An American fighting for a hardline Islamist group carried out a deadly suicide bombing in Syria, US officials said Friday, in the first such case in the war. The confirmation came amid growing fears over the flood of foreigners into Syria, with no end in sight in the three-year war that has already left 162,000 people dead. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki identified the suicide bomber as Moner Mohammad Abu-Salha. Abu-Salha is thought to have been behind a truck bombing against regime forces on Sunday in the northern province of Idlib.
Democratic lawmakers in Delaware have introduced a bill that would decriminalize possession of a small amount of marijuana, following the lead of nearly 20 U.S. states that have moved to loosen laws surrounding non-medical use of the drug. The legislation would also reduce the fine for using marijuana in a public place to $100. Under current Delaware law, marijuana possession is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and a maximum fine of $1,150. Supporters say decriminalizing small amounts of marijuana would lessen the burden on prisons and the justice system.
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Democratic Progressive Party leader Peter Mutharika was declared the winner of Malawi's disputed presidential election on Friday after defeating President Joyce Banda. Mutharika, the brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika, took 36.4 percent of the votes cast against Banda's 20.2 percent, the electoral commission said. Electoral commission chief Maxon Mbendera declared Mutharika "president-elect" after last week's vote, which Banda said was marred by "serious irregularities" and "null and void". The results showed that Banda was beaten into third place by Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party (MCP), who garnered 27.8 percent of the vote.
US lawmakers urged France to break its contract to sell two warships to Russia and instead sell or lease them to NATO, which said Friday it was up to Paris to decide. Three congressmen led by Eliot Engel, the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, wrote to the transatlantic alliance's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen expressing concern about the construction and sale to the Russian navy of two Mistral-class helicopter carriers. "It is critical that NATO countries no longer provide powerful weapons to enhance Russia's ability to intimidate or even invade its neighbors," the lawmakers wrote Thursday, referring to Russian President Vladimir Putin's aggression in Ukraine.
Peter Mutharika, who was on Friday declared the winner of Malawi's disputed presidential election, is set to take the reins of the impoverished southern African country under the shadow of a treason charge. The 74-year-old brother of former president Bingu wa Mutharika is accused of attempting to conceal his brother's death in office two years ago in an attempt to prevent Joyce Banda -- then vice-president -- from assuming power. Banda prevailed and took office as decreed by the constitution, booting the former foreign minister out of the administration, but Mutharika beat her soundly in the May 20 election. The trial is still pending, but analysts say it is likely the case will be set aside as Malawi's presidents enjoy immunity from prosecution as long as they are in office.
President Barack Obama's under-fire Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki resigned Friday, paying the price for an expanding scandal over failures in health care for America's retired warriors. "Secretary Shinseki offered his resignation. The president said that an initial review by Shinseki, 71, had found that delays and other management failures in veterans' health care were not confined to one facility in Arizona, but were systemic and nationwide.
The United States on Friday flatly rejected a plan laid out by Thailand's junta chief to delay elections for more than a year to allow time for political reforms. "We know that they have announced a, quote, 'road map toward democracy,' but with scant details included," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. She insisted that Washington believed the best path forward was "to set a timeline for early elections and to facilitate an inclusive and transparent electoral process." Only after this could elections be held, he said.
The leader of South Sudan's rebels, former vice president Riek Machar, said Friday he was "committed to peace" and ready to resume peace talks next week in Ethiopia. Speaking after talks in Nairobi with Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Machar also described the nearly six-month-old conflict in the world's youngest nation as "senseless war". And I want to assure you that we are serious about bringing peace to South Sudan," he said in a brief statement after the talks. "I want to assure you that we are serious in ending this senseless killing in South Sudan.