Taliban insurgents Wednesday denounced US plans to keep troops in Afghanistan up to the end of 2016, threatening to wage war against the "occupation" until the very last foreign soldier pulls out. But outgoing President Hamid Karzai welcomed the timetable for the US's complete withdrawal and called on the insurgents to seize a "historic" opportunity to seek peace after more than a decade of war. Outlining the US strategy to end America's longest war, President Barack Obama confirmed on Tuesday that the 32,000-strong US deployment in Afghanistan would be scaled back to around 9,800 by the start of 2015. But underscoring the instability still roiling Afghanistan, two Americans were slightly wounded in an attack on a US consulate vehicle in Afghanistan's western city of Herat on Wednesday.
Romeo Dallaire, the Canadian general who led the UN mission in Rwanda at the time of the 1994 genocide, is retiring from politics, Canada's public broadcaster reported Wednesday. In an interview with the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Senator Dallaire said he planned to spend more time on post-traumatic stress disorder and promoting various international causes. The former commander of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda, Dallaire was named to Canada's Senate in 2005 after more than four decades in the military. In the lead-up to the Rwanda genocide, Dallaire provided the United Nations with information about the planned massacre, but permission to intervene was denied and the UN peacekeepers were withdrawn after Belgian members of the force were murdered.
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday lashed out at fugitive spy Edward Snowden urging him to "man-up" and do his patriotic duty by returning to face trial for leaking intelligence secrets. Kerry's comments came only hours after Snowden revealed that he was not just a low-level contractor working for the CIA, as the White House has consistently portrayed him. "I was trained as a spy in sort of the traditional sense of the word in that I lived and worked undercover overseas -- pretending to work in a job that I'm not -- and even being assigned a name that was not mine," he told NBC. In his first interview in US media, Snowden said he had worked covertly as "a technical expert" for the Central Intelligence Agency and the National Security Agency, and as a trainer for the Defense Intelligence Agency.
By Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tens of thousands of children unaccompanied by parents or relatives are flooding across the southern U.S. border illegally, forcing the Obama administration and Congress to grapple with both a humanitarian crisis and a budget dilemma. An estimated 60,000 such children will pour into the United States this year, according to the administration, up from about 6,000 in 2011.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Obama administration is seeking up to $5 billion to train and equip partners in other countries in order to fight violent extremism and other threats, the White House said on Wednesday. The Counterterrorism Partnerships Fund would "will provide the flexibility and resources required to respond to emerging needs as terrorist threats around the world continue to evolve," the White House said in a statement. (Reporting by Susan Heavey Editing by W Simon)
Blantyre (Malawi) (AFP) - An initial vote count in Malawi's controversial presidential elections has been completed but the result will not be released until court challenges to the disputed ballot have been resolved, an official said Wednesday The source, who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity, said the unofficial count showed that Peter Mutharika of the Democratic Progressive Party was in the lead with 36 percent of the vote. Lazarus Chakwera of the Malawi Congress Party had polled second with 28 percent, while President Joyce Banda was in third place with 20 percent of the vote, he said. Electoral commission spokesman Sangwani Mwafulirwa refused to comment on the claim.
Former U.S. spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, who leaked details of massive U.S. intelligence-gathering programs, said in a U.S. TV interview he "was trained as a spy" and had worked undercover overseas for U.S. government agencies. In an advance excerpt of his interview in Moscow with "NBC Nightly News" that aired on Tuesday, Snowden rejected comments by critics that he was a low-level analyst. "Well, it's no secret that the U.S. tends to get more and better intelligence out of computers nowadays than they do out of people," Snowden told NBC news anchor Brian Williams. And I've done that at all levels from - from the bottom on the ground all the way to the top." He said he worked undercover overseas for both the CIA and NSA and lectured at the Joint Counterintelligence Training Academy "where I developed sources and methods for keeping our information and people secure in the most hostile and dangerous environments around the world." "So when they (critics) say I'm a low-level systems administrator, that I don't know what I'm talking about, I'd say it's somewhat misleading," Snowden added.
