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Friday, January 18, 2013

‘Around 30′ Algeria hostages unaccounted for

Hundreds of hostages have been freed from militants at an Algerian gas facility, state media say, but about 30 foreigners are still unaccounted for. About 60 foreigners are still being held hostage or missing inside the plant, after Algerian forces stormed the desert complex to free captives taken by Islamist militants, who threatened to attack other energy installations. The number of Britons still caught up in the Algerian hostage crisis has been “significantly reduced“ from the previous estimate of ”less than 30“, David Cameron told MPs. A number of British citizens who were caught up in the ongoing Algerian gas facility siege have spoken of their relief at being freed. According to APS, the Algerian state news agency, the military operation rescued a total of 650 hostages, of whom 77 were foreigners.

Massacre evidence seen in Syria

Evidence has been found to support reports from Syria of a massacre this week, in which at least 100 people were killed and burned in their homes. A BBC team visited the village of Haswiya, on the edge of the central city of Homs, and saw charred bodies still lying inside one of the houses. The news supports recent reports that 106 people were shot, stabbed and possibly burned to death in the Syrian city of Homs this week, in what a monitoring group said was a massacre by the army or militia loyal to Bashar al-Assad. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said women and children were among the people killed by forces who stormed the district. “The Observatory has the names of 14 members of one family, including three children, and information on other families who were completely killed, including one of 32 people,” said Rami Abdelrahman, head of the monitoring group. Meanwhile, Syria’s government authorised the UN World Food Programme to extend its reach in the country where 2.5 million people are suffering from hunger.

Mali rebels ‘flee contested town’

The UN refugee agency says it has received reports of horrific abuses being committed in Mali and it anticipates up to 700,000 more people will be forced to flee their homes in the next few months. Mali’s army recaptured Konna after Islamist rebels fled, the military and residents in the strategically important central town have said. French troops’ initial clashes have shown that the desert fighters are better trained and equipped than France had anticipated before last week’s military intervention, French and other U.N. diplomats have said. French President Francois Hollande has insisted the ongoing hostage crisis is evidence that France’s military intervention in Mali is justified. Meanwhile, security officials have said that Algerian militants planned their hostage-taking attack on a remote desert gas plant well before a French military operation against militants in neighboring Mali. France began its intervention in Mali a week ago because of the rebel takeover of the town north of the capital.

Abortion data regulations ‘reconsidered’ by MPs

MPs called today for rules banning doctors from recording the sex of aborted foetuses to be reviewed, after it was disclosed that illegal terminations on gender grounds may be taking place in the UK. Calls for an inquiry came after it emerged that birth rates for girls and boys vary noticeably according to where their mothers were born. The first official statistical evidence of its kind potentially backs up concerns that sex-selection abortions are being carried out in Britain. Earl Howe, a health minister, disclosed the preliminary statistics in answer to Lord Alton, but rejected his request for data to be collected on the sex of unborn babies at the time of abortion. Earl Howe said this was because recording the gender of foetuses “raises ethical and clinical issues”. Lord Alton, who campaigns against abortion, has claimed that Earl Howe told him he could now be prepared to reconsider that refusal.

Weekend Read

Heavy snow around the UK is set to cause further travel disruption as the Friday rush hour gets going. But that doesn’t make the scenery any less attractive as the weather turns for the worse (or is it the better?) right across the country. If you really are worried about travelling, this could help. But if not then sit back and enjoy the view.

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