World Digest: June 19, 2013

June 19, 2013
SOMALIA
Militants infiltrate U.N. complex, kill 13

Seven al-Qaeda-linked gunmen detonated a pickup truck rigged with explosives at the gate of the U.N. compound in Somalia’s capital Wednesday morning, launching a bombs-and-gunfire assault that saw militants pour into the complex, killing at least 13 people, including three foreigners, officials said.

The seven militants — from what the Islamist al-Shabab militia called its martyrdom, or suicide, brigade — also died in the assault, an official said.

The attack comes six months after the United Nations expanded its presence in Mogadishu following the 2011 ouster of the insurgents who had controlled much of the city.

African Union and Somali security forces took control of the compound by midday, and U.N. workers who had sought refuge in the compound’s secure bunker were evacuated to the military base and airport complex across the street, according to a spokesman for the U.N. Assistance Mission in Somalia.

Two South Africans from the defense equipment manufacturer Denel Mechem died in the attack, a company spokesman said. A U.N. official said he believed that two U.N. workers from Kenya and Somalia were also killed.

— Associated Press

SYRIA
Troops battle rebels near Shiite shrine

Hezbollah fighters joined Syrian forces in battling rebels in a Damascus suburb that is home to a revered Shiite Muslim shrine, in a push to secure the area around the ornate, golden-domed mosque.

Protection of the Sayida Zeinab shrine has become a rallying cry for Shiite fighters backing President Bashar al-Assad, raising the stakes in a conflict that is increasingly being fought along sectarian lines.

The fighting in the area south of the capital, Damascus, is part of a wider military offensive by Assad’s forces to recapture suburbs held by rebels and areas in the country’s strategic heartland. Activists said violent clashes coupled with heavy artillery bombardment of the southern suburbs reverberated in Damascus, and the main Western-backed opposition group, the Syrian Opposition Coalition, warned of an impending humanitarian
disaster.

The coalition said that regime forces, backed by Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite fighters and dozens of tanks and armored vehicles, were besieging the area, trapping tens of thousands of civilians under heavy bombardment.

— Associated Press

JAPAN
New nuclear safety rules are approved

Japan’s nuclear watchdog formally approved a set of new safety requirements for atomic power plants Wednesday, clearing the way for the reopening of facilities shut down since the Fukushima disaster in a move critics charged was too hasty.

The new requirements approved by the Nuclear Regulation Authority will take effect July 8, when operators will be able to apply for inspections. If plants pass the inspections, they will be able to reopen later this year or early next year.

All but two of Japan’s 50 reactors have been offline since a March 2011 earthquake and tsunami triggered multiple meltdowns and radiation leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, northeast of Tokyo.

The plant’s operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., revealed Wednesday that high levels of radioactive strontium and tritium were found in May in a sample of groundwater from the ocean side of the No. 2 turbine building.

— Associated Press

China, N. Korea hold strategic talks in Beijing: Negotiators from North Korea and China held strategic talks in Beijing as they work to repair strained relations, but offered little sign they will lead to a resumption of nuclear disarmament talks anytime soon. North Korean First Vice Foreign Minister Kim Gye Gwan and Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui were expected to focus on bilateral ties and the situation on the Korean Peninsula.

Flooding in India kills at least 102: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said after returning from an aerial tour of inundated areas in the northern state of Uttarakhand that the death toll from flooding stood at 102 and could rise substantially. A military operation evacuated nearly 12,000 Hindu pilgrims stranded in a mountainous area by monsoon rains and landslides, but nearly 63,000 people remained cut off, an official said.

Politician among 7 killed in Iraq: Bomb attacks in Iraq killed seven people, authorities said. In the deadliest attack, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a guesthouse in the northern province of Nineveh where a local political leader was staying, killing him and four of his relatives. Younis al-Rammah headed a political list competing in provincial elections Thursday.

— From news services

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