When the Syrian opposition took over the Armenian-Christian town of Kessab in coastal Syria last month, its 2,000 residents fled. Instead, rebels appear to be using Kessab as an opportunity to try to undo their reputation for extreme brutality towards Syria's Christians and Shiites. But the Assad regime, which considers itself the protector of minorities, has launched a media campaign to demonstrate how Islamists are terrorizing Christians in Kessab, turning the town into a public relations battlefield in Syria's civil war. Christians' fears of the armed opposition have been stoked by events such as the Hatla massacre, in which at least 30 Shiite villagers were killed, and by snapshots of life under the control of extremist groups: strict Islamist doctrine, public beheadings of "infidels," and the alleged levying of a jizya, or protection tax, on some Christian communities by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, an Al Qaeda-linked militant group.
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — His voice shaking, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand Monday for the first time, testifying that he was trying to protect the girlfriend he killed and that he became so tormented by memories of the fatal shooting and panic attacks that he once hid helplessly in a closet.
PRETORIA, South Africa (AP) — Stifling sobs, Oscar Pistorius took the witness stand Monday in his murder trial and apologized to the family of the girlfriend he shot dead, describing himself as traumatized and now on antidepressant medication, and sometimes waking from nightmares to the "smell of blood."
Dutch priest Frans van der Lugt, who gained renown for his insistence on staying in Syria's besieged city of Homs, was shot dead there on Monday by a masked gunman. His death was reported by the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Syria's state news agency SANA, and was confirmed by the Dutch Jesuit Order. The motive for his murder was unclear, although Syria's main opposition bloc accused the regime of President Bashar al-Assad of being behind it. Van der Lugt, 75, had become a well-known figure in the Old City of Homs, respected by many for his solidarity with residents of the rebel-held area under a government siege for nearly two years.
Take away the Dutch-inflected surnames of most of the protagonists and witnesses, and the trial of Pistorius, on charges that he murdered his girlfriend, sometimes feels almost placeless — a splashy celebrity whodunit that could have happened anywhere in the West. Here in South Africa, however, it has become far more personal, and the question of his guilt or innocence has cut unexpected lines across this socially and economically divided country. Pistorius told a three-judge panel he was “simply trying to protect Reeva” when, on Valentine’s Day last year, he shot through a bathroom door four times, killing her instead of what he thought was an intruder. The prosecution argues the sprinter shot Reeva Steenkamp after a bout of angry shouting. While Pistorius could have been cross-examined today, the chief judge, Thokozile Masipa, ended the trial early, accepting the defense argument that the defendant had not slept the night before and was exhausted.
A 9-year-old girl appeared to have been swept away by flash floods triggered by severe storms in Mississippi and more than 100 people were rescued from deluged apartment buildings in Alabama, authorities said on Monday. Firefighters in a Birmingham, Alabama, suburb worked for six hours to evacuate residents by boat and rope pulls after swift waters from a nearby creek flooded their apartments, said Homewood Fire Department Lieutenant Gus Murphree. Authorities in Mississippi were still searching for the young girl, believed to have been carried away by flash-flood waters triggered by storms that were expected to head north into the eastern United States. The missing child was from Yazoo County, where flooding had affected homes and businesses, the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency said.
The US Navy believes it has finally worked out the solution to a problem that has intrigued scientists for decades: how to take seawater and use it as fuel. The development of a liquid hydrocarbon fuel is being hailed as "a game-changer" because it would signficantly shorten the supply chain, a weak link that makes any force easier to attack. The US has a fleet of 15 military oil tankers, and only aircraft carriers and some submarines are equipped with nuclear propulsion. Vice Admiral Philip Cullom declared: "It's a huge milestone for us."