Yusuf Alli – Cii News | 28 February 2014/27 Rabi Uthaanil 1435

News that made headlines on various newswires around the world.

MONDAY

The election season was in full swing as both the Democratic Alliance and the Economic Freedom Fighters launched their manifestos at the weekend.

Agang SA and the ACDP also did their bit of electioneering.

At the DA’s manifesto launch on Sunday, party leader Helen Zille focused on job creation, promising to create six million real jobs.

Agang SA leader Mamphela Ramphele delivered her Citizens’ State of the Nation address on Sunday at Constitution Hill, hitting out at the ANC, calling it a party of lies.

Meanwhile, EFF leader Julius Malema promised teachers, nurses, police officers and other public servants a 50% salary increase if his party comes to power.

Malema told the thousands of supporters who had gathered at Mehlareng Stadium in Tembisa that the time had come for them to liberate themselves as those entrusted to do so had failed them.

Just a few kilometres away from where the EFF were launching their manifesto, the ANC Youth League held an election festival where party leaders mocked the former ANCYL leader and his new party.

The African Christian Democratic Party also promised to address poverty, unemployment, inequality, crime, sub-standard education and healthcare through its policies.

—–

The Gauteng government said it will spend R10 billion to widen two national roads in a bid to ease congestion and another billion to build a new suburb on the West Rand.

These were some of the major announcements Premier Nomvula Mokonyane was due to make on Monday in her State of the Province address when she opens this year’s sitting of the legislature.

The government would spend R5bn to upgrade each of the N14 and N12.

The roads would not be tolled.

Mokonyane said the upgrades on the N14 would be from Krugersdorp through to Diepsloot.

The road experiences high traffic volumes during peak hours, when motorists avoid using the M1 and N1 highways, often leading to accidents.

Mokonyane said there was a need to upgrade the two national highways, but added that some of the finer details would be dealt with in her address.

——

The correctional service department said more than 3000 correctional officials had been charged with misconduct and corruption in 2012/13 financial year.

A total of 251 officials were dismissed and demoted while 2,850 officials were subjected to misconduct and disciplinary proceedings.

In a statement, Minister Sibusiso Ndebele vowed to root out corruption in his department.

He said the department will fight fraud and corruption with vigour.

He added the department would ensure that any official, offender or member of the public found guilty of any offence face the consequences of their actions.

—–

A leopard on the loose entered a hospital and sparked panic among patients before it strayed into a city in northern India, prompting the closure of markets and schools.

The leopard jumped rooftops and walked into a ward, but staff managed to get all 11 patients out and lock the leopard in.

Broadcaster NDTV said police had to use batons to control the crowds and six people were hurt in the commotion caused by panic.

Before the wildlife rescue team could come, it jumped out of a window and escaped..

Schools and markets were closed in Meerut, 65 kilometres north-east of New Delhi, as teams were called to track and capture the animal.

—–

An Egyptian prosecutor claimed that the country’s ousted president, Mohamed Morsi, gave state secrets to Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corp.

At the second hearing of Morsi’s trial for espionageyesterday, Tamer el-Firgani, said Morsi and 35 other Muslim Brotherhood members had revealed such secrets.

These included passing national defense secrets to Iran, Lebanon and Palestinians.

If convicted, Morsi could face capital punishment.

The trial, one of three that are underway against Morsi, was part of a relentless government crackdown targeting him and his Muslim Brotherhood movement since his ouster by the army in July.

Egypt has been witnessing a crisis and anti-government demonstrations since July 3, 2013, when the Egyptian military ousted the country’s first democratically-elected president.

Since then, Egypt’s military-backed government has launched a bloody crackdown on Morsi’s supporters and arrested thousands of Muslim Brotherhood members, including the party’s senior leaders.

——

Uganda’s president was expected to sign a controversial anti-gay bill that allows harsh penalties for homosexual offences.

The bill is popular in Uganda, but rights groups have condemned it as draconian in a country where homosexuality is already illegal.

The law punishes first-time offenders with 14 years in jail.

It also sets life imprisonment as the penalty for acts of aggravated homosexuality.

The bill originally proposed the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but that was later removed amid international criticism.

US President Barack Obama has urged Museveni not to sign the bill, saying doing so would “complicate” the east African country’s relationship with Washington.

—–

OUTA said claims by Sanral that 1.2 million e-tags have been “taken up” is “hogwash and intended to create the false impression that society is clamoring to become tagged.

Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance said “If they are inferring that these are fitted in cars making use of the Gauteng Freeways, this is misinformation,”

Outa spokesperson John Clarke said Sanral’s deliberate misinformation about e-tag sales had been exposed in the past.

He said it is time to get beyond immature disputes and for Sanral to be absolutely transparent.

One has only to read comments from readers on every online article that features e-tolling to see that Sanral has a major credibility problem.

