Chocolate magnate Petro Poroshenko appeared poised to lead Ukraine as it grapples with its worst crisis since independence after exit polls showed him winning Sunday's presidential election outright. He won almost 56 percent of the vote against almost 13 percent for former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko, according to a joint survey conducting by Ukraine's three leading polling agencies. "The first thing we must do is bring peace to all the citizens of Ukraine," the 48-year-old self-made billionaire said as he cast his vote earlier in Kiev. The ex-Soviet nation on the EU's eastern frontier is fighting for its very survival after Russian President Vladimir Putin responded to the popular overthrow of a Kremlin-backed leader by seizing Crimea, parking thousands of troops on the Ukraine border and backing an uprising in the east.
Boko Haram is probably beyond the reach of global sanctions but attempts to curb the Nigerian Islamists' reign of terror is an indication of growing international commitment, analysts said. But with sanctions designed to cut off overseas funding and support for Boko Haram, which kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls last month, there are doubts about what impact they might have on the ground. "Boko Haram has for several years now existed beyond the formal parameters where an arms embargo or asset-freeze would affect the group," Jacob Zenn, from the Jamestown Foundation think-tank in the United States, told AFP. Omoyele Sowore of Nigeria's Sahara Reporters website told BBC radio on Friday that Boko Haram was different from global extremist groups such as Al-Qaeda in terms of structure and funding.
The leader of Nigeria's Muslims on Sunday called for followers of the faith to unite against Boko Haram extremists, pledging the government full support to ensure their defeat. But the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa'ad Abubakar III, also said the government should address issues of inequality towards Muslims, which have been seen as factors in fuelling the five-year insurgency. "Terrorism has no place in Islam," he told a congregation, including Nigeria's Vice-President Namadi Sambo, clerics and traditional rulers, at the National Mosque in the capital, Abuja. The Sultan, who is president of Nigeria's Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, has come under pressure to speak out against Boko Haram, who have killed thousands in their quest for an Islamic state in the north.
Yemeni troops launched a ground assault Sunday against Al-Qaeda suspects who fled an army offensive in the south to a district near the capital, killing three jihadists, sources said. "Yemen's anti-terrorism forces carried out a military operation in Arhab," 35 kilometres (20 miles) from Sanaa, "killing three Al-Qaeda militants and arresting four others," a security official told AFP. Tribal sources in the region said the army had closed access to Arhab on Sunday as it continued to target militants. The militants, who included foreigners, returned to Yemen and were in the southern Al-Qaeda bastions of Shabwa and Abyan before an army offensive that was launched on April 29 drove them to Arhab, according to the tribal sources.
Nuri al-Maliki may be in pole position to remain Iraq's prime minister, but allegations of malpractice during last month's polls are clouding the prospect of forming a government anytime soon. Iraq's political parties have already begun meeting and manoeuvring as they seek to build post-election alliances, but forming a new government could still take months.
Three people were killed, including a male and female suicide bomber, and 15 wounded in late Saturday's attack on a restaurant popular with Westerners in central Djibouti, local media said Sunday. Quoting an interior ministry statement, Djibouti's ADI news agency said the attackers were from Somalia, where Djiboutian troops are part of an African Union force fighting Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab rebels. "According to the initial indications from the investigation, the three dead include two suicide bombers of Somali origin, a man and a veiled woman. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, although Djibouti's President Ismail Omar Guelleh was quoted as saying by ADI that the attack was a "violent reaction to our participation in the process to stabilise and secure the region".
Bethlehem (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - Thousands of cheering Roman Catholic pilgrims welcomed Pope Francis to Manger Square in the West Bank city of Bethlehem Sunday, where the pontiff celebrated mass. Francis rolled into the square standing in a white open-top car with a bullet-proof screen, as local Christians, and others from Europe, Africa and Asia belted out hymns and waved national and Vatican flags. The main stage set up for the pontiff, who arrived early Sunday by helicopter from Jordan, was flanked by huge Palestinian and Vatican flags, and adorned with a giant tableau depicting Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. From dawn, wave upon wave of pilgrims shuffled into the buzzing square, through barriers and metal detectors set up by Palestinian security forces as part of a massive security operation.
