Blasts Kill At Least 17 In Baghdad

Baghdad, blastsThree blasts killed at least 17 people and wounded more than 50 in predominantly Shi’ite Muslim districts of Baghdad on Tuesday, police and medical sources said.

A suicide bomber detonated his explosive vest in a commercial street in the eastern Baghdad al-Jadida area of the Iraqi capital, killing nine people and wounding more than 30, they said.

Another suicide attack hit a commercial street of Bayaa in western Baghdad, killing six and wounding 22, the sources said.

A roadside bomb exploded near a gathering of cattle herders and merchants in al-Radhwaniya, also in the same region, killing two people, they said.

Islamic State claimed the two suicide attacks, but did not mention the third assault.

The hardline Sunni Muslim group has intensified bomb attacks in government-held areas this year as it loses territory to U.S.-backed Iraqi government forces and Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.

The group claimed a truck bombing in July that killed at least 324 people in the Karrada shopping area of Baghdad – the deadliest single attack in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

South African Government Loses appeal Over Failure To Arrest Bashir

south african2South Africa’s Supreme Court on Tuesday rejected an appeal by the government against a ruling that the state had made an error in letting Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir leave the country despite a court order barring him from doing so.

Bashir, who was in South Africa for an African Union summit last June, was allowed to go even though the court had issued an order banning him from leaving until the end of a hearing on whether he should be detained under a global arrest warrant.

The court said he should have been arrested to face genocide charges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) because as an ICC signatory, Pretoria is obliged to implement arrest warrants.

The ICC has issued a warrant for Bashir on charges of masterminding genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region. Bashir denies the charges.

The government had asked the court to overturn the ruling, with its lawyers arguing that a gazzette notice granted diplomatic immunity to all delegates at the summit.

In its ruling, the Supreme Court said the government’s failure to arrest Bashir “was inconsistent with South Africa’s obligations in terms of the Rome Statute…and unlawful”.

A rights group that had demanded the arrest of Bashir argued during the appeal that South Africa could not grant immunity to someone wanted for war crimes and crimes against humanity.

“South Africa should not be treated as a safe haven for suspected perpetrators of egregious crimes,” Kaajal Ramjathan-Keogh, executive director of the Southern Africa Litigation Centre, which took the government to court, said in a statement.

Justice department spokesman Mthunzi Mhaga said the government was studying the ruling and had not yet decided whether it would challenge it at the constitutional court, the highest court in the land.

The ruling means that Bashir and others facing global arrest warrants for crimes against humanity would be arrested if they set foot in South Africa. In addition, the High Court had said previously that the National Prosecuting Authority should consider whether to take action against the government for letting Bashir leave the country.

In the aftermath of the initial court ruling, the governing African National Congress party said South Africa should withdraw from the ICC, which African states have accused of bias against the continent.

Judges at the ICC have also asked South African authorities to explain why they failed to arrest Bashir.

Twelve Marines Declared Dead After Helicopter Crash Off In Hawaii

hwaiiTwelve U.S. Marines missing after two military helicopters collided last week off Hawaii’s Oahu island have been listed as deceased, the military said on Thursday.

The Coast Guard called off the search for the missing Marines on Tuesday after five days of search and rescue efforts across some 40,000 square nautical miles of ocean, along with shorelines.

The Marines were officially classified as deceased on Wednesday and Marine Corps officers personally notified each family, a statement from the Marines said.

The victims ranged in age from 21 to 41, the statement said.

The two CH-53E helicopters belonging to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing from the Marine Corps Air Station at Kaneohe Bay were on a routine training mission when they were reported to have collided just before midnight on Jan. 14, according to the Coast Guard.

The search was hampered by storms.

A Coast Guard helicopter crew spotted debris in the water off the town of Haleiwa on the north shore of Oahu but no passengers were found. The debris field spanned more than seven miles (11 km) off the coast, the Coast Guard said.

No distress call was issued by either aircraft.

Ghana’s President Bans First Class Travel For Public Officials

GhanaGhana’s President, John Mahama, has banned public officials from first class air travel in a renewed effort to cut wasteful spending as the West African nation implements an IMF aid deal to revive state finances, the government said on Tuesday.

Ghana is preparing to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in 2016 and, with the opposition accusing government ministers of inflating contract sums, inappropriate spending will likely be a top campaign issue.