—–

A contempt of court application brought against the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union was postponed in the Labour Court, Anglo American Platinum (Amplats) said on Monday.

Amplats spokesperson Mpumi Sithole said on Friday the court ordered that Amcu deliver responding affidavits by February 27 and the application was postponed to March 5.

Sithole said Amcu had had a week to file responding papers prior to Friday’s case, but failed to do so.

According to the Business Report, Amplats wanted 39 leaders of Amcu to be fined or jailed for contempt of court.

This included Amcu’s leader Joseph Mathunjwa, national treasurer Jimmy Gama and others.

Amplats accused Amcu of flouting picketing rules that were handed down by the court on January 24.

According to that order, Amcu was prohibited from interfering with the business of Amplats, intimidating employees, and unlawful conduct which damages Amplats’ property.

—–

Ukraine’s acting government issued a warrant for the arrest of President Viktor Yanukovych, accusing him of mass crimes against protesters who stood up for months against his rule.

MPs voted to remove Mr Yanukovych on Saturday after months of protest sparked by his rejection of an EU deal.

A crackdown on the protests last week left dozens dead.

Arsen Avakov – a key opposition figure – was appointed interim interior minister on Saturday, in a day of fast-paced events in parliament.

He replaced Vitaly Zakharchenko, who was sacked the day before after being blamed for the deaths of civilians in the crackdown on protesters.

—–

According to reports, a woman whose baby died while she was giving birth in the Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital two weeks ago was seeking legal advice.

Nombukiso Masangwana, claimed her premature baby of six months suffocated on 15 February during a breech birth.

She claimed that doctor told her she miscarried without examining her, and referred her to another ward where the foetus would be removed.

When walking to another ward, a nurse approached Masangwana and examined her with a sonar machine which confirmed that the baby’s heart was still beating.

She was taken to theatre but there were no doctors there.

Nurses who were there left to fetch the sonar machine and during this time, the baby’s feet came out first. Another nurse came to assist her.

Masangwana claimed the other nurses returned after 30 minutes and declared the baby girl dead.

Health department spokesperson Simon Zwane said hospital staff treated her and the baby to the best of their ability, but it will investigate why the doctor declared an unborn baby dead without examining her.

—–

Egyptian Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said his government is to resign, a step likely to pave the way for army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to declare his candidacy for president.

In a televised statement Beblawi said the cabinet took a decision to offer its resignation to the president of the republic.

He gave no clear reason for the decision.

Beblawi was appointed after the army toppled Egypts first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi in a military coup.

For Sisi to run for president, he would first need to leave his post of defence minister.

An Egyptian official told Reuters news agency that This was done as a step that was needed ahead of Sisi’s announcement that he will run for president.

Sisi unveiled a political roadmap meant to lead to elections after toppling Morsi.

Morsi’s removal triggered the bloodiest political crisis in Egypt’s modern history, with security forces killing hundreds of his supporters and jailing thousands.

Hundreds of security personnel have also died in the turmoil.

——

UDM leader Bantu Holomisa said more than 800 people left out of Cope’s national congress would support the UDM in the elections.

He said the 800 delegates representing Congress of the People branches from eight provinces held their own summit in Bloemfontein, reading from a statement by himself and Mbhazima Shilowa, the leader of the breakaway Cope faction.

The summit mandated Mr Mbhazima Shilowa to engage with the United Democratic Movement to take the realignment debate forward.

Holomisa said the result of the talks between the two delegations was that these branches will support and mobilise for the UDM in the forthcoming general elections.

They called on all South Africans, especially those who voted Congress of the People in the last elections, to rally behind the UDM in the forthcoming elections.”

—–

Violence in Iraq, including shelling in the city of Ramadi and shootings in the north, had killed at least 17 people since Sunday.

The single deadliest attack was a bomb that exploded on a highway between Baghdad and the northern city of Mosul on Sunday, killing three police and four detainees who had been captured during a raid, AFP news agency reported.

Six shootings in Mosul killed seven people, including three members of the security forces.

In Anbar province today, medical sources said several people were killed and others were injured, including women and children, during the heavy bombardment of different neighbourhoods in the city of Ramadi.

According to AFP figures based on security and medical sources, More than 610 people have been killed in attacks and clashes since the beginning of the month, and more than 1,600 since January 1.

—-

A Free State government ambulance was stolen after the driver and his friends were held up by gunmen in Wepener.

Police said driver visited a colleague at his house in Wepener on Sunday at 7:30pm

Three men followed the 35-year-old driver into the colleague’s house and demanded the ambulance’s keys. One robber left but two remained behind.

The driver and the other occupants of the house were held hostage in one room for about 30 minutes. Police said the two men left after receiving a phone call, allegedly from the man outside.

They stole the ambulance and the driver’s cellphone. The driver was unharmed. No arrests had been made

—–

According to Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan, court cases involving e-tolling on Gauteng highways have cost the taxpayer over R6 million in legal fees.

