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Boko Haram attack market in northeast Nigeria

Boko Haram insurgents attacked a market outside the key northeast Nigerian city of Maiduguri, local people who witnessed the incident told AFP on Saturday. About 50 gunmen on motorbikes stormed the weekly market in Ngom village, some 20 kilometres (12.5 miles) from the Borno state capital, at about 1:00 pm (1200 GMT) on Friday and opened fire, they said. The attack came hours after a fierce fight with the Nigerian army in the town of Konduga, 35 kilometres from Maiduguri, during which the military said Boko Haram fighters were routed, lost equipment and suffered heavy casualties. "They (Boko Haram) came on motorcycles and opened fire on the market.

Iraqi military failings pose challenge for anti-IS war

The shortcomings of the Iraqi military, which withered under a June militant onslaught and relies on Shiite militias for support, pose a significant challenge to international efforts against brutal jihadists. President Barack Obama has announced an expanded campaign of American air strikes as well as training, intelligence support and equipment for Iraqi security forces to help them drive back the Islamic State (IS) jihadist group, which holds major areas in both Iraq and Syria. Deep Sunni Arab mistrust of the Iraqi government will also cause difficulties for anti-jihadist efforts, while long-running Arab-Kurd disputes may also be a problem.

EU ministers promote 'investment' but options unclear

EU ministers said Saturday investment was key to bringing the European economy out of the doldrums, but options were limited with funding and spending issues still unresolved. "There is a dearth of investment in Europe and this is the reason for weak growth," said Italian Finance Minister Pier Carlo Padoan, who headed a meeting of European Union finance ministers in Milan. After years of a German-led push to slash debt-plagued government budgets, the possible return to recession in the EU has sparked calls for more spending to counteract the anti-growth effects of austerity. Things are not black and white where you have to choose between investment and fiscal consolidation," said European Economic Affairs Commissioner Jyrki Katainen, usually a hawk on the dangers of government over-spending.

France aided Somalia Shebab leader assassination

French intelligence services assisted Washington in the operation that killed the commander of Somalia's Shebab militant group earlier this month, local media reported Saturday. "France and President (Francois Hollande) supported with intelligence and coordination" a US air strike that killed Ahmed Godane, the commander of the Islamist faction responsible for a string of deadly attacks throughout Somalia, the weekly Le Point magazine said. The US confirmed that Godane -- one of the world's eight top terror fugitives -- was killed in a drone and aircraft strike in southern Somalia on September 1. Paris is said to hold Godane responsible for the capture of two French intelligence agents in Somalia in 2009.

Russia, Ukraine trade blame as fighting tests truce

Kiev (AFP) - Tensions over Ukraine festered on Saturday after Kiev accused the Kremlin of seeking to "eliminate" the pro-Western former Soviet nation while Moscow charged Washington with orchestrating the entire crisis.

Texas governor's race heats up over new book

By Marice Richter DALLAS (Reuters) - The race for Texas governor entered a new chapter this week with the release of a memoir from Democratic candidate Wendy Davis that rekindled attention on abortion and led to an ethics complaint from her opponent, Republican Greg Abbott. Abbott, currently the state's attorney general, is accusing Davis of misusing campaign contributions to promote the book called "Forgetting to Be Afraid," in which Davis, a state senator, reveals she had terminated two pregnancies. "Senator Davis' book promotion has gone from ethically questionable to outright unlawful," Abbott campaign spokesman Matt Hirsch said. Davis campaign spokesman Zac Petkanas called the complaint frivolous and said it shows "how worried Greg Abbott is about the power of her story." Davis, who rose from being a single mother in a trailer park to a Harvard Law school graduate, gained national standing in 2013 when she donned pink running shoes and staged a dramatic 10-hour filibuster at the Texas statehouse against sweeping abortion restrictions.

Tunisian dictator's last FM to stand for president

Deposed Tunisian despot Zine El Abidine Ben Ali's last foreign minister, Kamel Morjane, said Saturday he will stand in the November presidential election, the first since the 2011 revolution. I accepted," Morjane, who heads Al-Moubadara (the Initiative) party, told Jawhara FM radio station. Morjane, 66, was the last foreign minister in the regime of Ben Ali, who was chased from power by a popular uprising on January 14, 2011. He first joined the government in 2005 as defence minister and also served in Ben Ali's now defunct Rally for Constitutional Democracy (RCD) party.

Families of beheaded US reporters warned not to pay ransoms

The families of two journalists beheaded by Islamic State jihadists were both warned by US government officials they could face prosecution if they raised a ransom for their release. The recent executions of James Foley and Steven Sotloff by Islamic State (IS) extremists triggered worldwide revulsion and Washington has since declared it is at war with the radicals. The United States has a policy of never paying ransoms, contending that doing so would endanger Americans all over the world. Late Friday, a spokesman for Sotloff's family said the murdered journalist's parents were told by a White House counterterrorism official last May that they could face prosecution if they paid a ransom in an attempt to secure the release of their son.