The presidency issued the directive this week asking all ministers and other top officials to avoid “unwarranted” foreign trips on the public purse, Communications Minister Edward Omane Boamah told Reuters.

Ghana, a major producer of cocoa, gold and oil, began a three-year program with the International Monetary Fund in April to fix its economy, which has been dogged by high deficits, a widening public debt and unstable local currency.

Finance Minister, Seth Terkper, told Reuters on Tuesday that the cabinet is also discussing a financial accountability bill which would impose penalties such as dismissal or jail time for public officials who are found to violate it.

“It is expected to be clear enough to enable the general public to see malfeasance if there is (any) and hold the agency involved accountable,” he added.

Assad Makes Surprise Visit To Moscow

al-assadSyrian President, Bashar al-Assad, has made his first trip outside Syria, since the Civil War started in the country.

President Assad met with Russian President, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow on Tuesday. But his visit was not announced until Wednesday, after he had returned to Damascus.

As they both sat for discussions, Mr Putin thanked Mr Assad for coming, despite the ‘dramatic situation’ in his country.

He praised Syrians for fighting international terrorism for several years, despite suffering serious losses.

Mr Putin was however concerned about the 4,000 people from the former Soviet Union believed to be fighting in Syria.

The Syrian President thanked Russia for standing up for the unity of his country and its independence, saying that its intervention had prevented the events in Syria from developing along a more tragic scenario.

In September, Russia launched air strikes in Syria, against the Islamic State (IS), and other militant groups battling government forces.

84 Senators Pass Vote Of Confidence On Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki

Bukola-Saraki-President-of-Nigeria-Senate84 senators have passed a vote of confidence on Senate President, Dr Bukola Saraki.

The motion on the vote of confidence was moved by Senator David Umaru from Niger State and seconded by Senator Ahmed Yerima from Zamfara State and overwhelmingly supported by 82 others.

Senator Umaru said the Senate would not entertain unwarranted embarrassment on the Senate leadership and would not succumb to cheap blackmail.

Following the vote of confidence, a rowdy session ensued in the Senate.

There are also reports that pro-Saraki protesters have barricaded the National Assembly complex.

Pro-Saraki Groups Barricade National Assembly

sarakiAs the National Assembly resumes sitting on Tuesday, hundreds of protesters have barricaded the entrance of the National Assembly in Abuja singing solidarity songs in support of the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki.

The protesters are asking anti-graft agencies to desist from being used against what they perceive as “political enemies”.

In the meantime, sources close to Channels Television have confirmed that the list of ministers compiled by the President has been submitted to the Senate.

The permutations are that the Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki, would formally present President Buhari’s list to Senators.

President Buhari, who is currently attending the 70th session of the United Nations General Assembly, is said to have given the list of 36 Ministers to Senator Ita Enang in New York and directed him to forward it to the Senate President.

Couple Exchange Vows Underwater

coupleA Miami couple marked the 50th anniversary of the installation of an underwater statue off Florida’s Key Largo on Tuesday by getting married in front of it.

Dressed in their wedding outfits as well as scuba gear, Kimberly Triolet and Jorge Rodriguez wed beside the “Christ of the Deep” bronze statue, which stands some 25 feet below the surface, five miles off Key Largo.

Using an underwater slate with their written vows, a notary public officiated the ceremony. Family and friends aboard a boat watched thanks to an underwater camera.

The 9-foot statue, a replica of the “Christ of the Abyss” statue off the Italian coast, was installed on Aug. 25, 1965 and has become a popular snorkel and dive site in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.

Indonesia Executions: Australia Recalls Ambassador

indonesiaAustralia has recalled its Ambassador from Indonesia after two citizens were executed for drug smuggling.

Andrew Chan and Myuran Sukumaran were among the 8 people from several countries executed by firing squad minutes after midnight on Wednesday, on the prison island of Nusakambangan in central Indonesia.

The Brazilian Government had also expressed its “deep dismay” at the execution of one of its citizens, Rodrigo Gularte.

However, the execution of a Philippine woman, Mary Jane Fiesta Veloso, was called off at the last minute after her government appealed to Indonesian authority, saying the woman Mary had accused of planting drugs on her, had handed herself in.

