Nigerian authorities, battling to stem an escalating Islamist insurgency, covered up a bomb attack in the financial capital Lagos by claiming a blast near a major fuel depot was an industrial accident, according to an AFP investigation. The explosion ripped through an area of Nigeria's biggest city on June 25, just hours after a suspected Boko Haram car bombing in the administrative capital Abuja, which killed 21 people and stoked fresh fears that the group's deadly campaign was spreading. The Lagos blast in the Apapa district, on a main road feeding Nigeria's busiest port and in an area housing most of the city's fuel depots, was blamed on a cooking gas cylinder which exploded, with no casualties.
South Sudan marks its third birthday this week in a state of civil war, carved up along ethnic lines, locked in a cycle of atrocities and on the brink of famine. Despite vast oil reserves and billions in foreign aid, the world's youngest nation has been classed as a massive failure -- most recently by the Fund For Peace which put South Sudan in the top spot on its Fragile States Index, ahead of Somalia, Afghanistan and Iraq. Juba has been a divided city since mid-December, when presidential guards loyal to President Salva Kiir clashed with troops supporting ousted vice-president Riek Machar -- the event that triggered the now seven-month-old civil war.
Former Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze, who helped end the Cold War as the Soviet Union's last foreign minister, died Monday aged 86, with tributes pouring in from friends and foes. Shevardnadze was a controversial figure praised for his role in negotiating a bloodless end to the Soviet Union's confrontation with the West, but despised at home for his 10 years at the helm of post-Soviet Georgia that saw him ousted in a popular uprising. "Mr Shevardnadze died today at noon," his aide Marina Davitashvili told AFP, weeping. He won high praise on the world stage for his time as Mikhail Gorbachev's chief diplomat, when he oversaw arms-reduction treaties with the United States and brokered the deal that brought down the Berlin Wall.
New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has asked the Justice Department to investigate evidence said to be acquired by U.S. investigators that the Cuban government plotted to smear him with allegations he was involved with prostitutes, the Washington Post reported on Monday. Citing people familiar with the situation, the Post said Menendez's lawyer wrote in a letter to the Justice Department in April that the alleged plot was designed to derail Menendez's political career as he was seeking re-election in 2012. Menendez, who is of Cuban descent and is now chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, has been a critic of Cuba's communist government.
The US national anthem rang out. Protesters in the small California town of Murrieta are fighting what they say is an "invasion" of illegal immigrants. The demonstrators turned up a week ago at this US Border Patrol facility for detained migrants, and, vowed Greg Allison, "we're not going anywhere." "It's the third time I'm making the trip from San Diego in one week," said Dan Russell, 71.
Activists in the gambling hub of Macau have announced an unofficial referendum on electoral reform in the latest challenge to Beijing, after almost 800,000 turned out for a similar poll in Hong Kong. Like Hong Kong, Macau's leader is known as its chief executive and is chosen by a pro-Beijing electoral committee. "Our goal is to fight for a democratic electoral system and the first stage is to get the citizens informed of the election system," poll organiser Jason Chao told AFP. Questions include whether there should be universal suffrage for the 2019 chief executive elections and how confident voters are in sole candidate Fernando Chui, who has been in the position since 2009.
A US Jewish woman has presented the Yad Vashem memorial to the Holocaust with a magazine cover of her as a baby that the Nazis had used as an Aryan poster child. The mother of Hessy Taft, born in Berlin in 1934 of Jewish parents, took her baby at six months to a professional photographer for a portrait.
India unveiled plans Tuesday to open its railways to foreign investment and introduce the first bullet train in a budget for the network closely watched for clues about the new government's economic priorities. The rail finance bill is regarded by economists as setting the stage for the general budget -- due Thursday -- in which the right-wing government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi will lay out keenly awaited reform plans. The crumbling state-run railways need an "immediate course correction" after decades of mismanagement, Railway Minister Sadananda Gowda told parliament as he outlined his plans for the network which carries 23 million people daily. Gowda said he would seek cabinet approval for foreign direct investment (FDI) in the railways for the first time and undertake a renewed push for public-private partnerships (PPP) in all areas except for passenger operations.
Prominent Kuwait opposition leader Mussallam al-Barrak sent a defiant message to the government hours after he was released from jail saying protests will continue in the oil-rich Gulf state. "Putting us in jail will only strengthen our determination," Barrak told an opposition rally Monday night near the central prison where a number of activists are still detained. "We will not stop protests until we achieve the elected government that comes out from ballot boxes," the nationalist leader told a cheering crowd celebrating his release. Forming an elected government to replace the existing ruling family-led cabinets is one of the main demands for the Kuwaiti opposition groups which include Islamists, nationalists and liberals.
Nigerian police on Monday uncovered a plot to bomb a secondary school in the restive northeastern city of Gombe by defusing a car laden with explosives that had been abandoned there, a spokesman said. Police bomb experts found 12 improvised explosives concealed in a car that was abandoned on the premises of the state-run Pilot secondary school, following a tip-off, Fwaje Attajiri told AFP. Attajiri said an investigation had been launched to establish who was behind the foiled attack, refusing to say if Boko Haram Islamists can be blamed. Boko Haram, which means Western education is forbidden in local Hausa, has carried out deadly attacks on schools in the volatile northeast as part of a five-year insurgency aimed at establishing an Islamic state in the north.
The United States said Monday it was open to improved ties with Venezuela after more than a decade of rocky relations, but cautioned it was up to Caracas to change its ways. "We remain open to a long-term relationship with Venezuela," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters in Washington. "We have existing concerns, as you know, about circumstances on the ground, and accusations they have made against the United States," Psaki added. Relations have been tense for over a decade but they took a turn for the worse in May when President Nicolas Maduro's government charged the United States was trying to overthrow his elected, leftist government -- by killing him.
The United States tried to cool Monday a new spy row with Germany after Chancellor Angela Merkel warned reports an alleged German double agent helped the CIA could again damage trust between the allies. Revelations that a 31-year-old German intelligence operative was suspected of espionage revived suspicion between Berlin and Washington which had barely ebbed following reports last year the US National Security Agency (NSA) tapped Merkel's cellphone. Merkel, who was furious over the previous US-Germany espionage row sparked by fugitive leaker Edward Snowden's revelations, said during a visit to Beijing that if the reports were correct, "it would be a serious case." Washington, in line with normal practice on espionage issues, declined to comment on the report.
The United States expressed its concern Monday over the jailing of a prominent rights lawyer in Saudi Arabia and said it would raise such cases with the kingdom. Washington "is troubled by the 15-year prison sentence, travel ban and steep fine handed down to human rights lawyer and activist Waleed Abulkhair," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters. "We urge the Saudi government to respect international human rights norms, a point we have made to them regularly." Abulkhair, under arrest since April 26, has had many run-ins with the authorities over his activism and for allegedly insulting them.
France's defence minister warned Monday that violence in the Central African Republic was becoming "more serious" as he started a visit to the former French colony, amid reports of more deadly clashes. Jean-Yves Le Drian said political efforts to end the bloody conflict have stalled despite the election of a new leader six months ago, and the deadlock has further inflamed tensions between Christians and Muslims. Central Africa's transitional president Catherine Samba Panza took power in February in a bid to end the deadly sectarian violence, which erupted when the mainly Muslim Seleka alliance seized power in a March 2013 coup.