In brief: Fighting leaves 27 dead in Somalia as crucial election talks get under way
At least 27 people have been killed in heavy fighting near the border of two semi-autonomous regions of Somalia, witnesses said yesterday on the eve of a political conference to hammer out a road map towards elections in the chaotic country.
Puntland's security ministry said its forces had repelled a two-day attack by al-Shabaab militants in the north of Galkayo town, which its troops control, and accused the authorities of the Galmudug region, who control the south of Galkayo, of harbouring the militants. The latest clashes and escalation in rhetoric risk spilling over into the three-day political talks starting today, the first major nationwide conference to be held in war-battered Mogadishu in four years.
"The fighting erupted after al-Shabaab terrorists opened fire on Puntland security forces intending to arrest members of a terrorist cell who organise assassinations and bombings," the security ministry said.
Witnesses said the fighting had subsided early yesterday but that bodies still lay strewn in the town's streets and tensions remained high.
Group of boys kidnapped by Taliban
Pakistani Taliban yesterday claimed responsibility for holding up to 25 boys hostage as punishment for tribesmen who supported the military in the country's troubled northwest. Pakistani officials said last Friday that militants in Afghanistan kidnapped the boys after they mistakenly crossed the border while on an outing in the border tribal region of Bajaur last Wednesday. A Pakistani Taliban spokesman said they held the boys, and their fate would be decided by the militants from Bajaur.
"We have kidnapped them as their parents and tribal elders are helping the government and are fighting against us," spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan said.
A group of around 60 boys took part in the outing but about 20 boys under the age of 10 were allowed to return to Pakistan, while up to 40 others between the ages of 12 and 14 were held, officials said earlier.
Mugabe insists on March elections
State media loyal to Zimbabwe's president Robert Mugabe said yesterday he will hold elections in March to end the nation's fragile coalition government.
The Herald newspaper reported that Mr Mugabe told party loyalists he would not bow to pressure to call elections later in 2012. "We cannot go beyond March next year. I will definitely announce that date. It does not matter what anyone would say," the paper quoted him as saying. He said he had the sole right to call for polls to end "dilly-dallying" in the coalition formed after disputed and violence-ridden elections in 2008.
But regional mediators -- led by South African president Jacob Zuma -- have said elections cannot be held until constitutional and democratic reforms are in place by the end of next year.
Police won't face misconduct charges
BRITISH police officers who carried out a raid on the home of Smiley Culture, in which the reggae star died, will not face disciplinary action from the police watchdog.
Following an investigation, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said the operation at the home of the singer, whose real name was David Emmanuel, was "not satisfactory".
At least one of the four Metropolitan Police officers involved has been criticised by the IPCC after Mr Emmanuel died from a single stab wound to the heart while police searched his Surrey home on March 15 this year. But the criticism is not strong enough to initiate misconduct procedures, according to the IPCC.
The only action the officers can now face is if the Met initiates an "unsatisfactory performance procedure", which can result in dismissal, but which the IPCC cannot direct.
Mr Emmanuel's death was described as "bizarre" by his family, who also criticised police at the time. They were told that he stabbed himself while making a cup of tea, despite the presence of officers in his home.
Insurgents killed in Chechen raids
Four suspected insurgent fighters were killed in a raid on a building early yesterday in the troubled southern Chechen region of Kabardino-Balkariya, a Russian Interior Ministry official said.
Two police officers were wounded during the clash between the rebels and government forces in the city of Baksan, Interior Ministry official Marina Kyasova said. A resident and a young child caught up in the fighting were also wounded. Kabardino-Balkariya lies west of Chechnya, which has been plagued for years by an Islamist-inspired insurgency. Government forces have registered some notable successes this year in targeting leading figures within the Kabardino-Balkariya wing of the broader North Caucasus insurgency. Ms Kyasova said one of the fighters killed was wanted for involvement in terrorist activities and the murder of police officers. Another man was sought for committing serious criminal acts.
Officer acquitted of war crimes dies
Sandor Kepiro, a former officer in a Hungarian special security force who was recently acquitted of Holocaust-era war crimes charges, died yesterday. He was 97. Mr Kepiro died at a hospital in Budapest, his lawyer Zsolt Zetenyi said. "Doctors said he was suffering from 'general weakening', and I am convinced the trial contributed significantly to the worsening of his health," Mr Zetenyi said. Charges that Mr Kepiro, a former gendarmerie captain, was responsible for the deaths of 36 people in northern Serbia during the Second World War were dismissed in July by a Budapest court because of insufficient evidence.
Mr Zetenyi had appealed the ruling, saying that it did not go far enough in clearing Mr Kepiro. The prosecution also appealed, calling the acquittal by a panel of three judges "unfounded". The charges stemmed from Mr Kepiro's participation in a raid by Hungarian forces on the northern Serbian town of Novi Sad in January 1942 in which more than 1,200 civilians were killed.
Mr Kepiro acknowledged participating in the raids, but he maintained that his role was only supervisory.
Many of those killed, mostly Jews and Serbs, were shot and their bodies dumped into the Danube River.
Suicide bomber kills three policemen
A suicide car bomber killed three policemen and injured seven at a checkpoint in Yemen's port city of Aden on the Arabian Sea yesterday. Gunmen firing their weapons drove through the checkpoint after the bombing on the road linking Aden to Zinjibar, the provincial capital of Abyan, which has fallen under the control of Islamic militants affiliated with al-Qaeda.
Elsewhere, three soldiers and 12 militants were killed in clashes between Islamists and army units advancing on Zinjibar.
Chancellor Merkel's father dies
German Chancellor Angela Merkel's father, a Protestant pastor who moved with his family to communist East Germany in the 1950s, has died. He was 85.
The government said Horst Kasner died last Friday. It did not give further details but said Ms Merkel had cancelled her appointments for yesterday -- when she was due to appear at a local election rally of her conservative Christian Democrats in north-eastern Germany.
Ms Merkel was born in the West German city of Hamburg in 1954. Shortly afterwards, Mr Kasner took a pastoral post in the communist east.
In 1957, Mr Kasner moved the family to Templin, a small town 50 miles north of Berlin, where he trained new clergy in the atheist state.