Clashes erupted between Iraqi troops and anti-government fighters on the outskirts of Fallujah on Saturday, as the militant-held city's main hospital said 366 people had been killed in the months-long conflict. The latest unrest comes after security forces pressed an apparently unsuccessful assault into the city, which is west of Baghdad and has been out of government control since the beginning of the year. Clashes on the city's northern fringes, in the region of Saqlawiya, broke out earlier on Saturday between Iraqi security forces and anti-government fighters, a tribal leader told AFP on condition of anonymity. "With aerial cover, they tried to enter Fallujah from the Saqlawiya area," he said.
US President Barack Obama said Saturday that an American soldier held for nearly half a decade in Afghanistan has been freed, in what officials indicated was a swap for five Guantanamo detainees. "Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years," said Obama, announcing the release of the army sergeant. Bergdahl disappeared in June 2009 from a base in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province, with the Taliban later saying they had captured him. The US leader expressed his "deepest appreciation" to the Emir of Qatar "for his assistance in helping to secure our soldier's return."
At least 20 Syrian regime forces were killed Saturday when Islamist rebels planted explosives in a tunnel under an army position in the northern city of Aleppo, a monitor said. Aleppo's historic Old City has seen horrific violence ever since the rebels launched a major offensive against Syria's former economic hub in July 2012. "Islamist rebels detonated a tunnel near the Zahrawi market in the Old City of Aleppo, killing at least 20 army soldiers and pro-regime militiamen," said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Fighting broke out after the explosion, and at least one rebel was killed, said the Britain-based Observatory.
Egypt's outgoing interim president enacted a law on Saturday making it illegal to desecrate the national flag or refuse to stand for the national anthem, his office said. The government drafted the law late last year amid heightened nationalistic fervour after the military toppled Islamist president Mohamed Morsi and unleashed a crackdown on his supporters. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the former army chief who ousted Morsi, wan an overwhelming victory in last week's presidential election and is to take office next month. The law, one of the last that will be enacted by outgoing interim president Adly Mansour, also stipulates a fine of up to 30,000 Egyptian pounds (about $4,300, 3,200 euros) for desecrating the flag or disrespecting the anthem, his office said in a statement.
British Prime Minister David Cameron has warned that his country could leave the European Union if Luxembourg's former premier Jean-Claude Juncker became the next European Commission president, Der Spiegel reported. Quoting "sources close to the participants" of Tuesday's EU leaders summit in Brussels, the German magazine reported that Cameron had issued the warning to German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who backs Juncker for the top commission job. Cameron reportedly told Merkel that picking Juncker for the job would "destabilise his government to such a point that it would bring forward a referendum on whether to exit the EU" -- a move which is likely to result in a popular consensus to leave the bloc.
Tunisia said Saturday it has postponed an emergency meeting with its North African neighbours to discuss the chaotic situation in Libya, citing a lack of "foresight". With lawlessness in Libya rising, Tunisia had been due to hold a session on Sunday with other member states of the Arab Maghreb Union (AMU) to find a political solution to the unrest in the mostly desert nation. The union is made up of Tunisia, Libya, Mauritania, Algeria and Morocco. "It is deemed preferable to postpone the meeting because there is a lack of foresight on the situation in Libya," foreign ministry spokesman Mokhtar Chouachi said Saturday.
The leader of South Sudan's rebels, former vice president Riek Machar, said Saturday he was not completely in charge of his forces, who have been accused of atrocities during a brutal six-month conflict. In an interview with AFP in Nairobi, Riek Machar was asked if he was in control of his troops and replied: "No, I can't say that. Machar's rebels have been battling forces loyal to President Salva Kiir since December 15, when fighting between rival army factions broke out in the capital Juba.
