Dozens more bodies from the crash site of Malaysia Airlines flight MH17 are set to arrive in the Netherlands, as the EU prepares to hit Russia with fresh sanctions. Foreign ministers from the 28-nation bloc said they would meet in Brussels Thursday to draw up a new list of Russian individuals and entities to be slapped with sanctions over Moscow's role in the Ukraine crisis. The European Union agreed to speed up the imposition of wider sanctions and examine tougher measures after the Malaysia Airlines flight was shot down in strife-torn eastern Ukraine, allegedly by separatist rebels backed by neighbouring Russia.
The United States, India and Japan are set to kick off week-long war games in the Pacific, beefing up naval ties as they warily eye an increasingly assertive China and its military buildup. Warships from the three countries are to begin the joint exercises on Friday, after an official opening ceremony at the Sasebo Naval Base in southern Japan on Thursday. Known as the Malabar Exercise, the annual event usually involves India and the US, but Japan's Maritime Self-Defence Force (MSDF) will take part this year, the third time since 2007.
Suicide bombers and gunmen Thursday attacked a bus transferring convicts from a prison north of Baghdad, sparking fierce clashes with security forces that left at least 60 dead, police said. Security and medical officials said that around 50 prisoners were among the dead, many of them burnt beyond recognition. "At least 60 people, prisoners and policemen, were killed in a suicide attack followed by several IEDs (improvised explosive devices) and shooting," an interior ministry official told AFP. It was not immediately clear who launched the assault, which targeted a security convoy escorting a bus that was transferring around 60 prisoners, many of them held on terrorism charges, from the main prison in Taji, some 25 kilometres (15 miles) north of Baghdad.
Al-Qaeda suspects on a motorbike shot dead an army officer Thursday in Lahij province of southern Yemen, a local security official said. The gunmen opened fire at Major Bilal Karo near his home in Thalab town, "immediately killing him," the source said, adding that the militants "suspected of belonging to Al-Qaeda" fled on their motorbike. A medical source said Karo's body was taken to Ibn Khaldoun hospital in the province. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, branded by Washington as the network's deadliest franchise, has been blamed for most such attacks, although it has never claimed them.
Thailand on Thursday urged Israel to relocate 4,000 Thai nationals working near the battle-scarred Gaza strip after one of its citizens was killed. Israeli police said a farm labourer, Narakorn Kittiyongkul, died on Wednesday when a projectile fired from Gaza struck the greenhouse where he was working in the southern part of the country. He joined a soaring death toll from 17 days of conflict which has claimed more than 700 lives so far and prompted frantic diplomatic efforts to forge a truce led by the US and United Nations. The Thai Foreign Ministry said its embassy in Tel Aviv had advised its citizens to stop working in the area near Gaza.
Cook Islands Prime Minister Henry Puna has won a second term in the small Pacific nation, although the main opposition party said it planned to challenge the results. Preliminary returns in the July 9 poll showed Puna in danger of losing his own seat but a late surge in support from postal ballots delivered victory to his Cook Islands Party (CIP). Final results from the Chief Electoral Office gave Puna's CIP a narrow majority of 13 seats in the 25-seat parliament, with the prime minister retaining his Manihiki electorate. The opposition Democratic Party secured eight seats, with the recently formed One Cook Islands Party winning two seats.
In Wise, a town in rural western Virginia, hundreds of people have lined up at the county fairgrounds for a numbered ticket, some of them 24 hours ahead of time. The lucky ticket holders are not waiting for a concert or a show -- they are here for free health care provided by Remote Area Medical (RAM). The charity relies on donations -- and a network of volunteers that includes hundreds of doctors, dentists and opticians -- to treat people across the United States, many of whom have no other options. For some, it is their first access to health care in years.