Meanwhile, Australia had mounted a lengthy diplomatic campaign to save Chan and Sukumaran, convicted in 2006 of being the ringleaders of a group of Australian heroin traffickers known as the “Bali Nine”.

Australian Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, said on Tuesday that the executions were “both cruel and unnecessary,” noting that Chan and Sukumaran had been “fully rehabilitated” while in prison.

“We respect Indonesia’s sovereignty, but we do deplore what’s been done and this cannot be simply business as usual.

“For that reason, once all the courtesies have been extended to the Chan and Sukumaran families, our ambassador will be withdrawn for consultations,” ,” Abbott said.

Fayose lifts Curfew, Urges Peaceful Easter celebration

fayoseThe Ekiti State Governor, Mr Ayodele Fayose, as a result of the forthcoming Easter celebration, has ordered that the 7:30pm to 6am curfew imposed on the State, be lifted.

Governor Fayose, who urged Christians in the State to celebrate Easter peacefully, assuring them that all security agencies in the state have been placed on alert, to respond swiftly to any security breach during and after the Easter celebration.

According to a statement issued on Thursday by the Governor’s spokesman, Lere Olayinka, the governor described Easter as the most important event of the Christian faith.

The Will Of God

The statement read: “Easter, being the most important event of the Christian faith, must be celebrated in an atmosphere of freedom, peace and joy”.

“It is on this note that the 7:30pm to 6am curfew declared on Tuesday is lifted so as to allow Christians in the State the celebration of Easter without any hindrance.

“It is my expectation that in this season of renewal, we will all rejoice in Christ’s rising, draw strength and inspiration from His example, and remember that in the end, even death itself will be defeated,” the Governor said.

Governor Fayose had earlier stated that the curfew imposed on Tuesday, was to prevent violence that might arise after the declaration of the final results. He said that the election result was the will of God, which, he said, must not been seen as a victory or loss for any political party.

APC Condemns Attack On Jonathan’s Convoy In Katsina

Katsina The All Progressives Congress, (APC) has condemned the alleged hauling of stones at President Goodluck Jonathan’s convoy during his campaign in Katsina State on Tuesday.

The party’s Publicity Secretary, Lai Mohammed, in a press statement, said that President Jonathan should be free to campaign anywhere in the country without hindrance.

Alhaji Mohammed said that although the Katsina attack on the President’s convoy took place a day after the controversial newspaper advert, nothing justifies the stoning of the President’s convoy.

The party maintained that while it was committed to a continuous enlightenment of its members and supporters, violence, before, during and after the February general elections are totally unacceptable.

Pistorius Breaks Down Sobbing, Trial Adjourned For A Day

South African Olympic and Paralympic sprinter Oscar Pistorius broke down and sobbed in the witness stand on Tuesday as he described the moments when he shot dead his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp, thinking she was an intruder hiding in the toilet.South African Olympic and Paralympic track star Oscar Pistorius arrives to attend his trial at the high court in Pretoria

The double amputee, who is accused of murdering 29-year-old law graduate and model Steenkamp, told a Pretoria court how he heard a window sliding open in his bathroom in the middle of the night on Valentine’s Day last year. He said he was convinced an intruder was breaking in and that he needed to arm himself.

“That’s the moment that everything changed,” he said, his voice tense with emotion. “I thought that there was a burglar that was gaining entry to my home.”

Grabbing a 9 mm pistol lying under the bed, he moved on his stumps down the passageway leading from the bedroom towards the bathroom and the would-be intruders, he testified.

According to his account, as he peered round the door of the bathroom, his right arm holding the 9 mm outstretched, his left steadying himself against the wall, he noticed the bathroom window was open, confirming his worst fears.

“I wasn’t sure where to point the firearm,” he said. “My eyes were going between the windows and the toilet. I stood for some time.”

“I just stayed where I was and kept on screaming. Then I heard a noise from inside the toilet that I perceived to be somebody coming out of the toilet. Before I knew it, I had fired four shots at the door.”

He said he continued to shout at Steenkamp to call the police, but slowly started to realize that she was not responding and might have been the one behind the door.

As he described to the court, bashing in a door panel to gain access to the toilet, he broke down, sobbing uncontrollably in the witness stand, leading judge Thokozile Masipa to adjourn the hearing for the day.

If found guilty of murder, he faces life in prison.