Prominent Bahraini Shiite activist Nabil Rajab issued an appeal on Sunday for "serious dialogue" in the Sunni-ruled kingdom following his release after serving a two-year jail term. "The only solution is a serious dialogue between the royal family and the opposition" dominated by the Shiite movement Al-Wefaq, said Rajab, who heads the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights. "Attempts at dialogue undertaken in the past were not serious and were rather messages to reassure international public opinion" about the situation in Bahrain, he said. The opposition has campaigned for the establishment of a genuine constitutional monarchy in Bahrain.
Jos (Nigeria) (AFP) - An explosion that killed at least three people in the central Nigerian city of Jos was hidden in a car, police said on Sunday, as an investigation opened into the second deadly blast within a week. "It was a vehicle-borne IED (improvised explosive device)," said Chris Olakpe, the commissioner of police for Plateau state, of which Jos is the capital. That includes the bomber," he told AFP but did not say whether the explosion, which happened at about 9:30 pm (2030 GMT) on Saturday, was an attempted suicide attack. Manzo Ezekiel, spokesman for the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA), said the explosion was of a lower intensity than Tuesday's twin car bomb attack in Jos, which killed at least 118.
Public anger at the Thai military's coup grew Sunday as more than one thousand protesters shouting "Get Out!" marched across the capital Bangkok in defiance of an army warning against protests. There was no sign of soldiers or police on the streets during the march Sunday, which went ahead despite a junta statement calling on people not to protest and a martial law ban on gatherings of more than five people. The military has detained former premier Yingluck Shinawatra and scores of other ousted government leaders and political figures since the coup, which brought sharp international criticism. Before the main march, minor scuffles broke out as dozens of protesters, some waving signs reading "Junta Out" and "Fuck Coup", staged a boisterous demonstration, jeering angrily and pushing at lines of armed soldiers outside a Bangkok shopping mall.
Sudanese rebels say they have launched a major operation against an area in South Kordofan which a controversial counter-insurgency unit showed off to journalists after "liberating" it last week. "Our forces launched (a) big offensive in Daldako", Arnu Ngutulu Lodi, spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Movement-North (SPLM-N), told AFP late Saturday in an email. Troops from Rapid Support-2 said they had seized the strategic Daldako area, 17 kilometres (11 miles) northeast of South Kordofan's state capital Kadugli, on May 18. But on Sunday the Al-Sudani newspaper, quoting Defence Minister Abdelrahim Mohammed Hussein, said the Daldako field commander of Rapid Support-2 had been killed in the rebel counter-attack.
Somalia's national security minister has resigned in the wake of a brazen attack by Shebab militants on the country's parliament, officials said Sunday. Abdikarim Hussein Guled had already come in for mounting criticism over a spate of high profile Shebab attacks inside Mogadishu in recent months, including against heavily-guarded sites including the presidential palace and airport. No official death toll was given after the attack but police said eight attackers were killed, and AFP reporters at the scene also counted four dead security guards. The Shebab were pushed out of fixed positions in Mogadishu, the capital and seat of the country's internationally-backed government, by African Union troops but have continued to strike inside the city.
Colombians vote Sunday in a presidential election held up as a test for peace talks between the government and Marxist guerrillas to end a half-century-old civil war. President Juan Manuel Santos, who is seeking a second four-year term, has presented his re-election as a referendum on his negotiations to end the conflict with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). His main rival, Oscar Zuluaga, has vowed to take a harder line and freeze the 18-month-old negotiations until the guerrillas stop their "criminal actions against Colombians." The two rivals are running neck-and-neck in a field of five candidates after a late surge in the polls by Zuluaga, setting up a likely run-off on June 15.
Two of the three people shot dead in an attack on the Jewish museum in Brussels were Israeli tourists, a spokesman for the Israeli foreign ministry said on Sunday. "An Israeli couple in their 50s from Tel Aviv, who were visiting Brussels as tourists, were among the victims," Yigal Palmor told AFP, in reference to the deadly attack in the Belgian capital on Saturday. "We have confidence in the Belgian authorities, in the justice system and the police to look into this horrible crime," he said. Three people were killed and one was critically wounded when a gunman attacked the Jewish Museum in central Brussels on Saturday afternoon in an apparently anti-Semitic act that shocked the country.