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Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Westgate Siege Still Ongoing, British Woman Reported to Be Involved

Despite assurances from the Kenyan interior minister that the country’s forces had completely secured the besieged Westgate shopping centre on Monday afternoon, soldiers were combing the site for suspected al-Shabaab militants and more gunfire was still heard on Tuesday. Also, Kenyan Foreign Minister Amina Mohamed said that “two or three” Americans and one Briton were among the Islamists who carried out the attack. The British citizen, a woman, was described by the minister as having carried out attacks “many times before” and the Americans were said to be “young men, about between 18 and 19″, of “Somali or Arab origin, but that lived in the US, in Minnesota or one other place”. Mike Wooldridge, the BBC’s correspondent in Nairobi, said that the foreign minister’s remarks raised speculation that the British woman involved might be Samantha Lewthwaite, the widow of one of the men who carried out attacks on London’s transport system on 7 July 2005. British officials refused to comment on the identity of the attackers until investigations were concluded.

Merkel Enters Difficult Coalition Talks in Germany

Newly-reelected German Chancellor Angela Merkel has stated she is ready for talks about a grand coalition with the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD). “We are open to talks”, she said, revealing that she had already spoken with SPD chairman Sigmar Gabriel, despite the opposition’s desire to soften the austerity measures currently in place in the country. “The election result was a very strong mandate from the voters to exercise responsibility in Germany’s interest in Europe and in the world, and also a strong mandate for a united Europe”, said Merkel. There was speculation in Germany that she might be forced into a grand coalition because her previous junior partners in government, the liberal FDP party, did not cross the 5 percent threshold of votes and therefore did not enter the Bundestag, their first ever non-election in 64 years.

British, Iranian Foreign Ministers Hold Talks at the UN

British Foreign Secretary William Hague met his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in New York. The UK shut down its Iranian embassy in 2011 after the building was stormed by local protests over British nuclear sanctions. “I said to Mr. Zarif how damaging it was, of course, to our relations when our embassy compounds were overrun, when our staff were mistreated, the Vienna convention flouted, in November 2011″, adding that the embassy could reopen only “without the harassment and without the difficulties that were placed in the way of it before”. On Iran’s recent more open stance with West, Hague said “the United Kingdom does not seek a confrontational relationship with Iran and is open to better relations. The United Kingdom welcomes President Rouhani and Foreign Minister Zarif’s recent statements about Iran’s wish to improve its relations with the outside world”. He added, however, that such statements should be followed up by concrete actions by the government in Tehran.

Inquiry Launched into Alleged Support of Golden Dawn by Greek Armed Forces

Greek Defense Minister Dimitris Avramopoulos has launched an investigation into allegations that the country’s military forces have helped train hit squads formed by members of the far-right Golden Dawn party. The investigation comes days after Golden Dawn supporters stabbed and killed Pavlos Fyssas, a hip-hop artist and human rights activist. Meanwhile, Greek President Karolos Papoulias said it was his duty to protect the country’s citizens from neo-fascist violence. “From the time I was a young man I fought fascism and Nazism. It is my supreme duty as president of the republic to defend democracy and the Greek people from the storm that is approaching”, said Papoulias. “Golden Dawn has been radically strengthened, it has passed 20 percent [in the polls] and in a few months it will lay claim to the biggest municipalities in the land. We will not stop. We have justice on our side and more than a million Greeks”, countered Golden Dawn spokesman Ilias Kasidiaris.

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