The total amount spent on the Opposition to Urban Tolling Alliance case is over 5.7 million Rand and the total amount spent the Tollgate Action Group case is nearly 230 000 rand

His comments came in a written reply to a parliamentary question, tabled today.

According to the reply, the cases involved the State Attorney and six private advocates, two of whom were “on brief for the full duration of the matter” over the past two years.

The question was posed by Freedom Front Plus MP Anton Alberts.

—–

Air raids on rebel-held towns across Syria had killed 26 people yesterday.

Two women and 10 children were among the dead in government air raids on the town of al-Neshabieh, in the eastern outskirts of Damascus.

Photos taken by activists, purportedly at a field hospital in the area, showed a girl’s body covered in a white shroud, and the decapitated bodies of several men.

In Homs province, activists reported air raids on al-Hosn, a Sunni town near the Crusader castle of Crac des Chevaliers in a valley mostly inhabited by.

Another video showed a rocket hitting the densely built-up town, with smoke rising as the sound of a warplane is heard.

In the town of Talbiseh, on Syria’s main north-south highway, opposition activists said an air raid killed four children.

On Saturday, Russia and China voted with Western powers for a U.N. resolution that calls for access for humanitarian aid in Syria and threatens “further steps” in case of non-compliance.

—–

Premier Nomvula Mokonyane said the life expectancy of people living in Gauteng had improved.

She said child mortality and HIV/Aids-related deaths had decreased dramatically.

The statements were made during her state of the province address.

According to her, after budget reforms were implemented Service providers were being paid on time

In the 2013/14 financial year, the infrastructure budget for health was adjusted to R1.5bn.

Various other hospitals in the province will also be refurbished.

Mokonyane praised the Transport infrastructure programme saying it remained the key driver for inclusive growth and social integration in Gauteng.

She said the province was dedicated to creating jobs for thousands of young people and would work towards eradicating the bucket toilet system

 

TUESDAY

Israeli forces have entered the al-Aqsa Mosque compound in al-Quds to disperse Palestinian protesters.

Israel police spokesperson Micky Rosenfeld said the forces had used “means of dispersion” against the protesters.

In recent months, Israeli forces and settlers stepped up their attacks on the mosque.

Earlier in the month, clashes erupted between Palestinian worshippers and Israeli soldiers at the mosque.

The clashes broke out when Israeli forces stormed the holy site in East al-Quds during the Friday prayer.

Israeli soldiers fired rubber bullets and stun grenades at the people who were praying at the mosque.
At least 20 people, including children, were wounded in the violence.

—–

The Pakistani military claimed to have killed dozens of Taliban fighters in the northern tribal areas overnight, as it continued to bomb the group’s hideouts after the failure of peace talks last week.

A security official said that at least 15 fighters were killed in a fresh series of strikes and that this death toll may increase, with fighter jets and helicopter gunships targeting sites in north and South Waziristan.

Another military official, speaking to Reuters news agency on condition of anonymity, said that fifteen fighters were killed on the South Waziristan side of the border, while 12 were killed in North Waziristan.

There is no information on how many civilians have been killed, nor is there independent verification that the people killed were Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan fighters.

The attacks happened less than 24 hours after a senior TTP leader, Asmatullah Shaheen, was killed in a roadside shooting in North Waziristan.

Since peace talks collapsed, the Pakistani Air Force has intensified its airstrikes in the tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, considered a stronghold of the TTP and other armed groups.

—–

An investigation had been launched into the death of an eight-year-old girl who was allegedly kicked and beaten by three school bullies at a Soweto primary school.

The Gauteng education department spokeswoman Phumla Sekhonyane said an independent investigation had been instituted to investigate the circumstances around this incident.

The Daily Sun reported that Lebohang Makala returned home from school on February 14 limping and with swollen legs.

She told her mother Martha Makala that three boys hit her for no reason while she was playing with other girls at the Batsogile Primary School.

Apparently no teachers were at the school at the time, and other children could not find anyone to help Lebohang, who lay helplessly on the ground.

The family took the girl to Chris Hani Baragwanath Hospital where X-rays were taken and medication given to her.

The family took her back to the hospital six days later and she died the the next day.

Doctors told the family Lebohang had excessive internal bleeding.

Police spokesman Warrant Officer Kay Makhubela told Sapa a case was opened on Monday and the matter would be investigated.

——

Reports emerged of Christian militiamen killing at least 70 people in the remote southwest of Central African Republic

Witnesses said at one point they ordered a group of Muslims to lie on the ground and shooting them one by one.

A Catholic priest, who helped bury the bodies, said the militiamen, known as the anti-Balaka, slaughtered the Muslims in the village of Guen earlier this month.

At least 27 people were slain in the first day of the attack, while 43 others were killed on the second day.

Ibrahim Aboubakar, said the anti-Balaka stormed Guen and killed his two older brothers after they were heard speaking in Arabic.