Kano (Nigeria) (AFP) - A suspected Boko Haram attack on a military base and police station in northeastern Nigeria left at least 33 people dead, a security source told AFP on Wednesday. The source, who requested anonymity, said 18 soldiers and 15 police lost their lives in the assault in the town of Buni Yadi, in Yobe state, at about 8:00 pm (1900 GMT) on Monday. "The militants arrived in vans wearing military uniform and went to the army barracks overlooking the police station," the source added. Multiple witnesses told AFP on Tuesday that the insurgents fired first on soldiers manning a checkpoint before razing the local police station.
Thousands of Syrians, filling the streets around their embassy in Beirut, turned out to vote Wednesday in Syria's controversial presidential poll being staged as civil war rages in the country. For the early vote by expats, the Yarzeh district of east Beirut was festooned with Syrian flags and portraits of President Bashar al-Assad, who is expected to cruise to victory in the June 3 election. The yellow flags of Lebanon's Shiite militant movement Hezbollah, a staunch Assad ally in the three-year conflict with rebels, were also prominent. Of the estimated three million Syrians living abroad, including both refugees and peacetime residents, only around 200,000 were entitled to vote on Wednesday, in 39 embassies abroad, a foreign ministry source said in Damascus.
Thailand's junta on Wednesday freed leaders of the "Red Shirt" movement allied to the civilian government ousted in a recent coup, after holding them without charge for nearly a week. Key members of the protest group walked out of an army facility in Bangkok, according to an AFP journalist at the scene. Thida Thavornseth, a core Red Shirt leader, was among four senior members seen leaving the military building, none of whom gave any comment to the media. She was detained last week, along with former premiers Yingluck Shinawatra and Abhisit Vejjajiva, during a meeting supposedly aimed at bringing Thailand's warring political factions together that ended dramatically with the army seizing power.
Police closed off the flashpoint Al-Aqsa compound to visitors on Wednesday as Israelis marked Jerusalem Day, with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu pledging to never allow the city to be divided. The annual celebration, which began at sundown on Tuesday recalls the moment when Israeli forces took over the walled Old City in what was then Jordanian-held east Jerusalem on the third day of the 1967 Six-Day War. Israel later annexed the entire eastern side of the city in a move never recognised by the international community. Samri said the compound would remain "closed to (non-Muslim) visitors because of Jerusalem Day celebrations at the Western Wall," which lies just below.
A retired airforce colonel was appointed Wednesday as Mali's defence minister after his predecessor resigned over last week's deadly rebel takeover of the northern city of Kidal. The presidency announced that Ba N'Dao was replacing Soumeylou Boubeye Maiga, a veteran politician who has also held the jobs of foreign minister and intelligence chief. Armed groups including the Tuareg separatist National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA) humiliated the army in a deadly offensive across the northern desert last week which saw them seize control of Kidal, 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) northeast of Bamako.
Yemeni police killed two Al-Qaeda suspects who were allegedly involved in a series of hit-and-run attacks against security personnel in the capital, official sources said on Wednesday. Yemeni forces raided the men's house in Sanaa but they refused to surrender, sparking a gun battle in which the pair were killed and a police officer wounded, a security official told AFP. Abdulkhaliq Mohammed al-Kabsi and Yehya Mohammed Sanhub were "behind a series of terrorist crimes carried out on motorbikes in Sanaa," the defence ministry's news website 26sep.net reported, describing them as "commanders in Al-Qaeda." 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.
At least three troops died in overnight clashes between Azerbaijani troops and separatist forces of the Armenian-backed breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region, officials in Baku and Karabakh said Wednesday. The defence ministry in Baku said "a captain and a warrant officer of the Azerbaijani armed forces were killed" in clashes on the Karabakh frontline, while a private was injured. The Karabakh defence ministry said in a statement: "Corporal Erik Gasparian, 19, was killed in action in the southern sector of the line of separation between Azerbaijani and Karabakh forces."