The rise of jihadists in Iraq has set the West on edge, but Damascus sees it is an opportunity to legitimise its battle against rebels and promote it as a war on "terror". President Bashar al-Assad's regime has repeatedly denied the existence of a revolt seeking political change in Syria, instead branding its opponents -- both peaceful and armed -- as "terrorists". For Damascus, the lightning Sunni offensive in neighbouring Iraq led by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) provides a chance to lend credence to its rhetoric. "The West must recognise it made a mistake by encouraging all these people to establish themselves in the region," said Waddah Abed Rabbo, editor-in-chief of pro-regime daily Al-Watan.
Suspected Boko Haram Islamists attacked a series of churches on Sunday near Chibok, the northeast Nigeria town where more than 200 teenage girls were kidnapped in April, with dozens feared dead, witnesses said. "The attackers went to churches with bombs and guns," Timothy James, a Chibok resident said by phone, explaining that the villages were within 10 kilometres (six miles) of Chibok.
By Jon Herskovitz DALLAS (Reuters) - For one day a year ago, Wendy Davis became the brightest star in the U.S. political universe when she donned pink tennis shoes and launched a one-woman, 10-hour filibuster against abortion restrictions that brought her international attention. Now she is battling to revive a seemingly stalled campaign to become the first Democratic Texas governor in more than 20 years by winning over frustrated Republicans and motivating enough voters who would otherwise spend election day at home to find a few minutes to vote. State Senator Davis, 51, came into the Texas Democratic convention in Dallas over the weekend with surveys showing her 10-13 percent points behind the Republican nominee, Attorney General Greg Abbott, 56, and failing to close ground. "I'm running because there's a moderate majority that's being ignored - commonsense, practical, hardworking Texans whose voices are being drowned out by insiders in Greg Abbott's party, and it needs to stop," she told the convention on Friday.
Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants have warned they will step up attacks in the Somali capital Mogadishu during the holy month of Ramadan, which started on Sunday. In an audio message released on the Shebab-controlled station Radio Andalus and also on an Islamist website, the group's commander in charge of Mogadishu operations, Sheik Ali Mohamed Hussein, said the time had come when violence will be at a peak. His statement came just a few hours after the Somalia government deployed dozens of heavily armed police on key streets and roads in Mogadishu to counter attacks. "The attacks will increase and explosions will continue, Mogadishu will remain a frontline and even worse than ever," said Sheik Ali Mohamed Hussein.
British voters are pessimistic about Prime Minister David Cameron's ability to achieve reforms to the European Union that he believes are crucial to persuading Britain to stay in the bloc, a new poll found on Sunday. Some 42 percent of respondents surveyed by YouGov do not believe the EU will be prepared to hand back any powers to member states, and another 29 percent think any concessions won by Britain will only be minor. Cameron has pledged to renegotiate Britain's terms of membership with the EU before holding a referendum on whether to leave or stay in the block in 2017. He hopes that reform will persuade eurosceptic voters to stay in the EU, but admitted that his failure last week to block the appointment of Jean-Claude Juncker as head of the bloc's executive arm made his job harder.
Senegal voted in municipal and provincial elections on Sunday, seen as a key test for President Macky Sall as he tries to shore up support for his party two years after his own disputed victory. A bitterly disputed presidential election in March 2012 was marred by violence that left up to 15 people dead and at least 150 injured. Sall won that election with more than 65 percent of the vote against Abdoulaye Wade who had been in power for 12 years. The local elections are a key test for Sall and his party which control only a few local communities.
A jihadist group in Syria has publicly executed and crucified nine men, eight of them rebels fighting both President Bashar al-Assad's regime and the jihadists, a monitor said on Sunday. The report comes amid fierce clashes on the outskirts of Damascus between the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which is spearheading a major offensive in Iraq, and rebels, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. "ISIL executed eight men in Deir Hafer in the east of Aleppo province" on Saturday because they belonged to rebel groups that had fought against the jihadists as well as Assad's forces, it said. Also in Aleppo province, a ninth man was executed and crucified in Al-Bab town near the border with Turkey.
Israeli air raids hit the Gaza Strip 12 times overnight, wounding two people after rockets fired from the Palestinian territory caused a fire in southern Israel, sources from both sides said. The strikes late on Saturday and early on Sunday targeted sites across the coastal enclave, slightly wounding two people and damaging property in Gaza City, an interior ministry spokesman in Gaza said. "There were a total of 12 strikes in two stages," an Israeli army spokesman told AFP, saying the raids targeted several "sites of terrorist activity". The strikes came after Palestinian militant groups in Gaza fired 12 rockets at southern Israel on Friday and Saturday.