Hundreds of Muslims remain in Guen, hiding in the town’s Catholic church and also at the imam’s home.

According to two Muslim residents, those Muslims still in Guen appealed by telephone for African peacekeepers in Carnot to rescue them.

They also confirmed that heavily armed anti-Balaka were still in control of the village.

——

Durban customer has allegedly attacked a chicken outlet manager with a panga in an argument over his meal which he said was “too small”.

The customer had purchased a takeaway from Barcelos Flamed Grilled Chicken Gem City in Phoenix, north of Durban, on Saturday, and was unhappy with the buns when he got home.

He called the outlet to complain that the buns were stale and they asked him to collect a courtesy meal the next day, which he did.

On receiving his free meal, he complained that it was too small. A rowdy argument between the man and the manager ensued, in full view of other patrons.

The angry customer went to his car, fetched a panga and allegedly hacked the manager on his head, then fled the scene. The manager was taken to hospital.

KwaZulu-Natal police spokesman Thulani Zwane said the suspect had handed himself over.

The manager was treated in hospital and released shortly after receiving treatment.

—–

Israeli jets have bombarded an area on the Lebanon-Syria border, reportedly hitting a Hezbollah position.

Lebanon’s state news agency also confirmed the airstrikes, however, there was no immediate confirmation from Lebanese security officials, and the Israeli military declined comment.

Israel violates Lebanon’s airspace on an almost daily basis, claiming the flights serve surveillance purposes.

The Lebanese government has filed several complaints to the United Nations over the violation of the country’s airspace by the Israeli military aircraft.

The border is frequently used by fighters and smugglers to move people and weapons between Lebanon and Syria.

The Shia armed group and polititical movement Hezbollah has a strong presence in the Bekaa area.

——

Ukraine’s parliament had put off plans to vote on the formation of a national unity government until Thursday to allow consultations to continue.

Oleksander Turchinov, the speaker of the assembly and the acting president, had told members of parliament at the weekend that they had until Tuesday to form a new cabinet and appoint a new prime minister.

Politicians had been trying to stabilise the country after the disappearance of President Viktor Yanukovich and months of violence.

A presidential election campaign had already started, the Ukrainian Central Election Commission posted an election calendar online early on Tuesday, giving candidates until April 4 to register.

Elections are due to be held on May 25.

—–

A clerk from Oakford Primary School in Verulam was shot dead yesterday in full view of pupils walking with her to her car.

One witness, a teacher at the school, said the gunman appeared from “between the bushes and headed straight for her” as she prepared to go home at about 2.30pm.

“She was walking towards her car with some pupils who were helping her with her bags. Suddenly a man appeared… a scuffle ensued and he fired a shot. She fell and he then fired three more shots.”

People who saw him say they assumed he was a parent waiting to pick up a child and He didn’t even hide his face.

This was the first incident of this nature at the former Catholic school.

—–

Former Guantanamo Bay detainee Moazzam Begg was among four people were been arrested on suspicion of Syria-related terrorism offences.

Begg, who was held by the US authorities for almost three years, then released without charge, was arrested earlier with two other men and a woman in the West Midlands.

He was detained on suspicion of attending a terrorist training camp and facilitating terrorism overseas.

The other people arrested – a 36-year-old man from Shirley, a 44-year-old woman and her son, 20, both from Sparkhill – are being held on suspicion of facilitating terrorism overseas.

A West Midlands Police spokeswoman confirmed that Begg was arrested this morning but said naming did “not imply any guilt”.

Det Supt Shaun Edwards said the arrests were pre-planned and intelligence-led, and  There was no immediate risk to public safety.

—–

Nigerias military said suspected Boko Haram fighters opened fire on secondary school students as they slept in a dormitory in the northeastern Yobe state.

Casualty figures from the attack in the town of Buni Yadi, were not immediately available but scores of students have been killed in similar attacks in the state in the last year.

The military spokesman in Yobe, Lazarus Eli, said details were still sketchy due to lack of telephone access and it is still not clear how many students were affected in the attack

At least 40 students were killed in September at an agriculture training college in the Yobe town of Gujba in September after Boko Haram gunmen stormed a series of dorms in the middle of the night and sprayed gunfire on sleeping students.

Yobe is one of three northeastern states which was placed under emergency rule in May last year when the military launched a massive operation to crush the Boko Haram uprising.

More than 1,000 people have been killed in the region since the emergency measures were imposed, despite the enhanced military presence.

—–

A judge has ruled that media houses are able to broadcast parts of the murder trial of Oscar Pistorius in the North Gauteng High Court next week.

Judge Dunstan Mlambo ruled that audio recordings of all proceedings be allowed, and audiovisual images of only parts of the trial be allowed.

This includes opening and closing arguments and evidence of experts, but excludes evidence of the accused and witnesses.

