Indonesian divers find 5 bodies belted in seats near AirAsia fuselage
Indonesian divers on Thursday found five bodies belted into their seats near the main section of an AirAsia plane that crashed into the Java Sea last month with 162 people on board, AFP said. The divers hope to reach the fuselage. A total of 58 bodies have now been found following the crash of flight QZ8501 which went down on December 28. Indonesian Transport Minister Ignasius Jonan said earlier that the plane climbed abnormally fast before stalling and plunging into the sea.
Iran’s First President,sent to prison
Mohammad Reza Rahimi, who was Iran’s first vice president under former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, has been sentenced to five years in prison and fined, AFP said. Rahimi, 66, is the most senior official from the Ahmadinejad era to have been convicted. The Supreme Court’s verdict came after a trial on corruption charges, according to Iranian media. Iran’s judiciary earlier refused to reveal the details of Rahimi’s case, and media gave no specifics about his crimes.
‘Stall warning’ heard on AirAsia voice recorder
The stall warning of AirAsia Flight 8501 could be heard going off on the cockpit voice recorder, Singapore's Today newspaper quoted a crash investigator as saying. “The warning kept on screaming and in the background, [the pilot and co-pilot] were trying to recover the plane,” the source said, adding that it wasn’t clear what they said. The flight data recorder also reportedly showed stall warnings were going off. However, there has been no official confirmation of the report.
Capitol Hill terror suspect charged for plotting attack
An Ohio man accused of plotting to set off bombs at the US Capitol and kill lawmakers alongside other workers has been officially charged by a federal grand jury. Twenty-year-old Christopher Cornell was charged with attempting to murder government employees, possession of a firearm in furtherance of an attempted crime, and solicitation to commit a crime. If convicted, Cornel could face up to 20 years in prison for the first two charges and up to five years on the third one. Cornell was arrested after reportedly purchasing semi-automatic weapons and 600 rounds of ammunition to carry out his plot, but his father claims his son is innocent and was coerced by an FBI informant.
NATO tells Russia to remove tanks and troops from Ukraine
NATO says that it has seen an increase in the number of tanks, artillery and other pieces of heavy equipment being used by Russian troops in Ukraine. The organization also reiterated its plea for Moscow to withdraw from Ukrainian territory. Jens Stoltenberg, the Western alliance's secretary-general, says NATO has been monitoring Russian soldiers in Ukraine for months and it believes their numbers have spiked recently. Russia denies sending any troops into Ukraine.
WHO says year passes with no new polio cases in Syria
Syria has gone a year without a reported polio case, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Wednesday. A massive immunization campaign was triggered by the disease’s appearance in the war-torn country, and the agency said “the outbreak seems to have been brought under control” in Syria. The campaign was part of a push to immunize millions of children across the Middle East, AFP reported. “It’s a very encouraging sign,” Chris Maher, the WHO’s polio eradication manager, said, adding that the landmark didn’t guarantee Syria was polio-free.
US House Speaker Boehner invites Netanyahu to address Congress on Iran
US House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday he had invited Israel’s prime minister to address a joint meeting of Congress next month about the threats from Tehran and radical Islam, AP said. Rebuffing President Barack Obama on Tehran, Boehner released a letter extending the invitation to Benjamin Netanyahu for February 11. Congress will also move ahead on new penalties against Iran, Boehner told a private meeting of GOP lawmakers.
More than 7,000 opposition activists arrested in Bangladesh over unrest
Bangladesh security forces have arrested 7,015 opposition activists since the start of deadly protests a fortnight ago, AFP said, citing officials. Protesting the detention of their leader Khaleda Zia, activists firebombed buses, cars and lorries, killing 29 people, as the opposition called a nationwide transport blockade.
HRW reports deaths of Egypt torture detainees
Human Rights Watch (HRW) has criticized Egyptian authorities for failing to improve detention conditions or to investigate reported detainees’ deaths as a result of physical torture inside prisons, the Daily News Egypt reported. Some detainees apparently died after being tortured or physically abused, but “many appear to have died because they were held in severely overcrowded cells or did not receive adequate medical care,” HRW said in a report, citing local NGOs.