Lebanon arrests 'prankster' for threatening to behead children

Lebanese police have arrested a man who staged a sick prank by filming himself threatening to behead three Syrian refugee children left in his care, a security official told AFP on Saturday. The police also briefly arrested the children's mother, who confessed to enjoying the scene she found when she returned from work. The video, which was posted on YouTube Friday and shared widely, shows the three terrified children crying as a man standing behind a camera waves a knife and asks: "Whom do we behead first?" Adding to the pathos of the incident, the crying children respond by pointing at each other.

US state trooper dead, one wounded in ambush

A US state trooper was shot and killed and another was wounded late Friday in an ambush outside a police barracks in Pennsylvania, authorities said. State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan said whoever carried out the attack at the Blooming Grove Barracks in Pike County, eastern Pennsylvania, was still at large. "It is of a grave concern to us and we are putting every resource available to the Pennsylvania state police or law enforcement in Pennsylvania in action," he said.

Top Hamas official rules out direct talks with Israel

Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Hamas's former Gaza prime minister Ismail Haniya said on Saturday the militant Islamic Palestinian group would not hold any direct talks with Israel.

AP Enterprise: al-Qaida's Syrian cell alarms US

WASHINGTON (AP) — While the Islamic State group is getting the most attention now, another band of extremists in Syria — a mix of hardened jihadis from Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria and Europe — poses a more direct and imminent threat to the United States, working with Yemeni bomb-makers to target U.S. aviation, American officials say.

Al-Qaeda rebels seize most of Syrian side of Golan truce line

Rebels including Al-Qaeda loyalists have seized most of the Syrian side of the armistice line with Israel on the Golan Heights, a monitoring group said on Saturday. Al-Qaeda affiliate Al-Nusra Front and its allies launched a major offensive against government forces in Quneitra province last month, capturing the sole crossing point over the armistice line to the Israeli-occupied sector of the strategic plateau. "The regime is on the retreat before the advancing rebels," Syrian Observatory for Human Rights director Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP. They are part of the 1,200-strong UN Disengagement Observer Force, which monitors a 1974 ceasefire between Israel and Syria on the Golan.

New focus on minority voting after Brown's death

FERGUSON, Mo. (AP) — A few miles from the street where Michael Brown died is the grave of Dred Scott, a slave who went to the Supreme Court and tried, unsuccessfully, to be recognized as a free American citizen.

Uganda foils Somalia Shebab cell plotting 'imminent attack': US

Ugandan security forces have stopped a cell of Somalia's Al-Qaeda linked Shebab insurgents apparently "planning for an imminent attack," the US embassy said Saturday. "Ugandan authorities reported the discovery of an Al-Shebab terrorist cell in Kampala," it said in a statement. Police spokesman Fred Enanga confirmed forces had "made arrests." "Joint security agencies in Uganda have foiled a terrorist attempt at one of its installations," Enanga told AFP, without giving any further details.

Get Grandma on board: young Scots push independence

The campaign for Scottish independence took to the family dinner table this weekend as young nationalist voters were urged to use Sunday lunch to persuade their grandparents to vote "Yes" in next week's referendum. People over the age of 65 are the group most resistant to the overtures of Scottish National Party (SNP) leader Alex Salmond and his team, opinion polls suggest. "This is an inspired campaign and a great excuse to pop round for Sunday lunch at your gran's," said Salmond, Scotland's first minister. Those who cannot make it in person are being asked by the "Yes" campaign to write or phone their grandparents to explain why they should vote for Scotland to leave the 300-year-old United Kingdom.

Europeans move towards watered-down 'Tobin' tax

European finance ministers struggled to agree a long promised financial transaction tax on Saturday, with Germany urging a watered-down version amid resistance from France, eager to protect its lucrative derivatives trading sector. "The first step will only be small, that's unfortunately true," said German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, an influential backer of the scheme on the sidelines of European Union minister talks in Milan. This pushed the European Commission, backed by Germany and France, to propose a tax on financial transactions.

Thousands march for UK as Scotland vote nears

Thousands of members of the Protestant Orange order marched through Edinburgh on Saturday in a show of strength against Scottish independence, as the final weekend of campaigning for the referendum got underway with everything to play for. We are here to galvanise the 'No' vote," Henry Dunbar, Grand Master of the order's Grand Lodge of Scotland, told a rally in the shadow of Edinburgh Castle. Across Scotland campaigners from both sides were pounding the streets, after a week that saw the unionists step up their efforts following a surge in support for independence that now puts the two camps neck and neck. Orange members from Northern Ireland and England joined the march on Saturday in a push for the union, although it has caused tensions with the official "Better Together" campaign.

Eyeing 2016, Sen. Rubio stresses border security

MIAMI (AP) — Two years ago, immigration activist Gaby Pacheco got a call from Marco Rubio. The Florida senator wanted advice as he tried to develop a plan to help people like her: immigrants brought to the United States illegally as children.