He said It is in the public interest that, within allowance limits, the goings on during the trial be covered to ensure a greater number of people in the community who are unable to attend the proceedings are able to follow wherever they may be.

Pistorius is accused of killing Steenkamp, his girlfriend, in February last year. His trial is to be heard in the North Gauteng High Court from 3 to 20 March.

—–

The Arab Organisation for Human Rights said in a press release that it documented the death of 48 prisoners out of torture in Egyptian prisons since the July 3 military coup.

The AOHR called on the UN Secretary General and world leaders to take a decisive stance towards Egyptian authorities’ violation of international human rights standards.

The AOHR condemned the arbitrary arrest of hundreds of citizens for their political activism, saying that crimes committed by the post-coup authorities have reached a magnitude and scale that would incriminate all officials in the executive authority, without exceptions, topped by the interim president, the prime minister, and the ministers of defence and interior.

The report cited 48 cases of fatalities caused by torture, deliberate neglect, improper health care, and inhuman conditions that endangered the lives of detainees, particularly those with health conditions.

According to the report, the AIHR received complaints from Egyptian families of victims who cited “flagrant violations of human rights”.

—–

Egypt’s outgoing housing minister, Ibrahim Mahlab, said he was asked to become the prime minister and form a new government.

Mahlab was speaking after meeting the interim president, Adly Mansour, who officially asked him to form the new cabinet.

The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported on its website that Mahlab said he would begin consultations immediately.

The government of the interim prime minister, Hazem el-Beblawi resigned yesterday.

Beblawi Mahlab was a former official in the government of the deposed president Hosni Mubarak,

He is a civil engineer who formerly served as chairman and chief executive of the Arab Contractors Company, a large Egyptian civil engineering firm.

—–

The Gift of the Givers Foundation said there was no certainty about the health of kidnapped South African Pierre Korkie in Yemen.

Foundation head Imtiaz Sooliman said in a statement that they have no concrete information on Pierre’s health, his whereabouts, nor proof of life.

it has been 29 days since the foundation lost all communication with with his captors, and it is 17 days since the second deadline to pay the ransom had expired.

Militants kidnapped Korkie and his wife Yolande in Taiz, Yemen, in May last year.

She was released and returned to South Africa on January 13.

The Gift of the Givers helped negotiate Yolande Korkie’s release.

Korkie’s kidnappers had demanded about R32.5mransom for his release.

—-

WEDNESDAY

Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema and three other men were being investigated for an alleged road rage incident that took place in Polokwane.

Limpopo police said a case of common assault and damage to property has been opened by a motorist, who said Malema and three men assaulted him in a street in Polokwane on Tuesday night.

The 22-year-old motorist, which Beeld named as Bernard Redelinghuys, alleged that he was cornered by a Mercedes Benz when he turned into the street.

The motorist said he hooted to the driver of the Mercedes to make him aware that he was too close to him, but to no avail. The Mercedes then stopped in front of him

Three men got out of the Mercedes Benz, grabbed the motorist and manhandled him while shouting at him.

Malema allegedly got out of the Mercedes Benz and joined the three men.

Malema allegedly slapped the 22-year-old and hit his car. The four men then got into their vehicle and drove away.

—–

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan would present the national budget in parliament.

SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry CEO Neren Rau said last week that Gordhan should take a firm stance on managing the budget deficit in this year’s budget.

The Democratic Alliance on Monday said it hoped the budget speech will contain steps to cut state spending and lower taxes in a bid to curb the national debt and stimulate the economy.

Sanlam investment economist Arthur Kamp told the Cape Town Press Club that he expected the budget to feature much spending but little economic growth.

Numsa regional secretary Vuyo Lufele said the union did not have high expectations of Gordhan’s budget speech, saying they expect Gordhan, like President Jacob Zuma, to pontificate that ‘South Africa is better than it was before 1994′.”

——-

The bodies of five illegal miners were found yesterday near a shaft in Roodepoort.

Johannesburg emergency management services said the five illegal miners were confirmed dead on scene by our paramedics.

The bodies of the miners were brought to surface by other illegal miners.

Spokesperson Robert Mulaudzi said they were concerned about the number of illegal mining incidence in the area.

A body of another illegal miner was recovered on Sunday in Roodepoort. Twenty-five people were rescued last week from an abandoned mine in Benoni, on the East Rand.

Police said the bodies of two illegal miners were also found in a separate mine shaft in Benoni last week.

—–

Rebel fighters continue to control most of Syria’s border crossings with Turkey.

And increased infighting among various opposition groups is making it difficult for aid workers to get supplies into the country.

Some drivers had been stuck at the border for about three weeks.

—–

Hundreds of protesters took to the streets and clashed with police in Istanbul and Ankara to denounce voice recordings suggesting that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan warned his son to hide large sums of money from the police.

The recordings were purportedly of Erdogan and his son Bilal discussing how to reduce the funds to “zero” by distributing them among several businessmen, before police raids in a corruption inquiry that reached into government.