Pakistani security forces catch local ISIS commander – reports
Pakistani security forces have arrested a man they believe is the commander of the Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS) group in the country, Reuters reported. The man, Yousaf al-Salafi, was arrested in the eastern city of Lahore and “confessed during interrogation” that he represented IS in Pakistan, intelligence sources said on Wednesday. Al-Salafi was described as a Pakistani Syrian who arrived in Pakistan via Turkey five months ago. Two accomplices involved in recruiting and sending fighters to Syria were also detained, sources said.
Poroshenko speaks in Davos, calls on Russia to implement peace plan
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko called on Russia on Wednesday to comply with a peace plan and cooperate in closing the long joint border with Ukraine. Speaking at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, he also urged Russia “to withdraw” its troops from Ukraine, Reuters reported.
2 Turkish policemen sentenced to 10 years in jail over protester’s death
Two Turkish policemen were jailed for 10 years on Wednesday for their part in beating a student to death during anti-government protests, Reuters reported. The family of Ali Ismail Korkmaz, 19, who died after protests in June 2013, described the sentences as too lenient, while supporters of the police saw the treatment as unjust. Police used tear gas after the sentences were announced to disperse protesters in the central Turkish town of Kayseri, according to CNN Turk.
Cuba, US open talks in Havana
The US and Cuba opened two days of historic talks in Havana on Wednesday to reestablish diplomatic relations, AFP said. US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Alex Lee and Cuban foreign ministry official Josefina Vidal are meeting in the capital’s Convention Center for talks which will focus on migration issues. The reopening of mutual embassies, closed since relations broke down in 1961, will be discussed on Thursday.
Houthi rebels holding Yemen president ‘captive’ – aides
Shiite Houthi rebels in control of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, are holding President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi “captive” in his home, media reports quoted his aides as saying on Wednesday. The president “cannot leave his house” after Houthi rebels removed his guards and deployed their own fighters there, according to one aide. Hadi, a top US ally in the war against Al-Qaeda in Yemen, appears to have run out of options to continue governing the country, AP reported. The Houthis began an offensive across the country in September.
Blast in Alawite neighborhood of Syria’s Homs kills at least 7
At least seven people were killed and 30 wounded by a car bomb on a shopping street in Syria’s government-controlled third city of Homs on Wednesday, AFP reported. Governor Talal Barazi described the explosions as“a cowardly terrorist act.” The neighborhood is majority Alawite, the sect to which President Bashar Assad belongs. It has been hit by multiple attacks, as well as mortar fire.
US-led coalition launches 23 air strikes on IS targets
The US and its allies launched 23 air strikes in Syria and Iraq against the Islamic State since early on Tuesday, Reuters reported. Ten of the strikes hit near the embattled Syrian border town of Kobani, with three others falling elsewhere in Syria, according to the Combined Joint Task Force. In Iraq, 10 air strikes were conducted, including three near Tal Afar.
German man kidnapped by Boko Haram in Cameroon ‘freed’
A German man believed to have been kidnapped in Cameroon by the Islamic extremist group Boko Haram has been freed, Berlin said. The man, whose name wasn’t released, is now safe in Cameroon’s capital, AP quoted Germany’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer as saying. It wasn’t clear how the man was released and no details of his condition were given. A crisis team had been working on the case for months, Schaefer said. He also thanked the Cameroon government for its cooperation.
Thousands of Iranians mourn Iranian general slain in alleged Israel attack
Thousands gathered in Tehran on Wednesday at a funeral procession for a Revolutionary Guards general killed by Israel, AFP reported. General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi died alongside six fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah group in the attack on Sunday near Quneitra on the Syrian-controlled side of the Golan Heights. The mourners, who chanted “Death to Israel,” burned two Israeli flags. An Israeli security source said one of its helicopters carried out the strike. UN observers in the Golan, however, raised the possibility that drones may have been used.
EU watchdogs to review opposition to states sharing airline passenger data
Europe’s data privacy watchdogs will meet soon to discuss revising their earlier opposition to countries sharing airline passenger data, Reuters said. EU President Donald Tusk earlier said he would press lawmakers in the European Parliament to drop their resistance to the EU Passenger Name Record system in the wake of deadly Islamist attacks in France. Lawmakers have resisted endorsing the system for sharing data, known as the PNR, saying that it would infringe on people’s privacy by instituting mass tracking and surveillance of all travelers.