Syrian refugees in Lebanon will lose their status as such if they return home for a visit, the interior ministry said Saturday. At the same time, there are calls for deporting those who voted in an election in which Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is certain to win. More than a million Syrians have fled their war-torn country for Lebanon in the past three years, according to the United Nations. "Syrian displaced people who are registered with the UN High Commissioner for Refugees are requested to refrain from entering into Syria starting June 1, 2014, or be penalised by losing their status as refugees in Lebanon," said the ministry.
US President Barack Obama said Saturday that an American soldier held for half a decade in Afghanistan has been freed. "Today the American people are pleased that we will be able to welcome home Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, held captive for nearly five years," said Obama, announcing his release. In his statement, Obama expressed his "deepest appreciation" to the Emir of Qatar "for his assistance in helping to secure our soldier's return." He added: "Sergeant Bergdahl's recovery is a reminder of America's unwavering commitment to leave no man or woman in uniform behind on the battlefield," Obama added.
The Foreign Office said Saturday it was following up the case of a British woman reportedly sentenced to 20 years in jail in Iran for posting anti-regime propaganda on Facebook. Iranian opposition website Kaleme said Roya Saberinejad Nobakht, an Iranian-born British woman, was among eight people jailed for posts on the social networking site. Nobakht has dual British and Iranian nationality and has lived in England with her British husband, Daryoush Taghipoor, 47, for more than six years, according to The Times newspaper. He travelled to Iran to find her, was allowed to visit her for 10 minutes and has not seen her since, the daily said.
US President Barack Obama said Saturday that his administration's proposals to cut carbon emissions will prevent thousands of asthma cases and heart attacks each year. Obama's prediction came during his regular weekly broadcast address as he discussed proposed guidelines designed to "cut down on the carbon pollution, smog, and soot." Some 40 percent of the country's carbon pollution comes from power plants -- and while there are limits on the amount of toxic chemicals like mercury and arsenic that the plants can produce, there are no similar national limits for carbon pollution. He described the proposals, which could be unveiled as early as Monday, as "America’s first climate action plan," which "cuts carbon pollution by building a clean energy economy – using more clean energy, less dirty energy, and wasting less energy throughout our economy."
People were wondering what had happened to the "Indignants", the protesters who swamped Spanish squares in 2011 to demand political change. The protests may have lessened, but just when Spain was least expecting it, the Indignants have surged back -- not in the streets but in the polls. Although they still have a long way to go to really trouble Spain's establishment, the result took many observers by surprise since opinion polls had forecast only a two or three percent vote share for the party. It was particularly impressive since the party was only officially formed four months ago, and contributed to the decline of the mainstream Socialist party, whose leader, Alfredo Perez Rubalcaba, resigned in the aftermath.
Suspected Al-Qaeda gunmen riding on the back of a motorbike shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer in the south of the country on Saturday, a security official told AFP. The officer was killed on the spot and the attackers fled the scene, said the source blaming Al-Qaeda for the killing. A cheap form of transport frequently replacing taxis in the impoverished country, motorbikes have become a tool for hit-and-run shootings that have killed dozens of officials in recent years. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), seen by Washington as the network's deadliest franchise, has been blamed for most of the motorbike attacks on the security forces despite never claiming them.
WASHINGTON (AP) — The report this week confirming that 1,700 veterans were "at risk of being lost or forgotten" at a Phoenix hospital was hardly the first independent review that documented long wait times for some patients seeking health care from the Department of Veterans Affairs and inaccurate records that understated the depth of the problem.
Portugal's prime minister on Saturday vowed to overcome the "huge frustration" posed by the constitutional court's rejection of austerity measures in Lisbon's 2014 budget. Portugal's highest court on Friday turned down three out of four measures brought in by the centre-right government as part of ongoing cutbacks after the country exited an international bailout two weeks ago. We will announce at the appropriate time how we will overcome this huge frustration," said Pedro Passos Coelho. The decision by Portugal's constitutional court is expected to cost Lisbon between 500 and 800 million euros ($670 million-$1 billion), according to media estimates.