Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb said Friday it was responsible for a recent attack on the home of Tunisia's interior minister that killed four policemen, the first such claim in the country. "A group of lions... went to cut off the head of the criminal Lotfi Ben Jeddou at his home... and God allowed them to kill a number of his personal guards," an AQIM statement said. The statement, posted on a jihadist Internet forum, said the May 27 attack on the house in the western border region of Kasserine, had also wounded other guards and that weapons had been seized. And it said that "entering into open war against Islam and its partisans to please the United States, France or Algeria, will cost dearly."
Spain's public debt hit a new record in the first quarter of this year, reaching 96.8 percent of economic output, the central bank said on Friday. Spain kept its debt relatively low before a real estate crash in 2008, at 36.3 percent of gross domestic product in 2007, but it has since soared in a double recession that ended last year. Financial concerns over Spain have calmed since the height of the crisis in 2012, however. The interest rates demanded by investors to lend to Spain have eased, making officials confident it can refinance its debts.
Ukraine's interior minister said on Friday that federal forces had inflicted "high casualties" on separatist rebels led by a Chechen commander in the southeastern port of Mariupol. Interior Minister Arsen Avakov said the "active phase" of the offensive began at dawn and was still raging three hours later. He added that two Ukrainian soldiers from the part-volunteer National Guard force were wounded in the fighting. "The terrorists from the Donetsk People's Republic are being headed by a criminal boss known as 'The Chechen,'" Avakov wrote in a Facebook post.
Samarra (Iraq) (AFP) - Militants were gathering Friday for a new attempt to take the Iraqi city of Samarra, home to a revered Shiite shrine whose 2006 bombing sparked a sectarian war, witnesses said. A major offensive launched by the jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and its allies late Monday has overrun second city Mosul and a swathe of northern and north-central Iraq. Witnesses in the Dur area, between militant-held Tikrit and Samarra, said they saw "countless" vehicles carrying militants south during the night. And witnesses in Samarra, just 110 kilometres (70 miles) north of Baghdad, said gunmen were gathering to the north, east and southeast of the city.
Jihadists pushed towards Baghdad on Friday as President Barack Obama said he was exploring all options to save Iraq's security forces from collapse and US companies evacuated hundreds from a major air base. With militants closing in on the capital, forces from Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region took control of a swathe of territory they have sought to rule for decades against the objections of successive governments in Baghdad. Foreign Minister Hosyhar Zebari acknowledged that the security forces Washington invested billions of dollars in training and equipping before withdrawing its own troops in 2011 had simply melted away. Obama said Iraq was going to need "more help from the United States and from the international community."