By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. congressional leader Eric Cantor took to the airwaves on Sunday to try to rebuild his political reputation after a stunning primary election loss that has shaken the Republican Party, and refused to rule out a future run for public office. But on two Sunday television talk shows, Cantor left open the door to rekindling his political career sometime in the future and defended his work as majority leader.
Thousands of people marched in the Niger capital Niamey on Sunday to protest against the regime of President Mahamadou Issoufou over the detention of six opposition figures. The six, including a former government minister, were charged on June 4 with threatening state security in the poor west African country. Opposition leader and former premier Seini Oumarou, former president Mahamane Ousmane and Hama Amadou, the current speaker of parliament, took part in the protest. "Nothing will discourage us in our fight against the unjust government of Mahamadou Issoufou," Amadou said.
Benghazi (Libya) (AFP) - Forces loyal to rogue Libyan general Khalifa Haftar clashed Sunday with Islamist militias in the eastern city of Benghazi, killing four people and wounding nine, witnesses and a medic said. The clashes were among the fiercest since Khalifa began his offensive against radical Islamist groups in Benghazi, dubbed "Operation Dignity," on May 16, when at least 76 people were killed. The fighting on Sunday left at least four dead and nine wounded, according to the Al-Abyar hospital southwest of Benghazi, where Haftar's forces are treated. The hospital sources did not say which side the casualties were from, and Islamist militias in Benghazi rarely give indications of their dead and wounded.
The exiled governor of Mosul, Iraq's second city which was seized by Islamist fighters last week, has called for US and Turkish air strikes against the militants. "Air strikes might be conducted, not in the cities but on (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) ISIL bases in uninhabited areas," Atil al-Nujaifi said in comments published Sunday in Turkish newspaper Hurriyet. His comments came as Washington deployed an aircraft carrier to the Gulf and Baghdad launched a counter-offensive against extremist Sunni militants who have overrun all of one Iraqi province and chunks of three more since launching their offensive last Monday. Speaking from Arbil in Iraqi Kurdistan, Nujaifi said he doubted Baghdad's security forces -- some of whom abandoned their uniforms and vehicles when ISIL fighters attacked -- would be able to repel the militant advance on their own.
Syria's army said Sunday it had recaptured the strategic town of Kasab and the only border crossing with Turkey in Latakia province, after it fell to rebels almost three months ago. "After crushing many members of the mercenary terrorist gangs... units of our armed troops in collaboration with the (paramilitary) National Defence Force returned safety and security to Kasab this morning," an army statement said. Kasab, an Armenian town, is important because it is at the only border crossing with Turkey in sensitive Latakia province, heartland of the Alawite sect from which President Bashar al-Assad hails. On Sunday, a state television reporter broadcast a stand-up from the recaptured border crossing.
The US Navy on Sunday welcomed four members of China's military aboard one of its aircraft carriers -- and said it hoped to receive a return invite someday. The four People's Liberation Army members were among guests flown by a C-2 Greyhound aircraft to the USS George Washington for a "VIP visit" before it berths Monday off Hong Kong on a routine call. Tensions are high in the South China Sea and East China Sea as Beijing asserts its sovereignty over reefs and islands also claimed by US allies such as Japan and the Philippines. But Rear Admiral Mark C. Montgomery, commander of the task force headed by the carrier, said US-Chinese military relations have "moderately improved" in the past six months.
Kirkuk (Iraq) (AFP) - Shelling targeting the largest town not seized by militants in a north Iraq province killed 10 people on Sunday, police and a local official said. The shelling in Tal Afar, a Shiite Turkmen town that is one of the few in Nineveh province not overrun by a major militant offensive, also wounded 40 people, the sources said. Militants unleashed a major offensive, spearheaded by jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) but also including supporters of ousted dictator Saddam Hussein and other groups, overrunning Nineveh province and seizing major parts of three others. The offensive began in Nineveh's capital Mosul late on Monday, and later swept into Kirkuk, Salaheddin and Diyala provinces.
US Secretary of State John Kerry Sunday condemned the kidnapping of three Israeli teenagers, and said many indications pointed to the involvement of Hamas. "We are still seeking details on the parties responsible for this despicable terrorist act, although many indications point to Hamas’ involvement," he said. "As we gather this information, we reiterate our position that Hamas is a terrorist organization known for its attacks on innocent civilians and which has used kidnapping in the past." Earlier, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu directly accused Hamas of the kidnapping after Israeli troops arrested 80 Palestinians overnight.
Militants from jihadist group the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) have executed dozens of captured Iraqi security forces members, according to photos posted online. The authenticity of the photos, which were shared on Twitter and elsewhere and said to have been taken in Salaheddin province, north of Baghdad, could not be independently confirmed. The militants said in one photo caption that they executed hundreds of soldiers. A major offensive spearheaded by ISIL but also involving supporters of executed dictator Saddam Hussein has overrun all of one province and chunks of three others since it was launched on Monday.
German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier warned Sunday that the bloody conflict in Iraq could quickly spin into a regional "proxy war". Steinmeier, speaking to the Welt am Sonntag newspaper, called on Turkey, the Gulf Arab states and Iran to do their part to stabilise Iraq. "We have to prevent a proxy war of the regional powers breaking out on Iraqi soil," he said. Steinmeier said these countries "could not have an interest in, beyond Syria, an enormous, ungoverned space developing in their backyards as a hotbed of mercenary groups, Islamists of every stripe, and terrorists".
Yemeni troops were on Sunday surrounding a Sanaa mosque controlled by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh amid concerns he is plotting a coup, a source close to the presidency said. Saleh had ruled Yemen for 33 years before he was forced to resign in February 2012. He was replaced by his longtime deputy President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi under a UN and Gulf-sponsored deal. Presidential guard troops backed by armoured vehicles blocked access to the large Al-Saleh mosque in Sanaa's southern district, an AFP correspondent reported.