to the ban on gun-violence research by a federal agency. The plans follow the killing of 20 children and six adults in a Sandy Hook school in Newtown, Connecticut a month ago, and amount to the largest campaign in a generation to tighten America’s gun laws. Currently, the vast majority of states do not require rifles or shotguns to be registered and no permit is needed to buy or carry them. Handguns are more tightly restricted, with 38 states requiring a permit for carrying. The nation’s top gun lobby, the National Rifle Association (NRA) says it will fight any attempts to limit access to guns or ammunition.

Cameron and Miliband clash over Europe

David Cameron came under renewed pressure today to loosen his country’s ties with the European Union, two days ahead of a major speech in which he will spell out plans to renegotiate Britain’s membership of the EU. At his weekly Commons questions, Cameron dodged a question on whether Britain will be a member of the EU in five years time and is yet to be specific about when a referendum could take take place. The Prime Minister is to deliver a long-awaited speech on the UK’s future in the European Union on Friday in the Netherlands. On Monday Cameron rejected criticism from German politicians of ‘blackmailing’ the EU, insisting that ‘Britain would not collapse outside the EU’.

French ‘fighting in Mali town’

French troops have been fighting Mali’s Islamist rebels in street battles in the town of Diabaly, Malian and French sources say. In the first major ground operation in the conflict, French special forces were fighting alongside Malian troops. The move marked a broadening of their operation against battle-hardened al Qaeda-linked fighters who have resisted six days of air strikes. Diabaly, 350km (220 miles) north of the capital Bamako, was captured by the rebels on Monday. President François Hollande has said France intended to “destroy” the Islamists or take them captive if possible.

Two killed in Vauxhall helicopter crane crash

A helicopter crashed into a crane on top of one of Europe’s tallest residential blocks this morning, killing two people as it burst into flames and spiraled down into rush-hour traffic close to the Houses of Parliament in central London. The London Ambulance Service said a further six people had been taken to hospital, one with a broken leg, and seven other people were treated at the crash site. Eyewitnesses described a “deafening” bang, saying “it was quite devastating to watch.”

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