A Rwandan peacekeeper has been killed and three others wounded in a gun battle after trying to mediate a tribal dispute in Sudan's Darfur region, the African Union-UN mission said on Saturday. "As a result of the ensuing fighting, four Rwandan peacekeepers were injured and, unfortunately, one of them died from his wounds," UNAMID said in a statement. "The Arab militia elements, nevertheless, became hostile towards UNAMID peacekeepers and started shooting at them, at which point the peacekeepers returned fire," the mission said.
Maiduguri (Nigeria) (AFP) - The Nigerian city of Maiduguri may be calmer than this time last year but locals in Boko Haram's spiritual home still feel under siege, afraid to venture beyond the city limits because of the high risk of attack. A bomb also ripped through a crowded market in January, as Boko Haram's violent campaign to create an Islamic state in northern Nigeria entered its fifth year. Despite the relative calm in the northeastern city, resident Ari Kaka said: "We are practically under Boko Haram siege. "It is always a nightmare leaving the city because Boko Haram often set barricades on major roads, robbing and killing travellers," he told AFP.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that it was impossible to isolate Russia from the global economy, as he rejected talk of a "new Cold War" between Moscow and the West. Speaking to foreign news agency journalists at a key economic forum in his hometown Saint Petersburg, Putin also denied claims he was trying to restore the Soviet empire and said he was ready to meet Western leaders next month. Putin said that US and EU sanctions imposed on dozens of Russian officials have been "counterproductive" and insisted Russia could not be excluded from world markets. "I think isolating such a country (as Russia)... is impossible," he said, adding that wide-ranging sanctions "would be negative for everyone and would bring such turbulence to the European, Russian and global economies that it is clear that nobody is interested in this."
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi's President Joyce Banda on Saturday declared this week's chaotic election "null and void" and called for a fresh vote, throwing the impoverished nation into crisis. Her main rival Peter Mutharika said Banda's decision to annul the election was "illegal". "Nothing in the constitution gives the president powers to cancel an election," said Mutharika, who partial results showed was well ahead of Banda in the polls. There were chaotic scenes at the tally centre in Blantyre when word went around that the poll had been nullified, with police ordering a shutdown of the centre.
A US surveillance drone arrived at an air base in northern Japan on Saturday for the first deployment of the spy aircraft in the country, the US Air Force said. The Global Hawk was brought to the US Misawa Air Base from Guam "to support US intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and contingency operations throughout the Pacific theater," America's air force said on its website. It is also believed it will be used to monitor North Korea and China at a time when Pyongyang's nuclear and missile development programme and Beijing's maritime assertiveness have raised security concerns in Japan, local media reported.
Angry Bahrainis preparing to bury a teenager killed in clashes with police in a Shiite village near the capital torched a police car, the interior ministry said on Saturday. The ministry said the police car caught fire and burned on Friday night after being hit by a Molotov cocktail in the village of Mikshaa, west of Manama. Mahmud Mohsen, 15, died after being hit by birdshot on Wednesday, the main Shiite opposition bloc Al-Wefaq said. Bahrain remains deeply divided three years after security forces crushed an Arab Spring-inspired uprising, with persistent protests sparking clashes with police, scores of Shiites jailed on "terror" charges and reconciliation talks deadlocked.
Japan's central bank chief has forecast victory in his battle against stubborn deflation that has sapped growth for years, but expressed impatience over the pace of Premier Shinzo Abe's policy blitz aimed at jump-starting the long-laggard economy. Bank of Japan Governor Haruhiko Kuroda said stimulus measures had boosted economic activity and produced durable inflation. But he warned that Abe's government needed to step up its campaign for deeper, structural reforms that go beyond monetary policy to achieve more sustainable longer-term success.
Throngs of Shiite Muslims converged on a shrine in north Baghdad on Saturday for annual commemoration rituals under heavy security after a string of deadly attacks in the Iraqi capital. Attacks elsewhere in the country, meanwhile, left 10 people dead amid a protracted surge in nationwide unrest that has fuelled fears Iraq is slipping back into the all-out communal conflict that plagued it in 2006 and 2007. Much of the city was on lockdown Saturday for the climax of the rites to mark the death of a revered figure in Shiite Islam, with Baghdad's security forces looking to deter Sunni militant groups which often target Iraq's majority community. Several major roads were closed off and a wide variety of vehicles barred from the streets, as security forces also relied on aerial cover and sniffer dogs.
Lebanese President Michel Sleiman called on MPs to elect a successor without delay with his mandate ending on Sunday and rival political blocs still divided over a new leader. Sleiman's mandate expires at midnight Saturday, and the government led by Prime Minister Tammam Salam set to assume executive powers in the tiny Mediterranean country. Lebanon's political paralysis is mainly due to a deep political rift between two rival camps over the conflict in Syria, the powerful neighbour that dominated Beirut for 30 years until 2005. The March 14 coalition, led by Sunni leader and ex-prime minister Saad Hariri and Christian presidential candidate Samir Geagea, opposes the Syrian regime of President Bashar al-Assad.
Latvia, Malta and Slovakia, who all joined the European Union in 2004, voted Saturday in European Parliament elections expected to provide a major boost to anti-EU parties in several countries. "I always vote whenever there is an election," Maria Cauchi said in tiny Malta which has six seats in the new parliament. Voting began on Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands and continued twenty four hours later in the Czech Republic and Ireland. Most countries go to the polls at the weekend as Saturday sets the stage for the remaining 21 EU states to vote on Sunday for a parliament equipped with new powers and a key say in who gets to head the European Commission, the EU's executive arm.
Syria's air force on Saturday struck a besieged, rebel-held town near Damascus where UN and Red Crescent workers distributed aid, a monitoring group and activists said. "Two air strikes hit Douma during a visit of a delegation of the United Nations to the town's outskirts," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Douma is in the Eastern Ghouta area of Damascus province, where local residents suffer food and medical shortages. Activist Hassan Takieddin said 400 aid parcels were distributed "to the whole of Eastern Ghouta.
Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) - Renegade ex-general Khalifa Haftar said Saturday the Libyan people have given him a "mandate" to crush jihadist militants in the country, a day after thousands rallied in his support in Benghazi and Tripoli. Haftar's campaign has won growing support amid frustration at the lawlessness in Libya three years after the overthrow of dictator Moamer Kadhafi. "The (people) have given their instructions ... We pledge not to abandon this mission until Libya is purged of terrorists and extremists and all those who back them," he added. The statement was released by Haftar's self-declared "supreme military council" in the Benina region near the eastern city of Benghazi, where the rogue general launched his campaign this month.
Cologne (Germany) (AFP) - Turkish Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan visited Germany Saturday, splitting the large Turkish community between passionate street protesters and conservative supporters flocking to what was widely seen as a campaign speech. Erdogan is widely expected to run for the presidency in August, and Germany -- with a Turkish community of three million, about half of them eligible voters -- would be a strong constituency for the controversial leader.