Saudi King Abdullah on Sunday sharply criticised religious extremists, vowing not to let "a handful of terrorists... terrify Muslims", in a speech marking the start of the Muslim holy fasting month of Ramadan. "Their goal is to sow discord among Muslims," he said in an apparent reference to insurgents from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The powerful jihadist group has spearheaded an offensive by Sunni militants in Iraq since June 9, wresting control of northern cities and capturing vast swathes of territory. ISIL operates in both Syria and Iraq and aims to establish an Islamic state straddling the border of those two countries, but their lightning advance in Iraq also poses a threat to Jordan and Saudi Arabia.
Iraq said it received the first batch of Sukhoi warplanes from Russia as it pressed a counter-attack Sunday against Sunni militants whose offensive threatens to tear the country apart. The arrival of the fighter jets comes with Iraqi forces, backed by aerial cover, pushing to retake the militant-held city of Tikrit and world leaders urging a speeding up of government formation following elections in April. The newly-purchased Su-25 ground attack jets are expected to be pressed into service as soon as possible, bolstering Iraq's air power as it combats a sweeping offensive by militants, led by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, that has killed more than 1,000 people and sparked a humanitarian crisis with hundreds of thousands displaced. Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Thursday announced that Baghdad was buying more than a dozen of the warplanes from Russia in a deal that could be worth up to $500 million (368 million euros).
BROWNSVILLE, Texas (AP) — President Barack Obama will seek more than $2 billion to respond to the flood of immigrants illegally entering the U.S. through the Rio Grande Valley area of Texas and ask for new powers to deal with returning immigrant children apprehended while traveling without their parents, a White House official said Saturday.
Europe's fragile recovery is stalling, a batch of economic data showed this week, with analysts warning that France, with the eurozone's second-biggest economy, could be slipping into another downturn. With Portugal joining Ireland in exiting a billion-euro bailout programme, and even Greece successfully raising money on the markets, the eurozone was looking to put its debt crisis behind it. - France lags - Analysts have backed this up from the standpoint of monetary policy, saying that decisions by the European Central Bank in the last two years to underpin the eurozone debt market have doused the debt crisis.
One year ago, Croatia joined the European Union with great fanfare, sparking hopes that membership of the rich 28-nation bloc would transform the fortunes of the tourism-dependent economy. Croatia remains one of the bloc's weakest economies, mired in a seemingly never-ending recession that has pushed unemployment to 20 percent -- half of the country's youth are without a job. The Adriatic country of 4.2 million people has seen its economy contract for the past 10 quarters and only Greece -- which bore the brunt of the eurozone debt crisis -- suffered a bigger fall in output from 2009 to 2013. In the first quarter of this year, the economy shrank by 0.4 percent compared to the same period last year, before Croatia joined the bloc.
Hong Kong citizens voted in the final day of an unofficial referendum on democratic reform Sunday, days before a record number of people are expected at an annual pro-democracy protest. The 10-day poll has seen voters choose how the southern Chinese city's leader should be elected, but it has enraged Beijing with state-run media describing the ballot as "an illegal farce". More than 760,000 people have voted since the poll opened online earlier this month, as fears grow that Beijing will backtrack on its promise to allow Hong Kong universal suffrage. Tensions are running high in the former British colony with upwards of 500,000 people expected to participate in a pro-democracy rally on Tuesday, the anniversary of Hong Kong's handover to China.
The Philippines stepped up security at key installations and all public areas in parts of the country's volatile south on Sunday following a terror threat, police said. The national police said they had received reliable information on a "possible terrorist threat" on the southern island of Mindanao, particularly in Davao, the country's third largest city with a population of more than two million. All police forces were alerted "to beef up security operations against possible infiltration of suspected members of said reported threat groups", the national police said in a statement. It did not mention the nature of the possible attack, nor identify any group, although parts of Mindanao are plagued by Al-Qaeda-linked Muslim militants as well as communist guerrillas waging a decades long insurgency.
The massacre of 10 foreign climbers on Pakistan's "Killer Mountain" a year ago came after a failed attempt to capture a Chinese-American to use him as a high-value bargaining chip, officials and militant sources have told AFP. The June 22 attack at the base camp for the 8,126-metre (26,660-foot) Nanga Parbat, Pakistan's second-highest mountain -- nicknamed for its treacherous terrain -- was the deadliest assault on foreigners in the troubled nuclear-armed country for a decade. One year on, with tourism in the northern Gilgit-Baltistan region still suffering, most of the 10 suspects implicated in the attack are still at large, while sources close to the investigation have cast doubt on the guilt of some of those arrested. The victims were identified as three Ukrainians, two Chinese -- including Chinese-American Chen Honglu -- two Slovakians, one Lithuanian and one Nepalese as well as a Pakistani guide.