The defeated challenger in last week's Mississippi Republican U.S. Senate primary took an initial step Thursday toward challenging the election result, with his campaign formally seeking access to ballots cast in the race. Chris McDaniel, a state senator backed by the conservative Tea Party movement, has said the bitterly fought election was stolen with votes illegally cast by Democrats for his opponent, six-term U.S. Senator Thad Cochran. McDaniel spokesman Noel Fritsch said the McDaniel campaign, after reviewing voting records in 51 of 82 counties, has uncovered 4,900 voting irregularities, most of them Democratic primary voters improperly casting ballots in the June 24 Republican runoff. The campaign has not provided documentation of the alleged irregularities.
By Lawrence Hurley WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Supreme Court gave a Christian college in Illinois a temporary exemption from birth control coverage required by President Barack Obama's health reform law, days after ruling that for-profit employers can opt out for religious reasons. The court said on Thursday in a split 6-3 decision by the justices that Wheaton College, which has objected on religious grounds, did not have to comply with the government compromise process for nonprofit groups with religious affiliations while litigation continues, an unsigned order showed. On Monday, the court said on a 5-4 vote that closely held for-profit corporations could obtain an exemption based on the religious beliefs of their owners. By granting Wheaton College's request, the court indicated that its decision does not dictate the outcome of litigation involving dozens of nonprofit groups.
Hundreds of former Libyan rebels gathered in Sarajevo on Thursday to see the world premiere of a documentary dedicated to their 2011 fight against Moamer Kadhafi's regime. The four-hour documentary "Tomorrow, Tripoli" by French director Florent Marcie depicts the everyday experiences of fighters in Zintan, the West Libyan hill town that was among the first to fall into rebel hands after an armed uprising broke out against Kadhafi in February 2011. A scene in the film shows the death of Mohammed Ali Madani, founder of the rebel Zintan Brigade that would go on to capture Kadhafi's son Seif in November 2011.
Up to 1,000 supporters of Ivorian ex-president Laurent Gbagbo are in prison where several are subjected to torture, the head of the country's former ruling party said on Thursday. "After our investigations in jails and with family members, we count 700 prisoners," Affi N'Guessan, the president of the opposition Ivorian Popular Front told journalists, calling this "an approximate figure". Fifty prisoners detained during Ivory Coast's post-election crisis between 2010 and 2011 were released in May, a gesture interpreted as a sign of appeasement for followers of Gbagbo. A list of 719 prisoners presented by the Ivorian Popular Front includes more than 200 military personnel and individuals whose cases are yet to reach court, the party said.
The US military has secretly maintained forces in Somalia since 2007, despite earlier public statements claiming it had no presence in the country until last October, defense officials said Thursday. The United States has deployed up to 120 troops in the African nation and hopes to bolster its security ties to Somalia's government as it battles Al-Qaeda-linked Shebab militants, a defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told AFP. The US troops operating in Somalia have been mainly Green Beret special forces, who specialize in training and advising local armies, the official said. In October last year, the Pentagon had portrayed the arrival of a handful of military advisers in Somalia as the first deployment of American forces to the country since 1993.
Talks on maintaining peace in Northern Ireland collapsed on Thursday as unionist parties walked out to protest restrictions on an Orange Order parade, raising fears of disorder ahead of the peak of the summer marching season. Local press said the collapse cast doubt over the future of the Northern Ireland's power-sharing administration, in which posts are split between republican and unionist ministers. The Democratic Unionist and Ulster Unionist parties walked out of the negotiations to protest a decision to prevent a 12 July Orange Order parade passing close to the nationalist Ardoyne neighbourhood on its return route. The 12 July march is the peak of the traditional marching season, in which the unionist Orange Order marches with pipes, drums and banners to mark the anniversary of a 1690 victory by Protestant William of Orange over Catholic King James.
After this week's murder of an east Jerusalem Palestinian, calls to inflict violent revenge on Arabs over the killings of three Israeli teenagers have gathered momentum on social media websites. Such incitement, including by serving soldiers, has featured photos on Facebook and Twitter and prompted Israel's authorities to urge restraint and threaten the culprits with disciplinary action.
Egyptian police swiftly quashed protests marking the anniversary Thursday of the military ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, firing tear gas and arresting dozens of demonstrators. The protests were seen as a test of the Islamists' strength, with the Muslim Brotherhood-led Anti Coup Alliance having issued an aggressive rallying cry demanding a "day of anger" to mark the occasion. Police closed off several main squares in Cairo and scoured neighbourhoods to head off protests. Police also broke up protests elsewhere in Cairo, while three policemen were wounded when their checkpoint in a southern district of the capital was attacked and set on fire by protesters late Thursday, security officials said.