The US national aviation authority lifted a ban on American flights to Israel, but warned of a "very fluid situation" amid intense fighting in the Gaza Strip. After a rocket fired by Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip struck a house just north of Israel's main airport in Tel Aviv, the Federal Administration Agency imposed the ban on Tuesday and then renewed it midday Wednesday. "The FAA has lifted its restrictions on US airline flights into and out of Israel's Ben Gurion Airport by cancelling a Notice to Airmen it renewed earlier today," the agency said in a statement hours before the ban was due to expire. Before making its decision, the FAA said it worked with US government officials to evaluate the security situation in Israel and "carefully reviewed both significant new information and measures the government of Israel is taking to mitigate potential risks to civil aviation."
Australia's human rights commissioner on Thursday said conditions at an asylum-seeker camp on Christmas Island have "significantly deteriorated" with children plagued by despair and suffering symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. Gillian Triggs and leading paediatrician Elizabeth Elliott visited the centre last week as part of a national inquiry into the mandatory detention of children seeking asylum in Australia. It followed reports that up to a dozen mothers had attempted suicide this month, believing their babies would have a better chance of being settled in Australia if they were orphans. She said she held "grave concerns" for the welfare of the 1,102 asylum-seekers in the facility, particularly the 174 children.
US Republican lawmakers called for greater say in any deal reached between the West and Iran over the Islamic republic's controversial nuclear program. With negotiations to end Iran's years-long nuclear standoff with the United States and other Western powers recently extended for an additional four months, until November, five senators introduced legislation that would compel President Barack Obama to bring any final deal before Congress for its approval. The West believes Tehran is seeking to build an atomic bomb, but Iran insists its efforts are purely for civilian use. "Any final agreement of a matter of this consequence should be reviewed by this body, should come before Congress, and should have the ability of Congress to provide oversight over it," Senator Marco Rubio told the chamber.
By Sarah N. Lynch WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. lawmaker will pressure the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission on Thursday to consider a raft of reforms, after William Ackman's aggressive efforts to take over Allergan Inc raised concerns about loose rules governing disclosure and shareholder voting. Republican Representative Edward Royce of California plans to grill SEC Corporation Finance Director Keith Higgins at a House Financial Services hearing. "I am especially interested in the SEC’s process when looking at novel or creative deals like the announced joint-bid by Valeant Pharmaceuticals and Pershing Square for Allergan,” Royce said in a statement. “Mr. Higgins’ appearance before the committee is an opportunity to make sure that the Commission is making robust reviews of these sorts of deals to ensure strong investor protections and market transparency.” Saat Alety, Royce's spokesman, said that Royce is prepared to take legislative action if the SEC fails to fix the problem on its own.
A key measure of Chinese manufacturing activity hit an 18-month high in July, HSBC said Thursday, in a further sign the world's second-largest economy is gaining momentum on the back of Beijing's mini-stimulus. The HSBC preliminary purchasing managers index (PMI), which tracks activity in China's factories and workshops, leapt to 52.0 this month, its highest since January 2013, according to the British banking giant. "Economic activity continues to improve in July, suggesting that the cumulative impact of mini-stimulus measures introduced earlier is still filtering through," HSBC economist Qu Hongbin said in a statement accompanying the data. The figures are compiled by financial information services provider Markit and released by HSBC.
Shafia Abdullah's Sudanese family is consumed with thoughts of vengeance after militia shot him dead during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, ending his advocacy for Darfur's displaced people. Abdullah's murder is only one among many in Darfur's years of war but it symbolises what residents say is a worsening security situation, leaving little to celebrate as the Eid al-Fitr festival approaches next week. Abdullah, 35, lived in Central Darfur's Hassa Issa camp for the displaced and was gunned down on July 5, a relative said. Violence throughout Darfur has been as bad this year as it was then.
South Korea unveiled a $40 billion stimulus package Thursday as the finance minister warned of a risk of recession after the economy grew at its slowest rate for more than a year in the second quarter. Citing sluggish domestic demand in the wake of a devastating ferry disaster in April, the finance ministry cut its forecast for economic expansion in 2014 to 3.7 from 4.1 percent. "Our economy now stands at a critical crossroads between making a leap forward and falling into a recession," Finance Minister Choi Kyung-Hwan was quoted as saying by the Yonhap news agency. "A slump in domestic demand is deepening, and the economy is losing its momentum," Choi said.