At one point, the voice supposedly of Bilal says some $40 million remain to be disposed of.

Erdogan’s office said that the voice recordings were fake and “completely untrue,”

Yesterday the Republican People’s Party, Turkey’s main opposition, claimed to have verified of the recordings through “three or four channels”.

It also called on Erdogan to resign or leave the country.

—–

The US president, Barack Obama, had told his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai that he is preparing a contingency plan to withdraw all US troops, as a post-2014 security pact remains unsigned.

The message however did not rule out making a deal on a post-2014 mission with the next Kabul government.

Obama told Karzai by telephone that the Pentagon had little option but to draw up a contingency plan for a full withdrawal because the Afghan leader had refused to sign a Bilateral Security Agreement with Washington.

Reuters quoted the White House saying President Obama has asked the Pentagon to ensure that it has adequate plans in place to accomplish an orderly withdrawal by the end of the year.

The US has been pushing for legal immunity for its soldiers and contractors, a point resisted by Karzai.

In case of no deal, the US has indicated that it will go for a “zero option”, as it did in Iraq, leaving Afghan forces to battle the Taliban on their own.

—–

Ukraine’s pro-Western interim leaders were set to unveil their new cabinet after disbanding the feared riot police.

The move comes as they try to build confidence in the splintered and economically ravaged ex-Soviet nation.

The new government will be symbolically revealed in Kiev’s Independence Square, the epicentre of three months of protests that culminated in carnage last week and triggered the weekend ousting of President Viktor Yanukovich.

The temporary authorities in Kiev are grappling with the dual threats of separatism and a looming debt default as they try to piece the nation back together following months of turmoil.

In an apparent bid to begin healing wounds in the divided nation, acting interior minister Arsen Avakov said he had dissolved an elite riot police unit known as the Berkut, despised by many for its heavy crackdown on the anti-government protesters.

—–

Hezbollah has put out a statement regarding Monday night’s raids by Israeli aircraft that hit an area near the border town of Nabi Sheet in the Bekaa Valley, alongside the Syrian border.

Hezbollah reportedly denied local reports that the Israeli army targeted missile or rocket bases.

However, it did say that the Israeli airstrike was carried out with drones and resulted in material damage, but there were no casualties.

In satement Hezbollah said Israel’s “aggression won’t go unnoticed and that the resistance will choose the time and place and the appropriate means to respond”.

Israeli officials refrained from commenting specifically on Monday night’s raid although they confirmed a policy of interdiction of suspected arms deliveries to Hezbollah.

—–

A man suspected to have been trying to steal overhead cables was electrocuted in Robertsham, south of Johannesburg.

City Power spokesperson Sol Masolo said this individual was found dead at the top of a nine-metre pole with a bolt cutter in his possession.

The electricity supply was cut off for a short while at one street as paramedics removed his body from the pole.

City Power experienced about 3 000 cable theft incidents every year.

It was putting measures in place to try to put an end to the theft.

They planned to lay concrete on surfaces that had cables running through them.

—–

An organisation had discovered that sick patients in South Sudan have been shot to death in their hospital beds.

Medical facilities were looted and burned to the ground.

A dangerous level of disrespect for the country’s strained health care system is forcing the aid group Doctors Without Borders to examine its operations there.

The organisation said that the extreme violence and lack of respect for health care workers shown by warring sides has made the group’s work almost impossible.

Members of the aid group, which is known by its French initials MSF, discovered at least 14 dead bodies in a hospital in the contested city of Malakal over the weekend.

Several of the dead bodies had been shot while lying in their beds.

Group leader Raphael Gorgeu said MSF’s facilities in the towns of Leer and Bentiu have been looted and completely destroyed.

—–

Public Protector Thuli Madonsela said she will approach Parliament about what she regards as ongoing attacks on her integrity and her office by political parties and other groups.

Madonsela claims there have been several attempts at delegitimising her office.

The Communication Workers Union has called for Madonsela to resign following the release of her report into maladministration and corruption at the SABC.

Madonsela said until recently, the reports were received with respect for the office and respect for the Constitution, but over the last 18 months, he has seen the development of a worrying trend where there have been attempts to deligitimise her office

It’s now up to the SABC board to decide whether or not to accept the public protector’s recommendations

—–

An Egyptian court sentenced 26 people to death for founding what it called a “terror group” with the aim of attacking ships using the Suez Canal.

A local media report Judges said the men were also accused of manufacturing missiles and explosives.

Reuters news agency says the defendants were tried in absentia.

The sentencing comes a day after the new Prime Minister designate, Ibrahim Mahlab, vowed he would “crush terrorism in all the corners of the country”.

Mahlab has been put in charge of forming a new government following Monday’s surprise resignation of interim Prime Minister Hazem Beblawi and his cabinet.

