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.
Ukraine was preparing Saturday for a presidential election seen as crucial to its very survival after months of turmoil that has driven the country to the brink of civil war. Sunday's vote comes with tensions running high after a bloody upsurge in fighting in the east, where pro-Moscow separatists launched an insurgency against Kiev's rule seven weeks ago. Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk issued an appeal for people to turn out to "defend Ukraine" which has been in deep crisis since street protests forced out the Kremlin-backed regime in February. However, in what could be a significant move in Ukraine's bitter confrontation with its former masters in Moscow, Russian President Vladimir Putin said Friday he would respect the outcome of the vote.
Somalia's Shebab rebels launched a brazen attack on the national parliament Saturday, setting off a car bomb and storming the building with suicide commandos, leaving at least eight dead, police and witnesses said. Security sources said the "complex attack" -- involving bombs and gunmen with suicide vests -- was finally brought to an end after four hours by Somali security forces and African Union troops. Witnesses said Shebab militants, the Al-Qaeda-linked group fighting to overthrow Somalia's internationally-backed but fragile government, stormed into the complex in central Mogadishu while scores of MPs were meeting inside. A huge car bomb went off outside the gates of the parliament shortly before midday, and a string of smaller blasts followed by intense gunfire were heard coming from inside.
An Egyptian court jailed 19 supporters of ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi for five years on Saturday for storming the offices of the head of the prestigious Al-Azhar Islamic institution, judicial sources said. The army-installed government has rounded up thousands of Morsi's supporters and tried them in mass hearings since his ouster in July last year. Following the ouster of Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected civilian president, his supporters have staged protests that have often degenerated into violent street clashes with security forces and civilian opponents. The same court had previously handed 529 Morsi supporters death sentences but later upheld the sentencing against only 37 of them.
Kunduz (Afghanistan) (AFP) - Taliban militants took around 15 Afghan policemen hostage during an assault on a remote northern district, officials said, adding that security forces flushed out the insurgents from the volatile area Saturday. Hundreds of Taliban insurgents captured Yamgan district in Badakshan province this week, killing and abducting several policemen as part of their annual spring offensive ahead of the withdrawal of NATO combat troops this year. "Hundreds of Taliban militants captured Yamgan few days ago, and they were driven out of the district by Afghan security forces. Eight policemen were killed, seven others were wounded," said Badakhshan provincial police chief Fazludeen Ayar.
By Jennifer Dobner SALT LAKE CITY (Reuters) - Utah's Mia Love, a Republican darling who could become the first conservative black woman elected to U.S. Congress, is getting a second, and likely better, chance to make history after narrowly losing to a popular incumbent Democrat in 2012. The seat became available when Jim Matheson retired after seven terms in Congress as the heavily conservative state's lone Democrat in Washington. If Love wins this time, she would become an unlikely champion in Washington of staunchly conservative views - limited government, fiscal discipline and state's rights. He ran toward a seemingly impossible challenge," Love said during a testy debate this week with her opponent, Doug Owens, a Democrat and first-time candidate.
At the end of a week rocked by allegations of mismanagement and cover-ups at the Veterans Affairs agency, President Barack Obama used his weekly address on Saturday to again vow to make sure veterans get the necessary medical care. "Let's keep working to make sure that our country upholds our sacred trust to all who've served," Obama said in his address, slated to air on Memorial Day holiday weekend, when Americans honor their war dead. Obama this week responded personally to a growing furor that veterans had suffered long delays in receiving healthcare, making clear that Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki's job could be on the line. Obama has assigned Rob Nabors, one of his top aides, to conduct his own look into what happened.
Foreign tourists navigating Bangkok's temples lamented the taming effect of a military coup on the city's rowdy nightlife but otherwise shrugged off any safety fears despite warnings by foreign governments. As a junta closed its grip on power over the kingdom and soldiers keep watch in the capital, its historic heart was still busy with foreign holiday-makers ambling nonchalantly in Thailand's famed sunshine.
Former U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Friday he would not press during his term as Boy Scouts of America president for an end to the group's ban on gay adult leaders for fear of causing permanent damage to the century old organization. Gates, who helped end the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that barred gays from serving openly in the U.S. military while he was defense secretary, said he strongly supported the Boy Scouts vote last year to lift its ban on gay youth members.
By David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Republican congressman overseeing a U.S. House panel investigation into delays in veterans' treatment demanded on Friday that Veteran Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki allow patients to seek emergency private health care. The VA's Inspector General's office is also investigating allegations that long waiting times were covered up at some 26 locations across the United States, including claims by VA doctors in Phoenix that 40 veterans died while waiting months for appointments. Representative Jeff Miller, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, asked Shinseki in a letter to allow veterans waiting more than 30 days for an appointment to seek care from private practitioners paid for by the department. "That's why I'm calling on Secretary Shinseki to take emergency steps to ensure veterans who may have fallen victim to appointment wait time schemes or delays in care get the medical treatment they need." A VA spokesman said in a statement that its health care division has redoubled its efforts to ensure that veterans have timely access to care at Shinseki's request.