Saturday 25 February 2017

Video: Supporters of Syrian regime gather to pray for soldiers killed in bombing

Thousands of regime supporters massed at a mosque in Syria's capital yesterday for funeral prayers for policemen killed in a Damascus bombing, as the government vowed to respond with an "iron fist" to security threats.

Coffins bearing 11 policemen, covered with Syrian flags, were brought into the Al-Hassan mosque for the prayers, a day after the explosion ripped through a Damascus intersection, killing 26 people and wounding 63. Officials said the attack was a suicide bombing, the second in two weeks to hit the normally quiet city.

Syrian opposition groups demanded an independent investigation into the bombing, accusing forces loyal to the Syrian regime of being behind the attack.

In the hours after the bombing, Syrian forces opened fire on demonstrators, killing six people.

A Kenyan military spokesman has said that at least 60 militants were killed on Friday in airstrikes on a base of an al-Qaeda-linked group that Kenyan troops have been pursuing in Somalia.

Colonel Cyrus Oguna said yesterday the airstrikes on Garbaharey town were prompted by a tip that al-Shabab militants had gathered in the area to refuel their vehicles. He also said the death toll could rise.

Kenya sent hundreds of troops into neighbouring Somalia in October to pursue al-Shabab militants, whom it blames for a string of kidnappings on Kenyan soil, including those of four Europeans.

Sudan's president, Omar al-Bashir, arrived in Tripoli yesterday on his first visit to the country since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi, in a bid to restore relations which soured in the last years of the Libyan dictator.

Sources said Mr Bashir arrived with a high-level delegation for a two-day visit. Khartoum had accused Gaddafi of supporting Sudanese rebels in the western region of Darfur. In return, Mr Bashir openly said he supported Libyan rebels in their 2011 uprising, providing them with weapons and money.

Mr Bashir, like Gaddafi, is wanted by the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

The Iranian Revolutionary Guard started military exercises in the east of the country to protect borders, the state-controlled Fars news agency reported yesterday, citing the ground forces' commander.

The actions, named "Shohaday-e Vahdat" or martyrs of unity, are part of routine drills by the ground forces to maintain and boost combat preparedness, said Brigadier General Mohammad Pakpour.

They come less than a week after the navy finished a 10-day maritime exercise in the international waters in the Sea of Oman and the Indian Ocean.

A 15-year-old Texas girl who was mistakenly deported to Colombia in May has been reunited with her family.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement said that Jakadrien Lorece Turner claimed to be a 21-year-old Colombian woman named Tika Lanay Cortez when she was arrested in April for theft. She had run away from her Dallas home in November 2010. She was located in Bogota, Colombia.

The Colombian government says upon arriving there, the teenager was given shelter and a job in a call centre.

The UN says aid groups are mounting a "major emergency operation" in rural South Sudan after tribe-on-tribe violence sent tens of thousands of people fleeing and killed an unknown number of people.

The UN's humanitarian co-ordinator in South Sudan, Lise Grande, said yesterday that aid groups were responding to a call for help from South Sudan's central government after a column of 6,000 armed men from the Lou Nuer ethnic group targeted the Murle community.

The UN said three villages were burned to the ground. Aid groups evacuated 140 people who were wounded. A local government official said thousands had been killed.

Israel said yesterday that the online publication of thousands of its citizens' credit card details by a hacker claiming to be Saudi was comparable to terrorism, and vowed to hit back.

The data theft, which appeared to focus on commercial websites, was one of the worst Israel said it had faced. While the financial damage was reportedly minimal, the breaches have heightened concerns about the potential use of stolen information by the Jewish state's foes.

Such cyber-attacks are regarded as "a breach of sovereignty comparable to a terrorist operation and must be treated as such", said Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister.

Sunday Independent

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