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Yemen army kills 3 Qaeda suspects near capital

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.

Rivals challenge Iraq PM's election success

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 killed in Djibouti suicide attack on restaurant -report

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".

Joyous pilgrims join Pope for Bethlehem mass

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.

Bahrain Shiite activist freed, urges 'serious dialogue'

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, blast was car bomb, police say

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.

Thai anti-coup protesters defy junta with Bangkok march

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.

Sudan rebels launch 'big offensive' in Kordofan

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.

Private hospitals could take some pressure off VA

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration's decision to allow more veterans to get care at private hospitals could take some pressure off backlogged Veterans Affairs facilities struggling to cope with new patients from the wars on terrorism as well as old soldiers from prior conflicts.

Obama to outline case for a limited foreign policy

WASHINGTON (AP) — Confronting critics of his foreign policy, President Barack Obama will soon outline a strategy for his final years in office that aims to avoid overreach as the second of the two wars he inherited comes to a close.

Somalia security chief quits after 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.

Anti-coup protests grow in Bangkok despite ban

Bangkok (AFP) - Over a thousand Thai anti-coup protesters marched across the capital Bangkok Sunday, according to an AFP reporter at the scene, as opposition to a military takeover of the country gathered strength despite junta warnings to end rallies.

Peace talks on the line in Colombia presidential vote

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 Israelis killed in Belgium museum attack

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.

World Cup: money making no-brainer or costly folly?

The World Cup will cost Brazil more than $11 billion, a sum that sparked outraged protests and sent economists dashing for new data on an old question: is hosting global sports events worth it? The protesters who have taken to the streets, sometimes violently, say Brazil would be better off spending on education, health and transport -- areas where the gaping divide between rich and poor is most conspicuous in this sprawling country of 200 million people. But Brazil's leaders say hosting the tournament is about more than building stadiums and throwing a party. "It was a key factor behind Brazil finally overhauling its infrastructure."

Lithuania's 'Iron Lady' duels leftist in presidential run-off

Lithuanians go to the polls on Sunday in a presidential runoff with incumbent "Iron Lady" Dalia Grybauskaite the frontrunner in this EU and NATO state dominated by security concerns over a resurgent Russia. Nicknamed for her Thatcheresque-resolve, Grybauskaite is tipped by most analysts to win a second five-year term as many here who remember Soviet times see her as a their best hope amid Europe's worst standoff with Moscow since the Cold War. A former EU budget chief, the tough talking 58-year-old won round one two weeks ago, scoring 46 percent of the vote, while rival Zigmantas Balcytis, an MEP with the governing Social Democrats, took just over 13 percent. While Grybauskaite has focussed largely on national security, Baclytis has campaigned on bread and butter issues as Lithuania gears up to join the eurozone in January.

Boy tied to bus stop highlights struggle for disabled Indians

The nine-year-old boy dressed in blue lay listlessly on the pavement in the scorching Mumbai summer afternoon, his ankle tethered with rope to a bus stop, unheeded by pedestrians strolling past. Lakhan Kale cannot hear or speak and suffers from cerebral palsy and epilepsy, so his grandmother and carer tied him up to keep him safe while she went to work, selling toys and flower garlands on the city's roadsides. He can't talk, so how will he tell anyone if he gets lost?" said homeless Sakhubai Kale, 66, who raised Lakhan on the street by the bus stop shaded by the hanging roots of a banyan tree. Lakhan's father died several years ago and his mother walked out on the family, his grandmother told AFP.

With decisive rebuke, US eyes long haul in Thailand

In swiftly punishing Thailand's military for seizing power, the United States is looking beyond short-term interests as it braces for prolonged strife in its oldest Asian ally. Within hours after the army took control of Thailand on Thursday, Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the coup as having "no justification" and urged the quick restoration of democracy and press freedom. The United States suspended $3.5 million in defense assistance, or about a third of its total aid to Thailand, and canceled ongoing military exercises with the kingdom -- a vital US ally for decades, including in the Vietnam War. Washington also scrapped planned visits by senior officials, as well as a US government-sponsored firearms training program for the Royal Thai Police that had been scheduled to start Monday.

China blogger 'fired' after John Kerry meeting

A Chinese blogger who called on US Secretary of State John Kerry to push for Internet freedom in China has been fired by his employer, he told AFP on Sunday. Journalist Zhang Jialong was one of four bloggers who met with Kerr in February, where he urged the United States to help "tear down the great Internet firewall". Beijing tightly censors the Internet, banning websites including Facebook and Twitter with a system labelled the "Great Firewall of China", and ordering domestic Internet firms to delete content that government officials deem "sensitive". Zhang's employer Tencent dismissed him on Friday for "leaking business secrets and other confidential and sensitive information”, he said, calling it a reprisal for his meeting with Kerry.

Clegg faces calls to quit

Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg came under pressure Sunday to step down as leader of the Liberal Democrats after the party took a pounding in local elections. Two would-be Lib Dem parliamentary candidates -- staring at a much-reduced prospect of winning a seat at next year's general election -- have put heir names to an online letter, signed by more than 200 party members, calling for Clegg to step aside. The unashamedly pro-EU party is expected to take another battering when the European Parliament election results are announced later Sunday. The anti-EU, anti-mass immigration United Kingdom Independence Party is now the chief beneficiary of protest votes, while many of the Lib Dems' left-leaning voters are disgruntled at the current coalition with the Conservatives.