Boko Haram leader claims mass killings in Baga, NE Nigeria
Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau has claimed responsibility for mass killings in the northeastern Nigerian town of Baga, AP said. As many as 2,000 civilians were killed and 3,700 homes and business were destroyed in the January 3 attack on the town near Nigeria’s border with Cameroon, according to Amnesty International. In a video posted on YouTube, Shekau said: “What you’ve just witnessed is a tip of the iceberg. More deaths are coming,” as cited by SITE Intelligence Group.
At least 42 people killed as Congo protesters clash with police for 3rd day - rights group
Police fired tear gas at crowds during a third day of protests in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Wednesday, Reuters said. The opposition says a proposed change to the law will delay elections by years and keep President Joseph Kabila in power. At least 15 people have been killed in clashes, the government said, while a rights group put the figure at 42. Fresh clashes erupted on Wednesday on the campus of the University of Kinshasa. Protests were also reported in three other areas of the teeming riverside capital.
Yemen closes airport, sea and land crossings in Aden amid turmoil
Yemen’s security authorities closed air, sea and land crossings into the southern port city of Aden on Wednesday, Reuters reported. The move was announced by local television after fighting in the capital Sanaa plunged the restive Arab state deeper into turmoil. The security committee described the Houthi militia attacks on state institutions in Sanaa as an “aggressive coup on [President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi] personally and on the political process as a whole.”
Ukraine govt asks MPs to raise number of servicemen to 250,000
The Ukrainian government has asked parliament to increase the total number of servicemen by 68,000 up to 250,000, TASS quoted Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk as saying on Wednesday. He said the bill should be considered urgently. The PM added that 90 billion hryvnas ($5.6 billion) will need to be set aside in the state budget for the increase.
Russia to be represented at Auschwitz events – Lavrov
Russia will certainly be represented at the Auschwitz events despite the fact that the president hasn’t been formally invited to attend them, TASS quoted Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov as saying on Wednesday. “We will never forget these tragic and simultaneously heroic pages of World War II history,” Lavrov said. The Soviet Union’s Red Army liberated the Nazis’ biggest concentration camp at Auschwitz in southwestern Poland on January 27, 1945.
PM Abe returns home to lead Japan hostage crisis response
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe arrived home from the Middle East on Wednesday. He will take charge of the country’s response to Islamic militants threatening to kill two Japanese nationals unless he pays a $200 million ransom, AFP said. Abe has vowed he will not bow to terrorism. Speaking in Jerusalem on Tuesday, he strongly demanded the hostages “not be harmed and that they be immediately released.”
Houthi fighters stand guard outside Yemen president’s home
Gunmen from Yemen’s Houthi movement replaced guards on Wednesday outside the private residence of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, Reuters said, citing witnesses. The president’s home is normally protected by presidential security officers, but sentry posts were empty and there was no sign of the presidential guard at the compound. It was a scene of clashes between Houthis and security guards on Tuesday.
Japan govt says IS hostages video authentic
Japan’s government has authenticated an Islamic State video showing hostages Haruna Yukawa and Kenji Goto, RIA Novosti quoted Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga as saying. The video published on Tuesday purported to show two Japanese captives and threatened to kill them unless the Islamist group received $200 million in ransom. Earlier, Japan’s media and officials had cast doubt on the authenticity of the video. Tokyo hasn’t yet contacted the IS fighters over the hostages’ fate, Suga said, as cited by TASS.
Yemen Al-Qaeda branch urges 'lone-wolf strikes' in Western states
Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), based in Yemen, has urged Muslims to carry out lone-wolf strikes in Western countries, Reuters said. “If he is capable to wage individual jihad in the Western countries that fight Islam… then that is better and more harmful,” Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, an official with AQAP, told the group’s media wing, as cited by SITE Monitoring. The group said two weeks ago that it was behind the Paris attacks.
Preliminary AirAsia crash report won’t be published – Indonesia
Indonesian authorities won’t make public a 30-day preliminary report on the investigation into last month's crash of an AirAsia plane, Reuters reported on Wednesday. “One month after the accident we will just make a preliminary report. No comment and no analysis,” Tatang Kurniadi, chairman of the National Transportation Safety Committee, told reporters. “This will not be exposed to the public. This is for those countries that are involved." 162 people died in the AirAsia jet crash during the flight from Indonesia to Singapore on December 28. There were no survivors.