Thirty-two Turkish truck drivers held hostage by Islamic militants in Iraq flew back home to Turkey on Thursday following their release after three weeks in captivity, local officials said. A Turkish plane carrying the truck drivers from the northern Iraqi city of Arbil landed in Turkey's southeastern province of Sanliurfa near the Syrian border late on Thursday. "We were not subjected to ill treatment but we had lived with the fear of uncertainty and death for 23 days," Okkes Sen, one of the truck drivers, told Turkish television.
The US military's top officer said Thursday that Iraqi forces had shored up their defenses against Sunni militants but would be hard-pressed to regain territory without outside help. General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, said American advisers were still evaluating the state of the Iraqi army, and he suggested US military action was not imminent. Dempsey told a news conference that Iraqi forces were not yet in a position to stage a major counter-offensive after being driven back by Sunni extremists in recent weeks. US military advisers in the capital found that Iraqi security forces are "stiffening, that they're capable of defending Baghdad," Dempsey said.
The future of an open Internet faces threats from government crackdowns, and "balkanization" resulting from growing concerns over broad electronic surveillance, a survey of experts showed Thursday. The Pew Research Center said a majority of experts and others in the opt-in survey were generally optimistic about Internet freedom but that a significant number expressed concerns. "The experts in this survey noted a broad global trend toward regulation of the Internet by regimes that have faced protests and stepped up surveillance of Internet users," Pew said in its report. "They pointed out that nations such as Egypt, Pakistan, and Turkey have blocked Internet access to control information flows when they perceived content as a threat to the current regime.
The American embassy in Algiers has warned of a possible attack by "an unspecified terrorist group" over the weekend and advised its staff to avoid US-operated hotels. "As of June 2014 an unspecified terrorist group may have been considering attacks in Algiers, possibly in the vicinity of a US branded hotel," the mission said on its website. "The US Embassy in Algeria has instructed embassy employees to avoid US owned or operated hotels through the US Independence Day (July 4) and Algerian Independence Day (July 5) holiday weekend." Violence attributed to Islamists has declined considerably in Algeria in recent years, after a decade of appalling blood-letting during the civil war of the 1990s.
A battle between rival Sudanese clans near an oil-drilling site killed 150 people and wounded 100 more, state-linked media reported on Thursday. The fighting in West Kordofan state between two sub-groups of the Misseriya tribe "continued all day because of a land dispute near the oil field," said Mohammed Omer Al-Ansari, a tribal leader. He was quoted by the Sudanese Media Centre, which is close to the security apparatus. The report did not say on which day the battle occurred, but it comes about one month after the same groups, the Zurug and Awlad Amran clans of the Misseriya, clashed in that area.
The editor of a Liberian newspaper critical of the government and family of president Ellen Johnson Sirleaf has been arrested, a police source said on Thursday. Friends and colleagues of Octavin Williams claim the journalist was detained after he published an article on two of Sirleaf's sons. Williams criticised Fumba Sirleaf in Wednesday's edition of Nation's Time following the arrest of immigration officers who reportedly leaked to the press the fact that his brother Robert -- a US citizen -- was seeking Liberian documents enabling him to run in forthcoming general elections. Robert Sirleaf, who resigned last year as chairman of the state oil company amid allegations of nepotism, has since been named presidential envoy to Kuwait.
Egypt's military said troops killed 17 jihadists in shoot-outs in the restive Sinai Peninsula Thursday, the anniversary of the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi. It said another three were arrested and that troops destroyed four vehicles belonging to jihadists in Rafah, on the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip. Since Morsi was deposed, militant attacks have hit the north of the mostly desert Sinai, but also hit Cairo and the Nile Delta.
The United States offered a tacit approval Thursday to Tokyo's easing of some sanctions on North Korea, saying it can "understand" Japan's efforts to resolve abductions of its nationals. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said his government will revoke some of its unilateral sanctions on Pyongyang as a reward for the secretive state's progress in its pledge to reinvestigate the cases of Japanese citizens snatched in the 1970s and 1980s. The United States maintains sweeping sanctions on North Korea, and US lawmakers have moved toward toughening them further, but Washington appears to have opted against publicly objecting to Tokyo's easing of their restrictions on Pyongyang.
Ireland's economy expanded by a strong 2.7 percent in the first quarter of 2014 in a fresh sign the eurozone nation is returning to health, official data showed Thursday. The Central Statistics Office figures show GDP in the first three months increased 4.1 percent year-on-year, the strongest growth since 2011. Minister for Finance Michael Noonan said the data will have a favourable impact on both Ireland's deficit and debt ratios. He said that the figures indicate Dublin's deficit this year would be closer to 4.5 percent of GDP, rather than the 4.8 percent previously predicted.