Meanwhile militants based in the Sinai peninsula have stepped up attacks on government, police and the armed forces, killing hundreds.

—–

Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan had urged South Africans to work together to radically change the economy.

He told the National Assembly during his 2014/15 budget speech, that we have to work together to radically change our economy.

Gordhan said that while the global economic outlook remained unsteady, South Africa’s economy had continued to grow, but more slowly than projected a year ago.

The budget provided R9.3bn in income tax relief to households.

Government would expand its employment programmes over the next three years and continue to support job creation by the private sector.

Public infrastructure investment would amount to R847bn over the next three years.

The general fuel levy will increase by 12 cents a litre on April 2, and the Road Accident Fund levy would increase by eight cents a litre.

Consolidated revenue for 2014/15 is expected to be R1.1trn and spending R1.25trn.

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CAGE, formally known as rights group caged prisoners, expressed outraged by the arrest of our Outreach Director, Moazzam Begg.

A former Guantanamo Bay detainee, he has been campaigning for due process and the human rights of victims, despite suffering over three years of torture and abuse by the US government with the complicity of the British security services.

It said the latest action was designed to ensure that any travel to Syria is deemed suspicious.

It follows a concerted campaign of harassment against Muslim individuals and charities involved in providing humanitarian aid to the victims of the Syrian crisis.

Begg is just the latest individual drawn by the humanitarian catastrophe in Syria who has been labelled a terrorist.

According to CAGE, the purpose is to intimidate and vilify the wider Muslim community so that they are prevented from delivering much needed aid to the Syrian people.

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An official source says Egyptian army chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will remain as defence minister in a new government.

This quashes speculation he was due to announce a widely expected presidential bid.

Speaking to Reuters news agency, the saource says he is expected to continue in his post until all the issues regarding the election laws are resolved

Sisi is widely expected to win the forthcoming presidential election, but has yet to formally announce his candidacy.

He must vacate the position of defence minister in order to run.

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THURSDAY

At least 42 people have been killed after a motorcycle rigged with explosives was detonated in Baghdad’s Sadr City and armed men targeted mostly Shia neighbourhoods around the country.

The motorcycle was parked in a second-hand market in the Shia Muslim neighbourhood that sells used bikes and wasfilled with people, mostly young men, when it exploded late on Thursday afternoon, killing 31 and wounding 51 others, Iraqi medical and police sources said.

Storefront windows were shattered and shoes and motorcycle parts were strewn around the market, according to a Reuters’ correspondent at the scene.

In other violence Thursday, four people died from bombs on two different mini-buses in Shia sections of Baghdad.

An attacker smashed his explosives-packed vehicle into a checkpoint, killing three soldiers and wounding six others in Mushaada, a Sunni district, in northern Baghdad, police said.

In Salahuddin province, a pro-government Sunni-manned checkpoint in the town of Shirqat was hit by a bomb that killed two fighters and wounded four others, police said.

Also to the north in Tuz Khurmatu, a bomb in an outdoor marketplace frequented by Shia Turkmen killed two people and wounded 11 others.

The latest bloodshed comes as the prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, wages a war against Sunni Arab fighters in western Anbar province neighbouring Syria, and has become a base for ISIL.

Despite the offensive, the pace of attacks around the country goes on undiminished.

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A 53-year-old man was critically injured after being shot three times outside De La Salle Holy Cross College junior school when he arrived to fetch his child.

Gauteng police said on Thursday the man was apparently followed from a bank in Randburg, where he had withdrawn R40 000. A car with tinted windows parked behind him, and two men approached his car, trying to grab the bag containing the cash. He was shot in the ensuing scuffle.

The men fled the scene with the money.

According to The Star, the shots were heard just before the end of the school day. Teachers moved swiftly to keep over 600 pupils calm and they assembled in the school hall.

The shooting victim’s 7-year-old daughter was told by the school counsellor that her father had been injured. Her family later arrived at the school.

The injured man was taken to hospital in a critical condition.

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Anti-government protesters have hit the streets of Venezuela’s capital and other cities, protesting over food shortages and rising inflation, as well as against the government’s crackdown on demonstrators.

Thursday’s protests in Caracas saw fewer numbers, as revellers prepared for carnival celebrations.

Between 2,000 and 3,000 people gathered in the wealthy Caracas neighbourhood of Chacao, an opposition stronghold, under the theme “No more dead”.

Clashes broke out when about 200 demonstrators tried to block a nearby highway and security forces dispersed them using tear gas.

 

FRIDAY

 

At least 15 people, including 13 students and two teachers, were killed after the bus they were travelling in crashed into a truck in eastern Thailand.

Police Lieutenant Colonel Anukarn Thammavijarn said the bus lost control on a downhill road and slammed into the truck, which was in front of it.

The bus was carrying students, aged 10 to 15, from their school in northeastern Nakhon Ratchasima city to the beachside town of Pattaya.

