Syrian government forces rained barrels bombs on Aleppo Thursday, as they pressed a campaign against rebels in the northern city where dozens have been killed this week, a monitor said. The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights also said jihadist fighters executed 15 civilians in the northeastern province of Hasakeh. At least seven children were among those killed by members of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant near the town of Ras al-Ain, it said. The Observatory did not give any immediate toll for Thursday's raids on Aleppo's rebel-held districts, but said regime helicopters dropped barrel bombs on some of the areas.
UN rights chief Navi Pillay said Thursday Morocco has improved its human rights record but must still work hard to shake off "old habits," such as torture. Pillay, the first UN High Commissioner for Human Rights to visit Morocco in 13 years, spoke at a news conference in Rabat at the end of a four-day visit. She said Morocco had made "great strides toward the better promotion and protection of human rights," including the adoption of a new constitution in 2011. UN delegations that have visited Morocco in past years have "expressed concern over the use of torture and ill-treatment as well as the admissibility in court of confessions obtained under torture or other ill-treatment," said Pillay.
Lahore (Pakistan) (AFP) - Pakistan's prime minister Thursday demanded "immediate action" over the murder of a pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death outside a courthouse, as her husband revealed in a grisly twist that he strangled his first wife. Farzana Parveen was murdered on Tuesday outside the High Court in the eastern city of Lahore by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against her family's wishes -- while police stood by. The brazen, brutal nature of the killing, in broad daylight in the centre of Pakistan's second largest city, has triggered outrage around the world. The attack also casts a spotlight on the country's controversial blood-money laws which allow relatives of homicide victims to forgive their perpetrators -- who in cases such as this are often also family members.
A gunman riding on the back of a motorbike shot dead a Yemeni intelligence officer and his son in the southeastern city of Mukalla on Thursday, a security source said. The attack was carried out in broad daylight in the heart of the port city, capital of Hadramawt province, an Al-Qaeda stronghold, the source said. Colonel Salmin al-Obtani was the latest in a string of army and intelligence officers to be killed in hit-and-run attacks in Hadramawt. Mukalla has also been the scene of a number of spectacular attacks claimed by Al-Qaeda.
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Malawi's disputed presidential elections ran into fresh trouble Thursday after a judge due to rule on when the results should be released had to step down from the case. High court judge Healy Potani was scheduled to start hearing the case on Thursday and then rule on Friday whether Malawi's electoral commission could be granted a 30-day extension to hold a recount. But Potani recused himself after his impartiality was challenged on the grounds that one of his brothers is a deputy chief elections officer at the electoral commission. A replacement judge Kenyatta Nyirenda took over several hours later and immediately the hearing started.
By Susan Cornwell and David Lawder WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans stepped up their attacks on the Obama administration over a deepening Veterans Affairs healthcare delay scandal on Thursday, but House Speaker John Boehner again declined to join a growing list of lawmakers calling for VA Secretary Eric Shinseki to resign. At a news briefing, Boehner said he was not still convinced that Shinseki's ouster would solve the VA's problems. Instead, he sought to keep the pressure on President Barack Obama for VA scheduling abuses that covered up monthslong delays for veterans' medical care appointments. "I'm going to continue to reserve judgment on General Shinseki," Boehner said.
Blessed with his forebear's famous smile and mellow manner, state Senator Jason Carter is trying to emulate grandfather Jimmy in November by winning election as governor. In March he voted for legislation known to its detractors as the “guns everywhere law,” which the National Rifle Association boasts is the most comprehensive of its type ever passed by a state. Carter courted another controversy last month when he said Georgia's drivers had the right to license plates that display the Confederate flag. But those issues are not as important as the fact that he is my grandfather and I love him,” Jason said after a recent campaign event.
Pakistan's prime minister Thursday demanded "immediate action" over the brutal murder of a pregnant woman who was bludgeoned to death with bricks outside a courthouse while police stood by. Farzana Parveen was attacked on Tuesday outside the High Court building in the eastern city of Lahore by more than two dozen brick-wielding attackers, including her brother and father, for marrying against the wishes of her family. Hundreds of women are murdered by relatives in Pakistan each year supposedly to defend family "honour", but the brazen nature of the attack, in broad daylight and in the centre of the country's second-largest city, has shocked rights activists. The fact that police officers guarding the court apparently did nothing to intervene to save the 25-year-old has added to the outrage.
Djerba (Tunisia) (AFP) - Jews and Muslims have coexisted for hundreds of years on Tunisia's Djerba island, but while relations between the two are good, some members of the tiny Jewish community say the atmosphere is stifling. "We, the Jews, have been living here for more than 2,000 years," said Claudine Saghroun, who lives in the Hara Kbira, the island's large Jewish neighbourhood. Not any more," Tunisia's Grand Rabbi Haim Bittan said, adding that there were some 1,500 Jews in the country, mostly in Djerba. "We even share our names," the cobbler says, referring to his surname that is also used by Tunisian Jews.
Tripoli (Lebanon) (AFP) - For Abu Nur, a Syrian war refugee in northern Lebanon, next week's certain re-election of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad buries any hope he had of returning home soon. It will now take a "miracle from God, the all-powerful" to end the more than three-year-old conflict in Syria, the forty-something said from his grubby lodgings in the port city of Tripoli. His face covered with a scarf and using an alias, he recalls the mass protests in his hometown of Homs, in central Syria, calling for democratic reforms back in mid-March 2011. "The demonstrations against the regime were a miracle and this war will only end with a miracle," said Abu Nur, who shares a makeshift home with his wife and their five children.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague condemned on Thursday the "barbaric" murder of a pregnant woman by her family outside a courtroom in Pakistan. Hague urged the Pakistani government to fully investigate the killing of 25-year-old Farzana Parveen and stamp out the practice of killings to defend family "honour". "I am shocked and appalled by the death of Farzana Parveen: both for the appalling manner of her death, and the unspeakable cruelty and injustice of murdering a woman for exercising her basic right to choose who to love and marry," Hague said a in a statement. "There is absolutely no honour in honour killings and I urge the government of Pakistan to do all in its power to eradicate this barbaric practice.
Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan Thursday vowed total war against terrorism as the country's security forces stepped up efforts to rescue more than 200 schoolgirls kidnapped by Boko Haram Islamists 45 days ago. "I am determined to protect our democracy, our national unity and our political stability by waging a total war against terrorism," Jonathan said in an address marking 15 years since the return to civilian rule in Africa's most populous country and largest economy. Nigeria returned to democracy on May 29, 1999 after nearly 16 years of military rule but the country has recently been blighted by a five-year Islamist insurgency in north and central Nigeria that has claimed thousands of lives. The mass abduction of teenage girls on April 14 from a secondary school in Chibok in northeastern Borno state has sparked global outrage and drawn unprecedented attention to Boko Haram's extremist uprising.