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Monday, January 21, 2013

Algerian Prime Minister Counts 37 Foreigners Dead at In Amenas

Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said on Monday that 37 foreigners of eight different nationalities and one Algerian worker were killed during the hostage crisis at the In Amenas gas plant. He also stated that 29 of the militants that entered the facility had been killed, with three captured alive, adding that one of the hostage-takers was Canadian. He praised the Algerian troops that stormed the site during the weekend, saying that this prevented the kidnappers from blowing up the facilities. “The terrorists also shot some of the hostages in the head, killing them”, said Sellal. Other countries had been vehemently opposed to any military action to try to rescue the victims, with Japan openly calling for an end to the raid and summoning the Algerian ambassador to Tokyo for up-to-date information. Among the dead were seven Japanese nationals, three U.S. citizens, three Britons and a number of workers from Norway, Romania, Malaysia, the Philippines and Romania. Five hostages are thought to be missing and are believed to have been taken to northern Mali.

Islamists Ousted from Diabaly by French, Malian Troops

French and Malian soldiers entered the town of Diabaly, in the west of Mali, after the retreat of Islamist fighters on Monday. A column of thirty armoured vehicles entered the town unopposed carrying some 200 troops, according to reports by the AFP news agency. Residents came out of their homes and greeted the arrival of the soldiers. Local sources say the Islamist fighters have retreated to their stronghold in Kidal, in the north-east of Mali near the border with Algeria. French Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Mondrian said that the aim of the French operations in the country was to “restore the sovereignty of Mali upon its territory and to avoid the formation of a terrorist sanctuary in the heart of Africa”. Meanwhile, United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague told the BBC Radio Four’s Today programme that Mali should not be allowed to become a failed state. “What we don’t want in countries like Mali is the 20 years of being a failed state that preceded all of that in Somalia”, said Hague.

Drone Strike Kills Four Suspected al-Qaeda Militants in Yemen

A U.S. drone strike killed four suspected al-Qaeda militants in the central Yemeni province of Maarib, the third such strike in as many days against targets in the country. A statement by the Yemen’s defense ministry said the strike was directed at a vehicle travelling on the main highway linking the capital Sana’a to the central Maarib province near the town of al-Ateef and that the vehicle had been carrying four people. Another six suspected militants had been killed by drone strikes on Saturday and Sunday. While the United States never comments on its drone strikes, their activity in Yemeni airspace is met with the tacit approval of the local government who is keen to curb the influence of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), an active division of the terrorist network founded by Osama bin Laden. The organisation used the unrest against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to gain a foothold in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa in 2011.

Gang Rape Trial Begins in Delhi

Five men accused of brutally gang-raping and murdering a student in Delhi last December have been fast-tracked to a trial set up after an uproar over the slowness of the Indian legal system. All of the accused could face the death penalty if convicted, while a sixth suspect, a minor, could face separate proceedings. Police say the victim and a male friend were attacked after boarding a bus. The friend was beaten and the woman was raped repeatedly before suffering massive internal injuries when a metal bar was inserted into her. Both victims were dumped on a roadside and were not offered help by passers-by. The woman died of her injuries two weeks later in a Singapore hospital. Case prosecutors say DNA evidence links the accused to the crime, but defence lawyers say the men were tortured and beat into confessing the crime. The trial will be held behind closed doors, with no media access.

German Opposition in Narrow Lower Saxony Win

The German Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the country’s Green Party won a surprising and narrow victory in Lower Saxony, a region of eight million people in north-western Germany. The result could spell trouble for Chancellow Angela Merkel’s ruling coalition ahead of national polls in September. She described the defeat as “painful”, saying that the local elections had been “an emotional roller-coaster”. The result also tips the country’s upper house of parliament, the Bundesrat, into the opposition’s hands. Bundesrat members are delegated by their respective state governments. The SPD’s leader, Peer Steinbrück, said that the result meant that “this year a change of government and power is possible”.

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