Police are searching for the bus driver who fled and are investigating if the crash was caused by a problem with the brakes.

Local media showed pictures of a row of bodies covered by sheets laid out by the side of the wreckage of the bus, whose top deck was crushed on one side.

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Ukraine’s interim government accused Russia of staging an armed invasion in southeastern Crimea after pro-Kremlin armed men seized two airports and government buildings

The region is known to back ousted president Viktor Yanukovich.

On his Facebook account, Ukrainian Interior Minister Arsen Avakov claimed members of the Russian Federation Fleet airports had taken over the Two Crimean  airports

The Russian Black Sea Fleet issued a statement denying the accusation and insisted its forces had not seized or taken any other action at a military airport near Sevastopol, the port on Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula where the fleet is based.

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A Zambian company which owns the truck that exploded on the N1 highway near Polokwane, resulting in the death of five people has described the incident as tragic.

According to Eye Witness News, Rainbow Truck Hire said in a statement that it would co-operate with the police who are investigating a case of culpable homicide.

Yesterday four police officers and the truck driver were killed in an explosion on the N1 between Mokopane and Polokwane.

The report said police officers were responding to an accident scene in the early hours of Thursday where a truck carrying groceries had crashed into the rear of another truck carrying explosives.

The company said it was also conducting an internal investigation and offered its condolences to the families of the deceased.

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An international row is brewing after Israeli politicians demanded control over one of Islam’s holiest sites, the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem.

Jordan is threatening to freeze a 20-year peace treaty over the issue.

And the Arab League has warned that tensions could lead to fresh violence across the Middle East.

Meanwhile Israel has beefed up security measures near Lebanon’s border after the Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah vowed to retaliate for the regime’s recent assault on one of its bases.

The Israeli military has reportedly been put on high alert after Hezbollah pledged to hit back at Israel over its air raid that struck one of the resistance movement’s bases near the Bekaa Valley village of Janta along Lebanon’s border with Syria on February 24.

On Wednesday, Hezbollah confirmed the attack and said it would retaliate for Israels aggression, and the resistance will choose the appropriate time and place as well as appropriate means to respond.

Following Hezbollah’s statement, very little activity has been seen in the Israeli settlements located just across from Lebanon’s southern border.

Israeli farmers were also instructed to stay away from the border area.

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Economic Freedom Fighters leader Julius Malema was found not guilty of speeding.

The Vanderbijlpark Magistrate’s Court found that the state had not properly presented its case against Malema.

Earlier, the EFF leader, through his lawyer, questioned the accuracy of a speed camera used to record his alleged speed.

However, he admitted he was driving a BMW with North West registration plates on 19 December on the N1 freeway in the Vaal area.

Malema had been charged with reckless or negligent driving.

He was arrested in December for allegedly driving at 215km/h in a 120km/h zone.
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The UN chief Ban Ki-moon drew a parallel between Syria’s civil war and the Rwandan genocide, describing both conflicts as gross failures of the international community to stop deadly wrongdoing.

Marking the 20th anniversary of mass killings in the African state, Ban said the United Nations had learned lessons in trying to prevent such a human tragedy, though he hinted that such an event could again be occurring.

Noting that with “courage and political will, genocide can be prevented,” Ban, however, said that the killings in Syria continue.

The death toll is currently estimated at more than 140 000, with no sign of ending.

He said the collective failure to prevent atrocities in Syria over the past three years is a shameful indictment of the international community

The UN Security Council has been sharply divided over the Syrian conflict, but on Saturday it unanimously adopted a resolution calling for humanitarian aid convoys to be allowed access across the war-torn country.

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About 3,200 fMuslims are trapped in a kilometer-long Central African Republic district of Bangui, known as PK12.

IRIN, a humanitarian news and analysis agency, says some Muslims interviewed by  the group in the same district this week all said they wanted to leave.

Jacques Seurt, head of mission for the International Organization for Migration in CAR, says the people in PK12 have a deep desire to get out of there.

He said they are under constant threat from the anti-balaka as are other Muslims in the west of the country.

The country’s Muslims have been the target of reprisal attacks because the Seleka rebel alliance that toppled the government in March 2013 was predominantly made up of Muslims and committed widespread atrocities in many parts of the country.

The UN Refugee Agency reported more than 15,000 people in 18 locations are surrounded by armed groups across the west of the CAR… and are at high risk of attack, adding that most of these people are Muslim.

On 19 February, UNHCR reported, the anti-balaka attacked a convoy of people trying to escape from PK12. All 21 men in the convoy were killed, leaving 119 children and 19 women, who fled to a nearby village.

Security has improved in Bangui since December when around 1,000 people were killed there in a few days, but attacks are still happening almost daily.

On 22 February three Muslims were dragged from a taxi and shot dead at an anti-balaka road block, two days later five men were killed in the PK5 district and on 26 February four Muslim children were kidnapped, and released 2 days later.