A double car bombing that killed at least 118 people in Jos, central Nigeria, was not just the country's deadliest bombing but an attack on a city that has seen more than a decade of unrest. Most of the violence in the religiously divided city and the wider state of Plateau has been linked to a long-running sectarian conflict between Christian farmers and Muslim herdsmen. But officials and experts said Tuesday's deadly strikes bore the hallmarks of Boko Haram, the Islamist militant group that has previously targeted the city. In resuming attacks far from their northeastern base, Boko Haram may be trying to show its strength given increased international attention following its mass abduction of more than 200 schoolgirls in April, experts say.
President Barack Obama voiced outrage at an alleged cover-up of delays in treatment at US military hospitals on Wednesday, vowing to punish anyone guilty of wrongdoing in the scandal. Speaking after a meeting with Veterans Affairs (VA) Secretary Eric Shinseki, Obama told reporters he would not tolerate any evidence of malpractice. "When I hear allegations of misconduct ...whether it's allegations of VA staff covering up long wait times or cooking the books, I will not stand for it," Obama said. Veterans have had to wait months to see a doctor at some hospitals, and allegations have arisen that administrators at a VA hospital in Phoenix, Arizona covered up the delays there.
Ex-army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has picked up 94.5 percent of votes cast abroad in Egypt's presidential election, officials said Wednesday, five days before polling opens in the North African country. The retired field marshal, riding a wave of popularity after he ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi last year, is widely expected to win the election that takes place in Egypt on May 26-27. In the ballots already cast abroad, Sisi won the backing of 296,628 expats in 124 countries during voting on May 15-19, electoral committee chief Abdel Aziz Salman told a news conference. Only 17,207 votes of the total 318,033 cast went to Sisi's sole rival, leftist leader and longtime opposition figure Hamdeen Sabbahi.
Moroni (Comoros) (AFP) - The majority Muslim island nation of the Comoros has banned a march over the kidnapping of over 200 Nigerian schoolgirls by Islamic extremists, amid accusations the government wants to dodge religiously sensitive issues. The non-governmental Solidarity Association of the Indian Ocean Islands had appealed to the government to speak out on the kidnapping by the Islamist extremist group Boko Haram, but met a wall of silence. Boko Haram, whose name loosely translates as "Western education is forbidden", kidnapped the girls from their dormitory on April 14, has claimed they converted to Islam and has threatened to sell them. "No verse in the Koran, no religious principle justifies this kidnapping," said the rights group's Nasser Assoumani.
Gaza City (Palestinian Territories) (AFP) - A visit set for Wednesday by a senior Fatah official to the Hamas-run Gaza Strip to put the finishing touches on a Palestinian unity government has been postponed indefinitely, a Palestinian official said. Last month, Hamas and the Palestine Liberation Organisation, dominated by Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas's Fatah party, signed a reconciliation deal aimed at ending years of political division. Under the terms of the deal, the two sides would form an "independent government" of technocrats, to be headed by Abbas, that would pave the way for long-delayed elections.
Jordan expressed hope Wednesday that Pope Francis's visit to the Holy Land would help the cause of regional stability, including the advancement of the stalled Middle East peace talks. "The pope's May 24-26 visit carries a lot of meanings of peace," government spokesman Mohammad Momamni told a news conference. "We hope the visit will push for achieving peace and stability in the region, including the Israeli-Palestinian peace process," said Momamni, who is also information minister. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Abdullah Nsur told a group of journalists that "the pope's visit will show Jordan's civilised image and will show that the kingdom is an oasis of peace and security in a turbulent region with a sea of blood, wars and repression."
"Their name is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). Their goal is to link together the two areas (Syria, Iraq) to set up their state and then to continue spreading," said activist and citizen journalist Abdel Salam Hussein. Speaking from Albu Kamal on the Iraq border, Hussein said ISIL seeks to crush Al-Nusra Front, Al-Qaeda's Syria affiliate, and control the eastern, energy-rich province of Deir Ezzor bordering Iraq.
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - Voting was extended into an unscheduled second day in Malawi's riot-tainted election Wednesday, as the country waited to see if a massive corruption scandal would scupper Joyce Banda's bid for a second term. In Blantyre's volatile Ndirande township, camouflage-clad riot police clutched automatic rifles as they helped direct as many as 15,000 voters queing at a polling centre to cast their late ballots.
By Howard Schneider and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Wednesday approved Stanley Fischer's nomination to the Federal Reserve Board of Governors, adding a potentially influential voice to the developing debate over Fed policy in the post-crisis era. Fischer, 70, was approved on a 68-27 vote, with all the opposition coming from Republicans. The Senate could have considered both nominations back-to-back, but Republicans blocked the more rapid procedure to protest a rules change that allows Democrats to more easily move President Barack Obama's nominees, according to a Senate Democratic aide. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid likely will move this week to set a vote on Fischer's vice chairmanship for when the Senate returns from its Memorial Day recess the week of June 1.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - United Nations chief Ban Ki-moon demanded an immediate ceasefire on Wednesday after a deadly new outbreak of fighting in Mali around the former rebel stronghold of Kidal. The secretary general made the call even as a UN source on the ground in Mali told AFP that Tuareg militants had killed or captured a number of government soldiers in the town. "The secretary general is deeply concerned by the rapidly deteriorating situation in Kidal," Ban's spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
Tuareg militants killed several Malian soldiers during clashes in the rebel bastion of Kidal on Wednesday, a United Nations source told AFP, as the insurgents claimed to have taken control of the town. The fighting shattered an uneasy calm which had held since the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) took 32 civil servants hostage during a battle which left eight Malian soldiers and 28 rebels dead. "The noise of gunfire has stopped... There are prisoners and deaths among the Malian army's ranks," a source from the MINUSMA, the United Nations peacekeeping mission in Mali, told AFP, adding that the rebels appeared to have the upper hand. Mohamed Ag Rhissa, one of the leaders of the separatist MNLA, told AFP by telephone his group had taken "control the whole town of Kidal", adding that "we have prisoners".