World Digest: Nov. 19, 2013

November 19, 2013
SYRIA
Regime troops seize key border town

Syrian government troops captured a strategically important town near the Lebanese border from rebels Tuesday, days after launching a broad offensive in the mountainous western region, state media, activists and the army said.

The attack on Qara began Friday morning in an operation apparently aimed at cutting off rebel supply lines to Lebanon. The Qara route is particularly important to rebels entrenched in suburbs around Damascus and lies on the main north-south highway linking the capital to government strongholds along the Mediterranean coast.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights confirmed the statements by state TV and the army announcing the capture, saying that the rebels, including members of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, had withdrawn.

Jabhat al-Nusra fighters and members of al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria vowed to return to Qara soon, the Observatory added.

The border offensive is part of a government push that started last month and has achieved several objectives, including capturing a string of opposition-held suburbs south of Damascus as well as two towns and a military base around the northern city of Aleppo.

Separately Tuesday, New York-based Human Rights Watch said opposition fighters had apparently executed civilians and others in their custody during an attack late October in the central Christian village of Sadad.

— Associated Press

RUSSIA
9 from Greenpeace ruled eligible for bail

A Russian court on Tuesday granted bail to Greenpeace protesters from Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Finland, France, Italy, New Zealand and Poland, the first group of foreign environmental activists eligible for release from jail while awaiting trial for participating in a demonstration near a Russian oil rig.

The Primorsky court in St. ­Petersburg set bail at $61,500 each, and Greenpeace said it would make money available as soon as possible.

The court did not say whether the activists could leave Russia while on bail. No trial dates have been set.

— Associated Press

Egyptian revolutionaries return to Tahrir Square: Egypt’s revolutionary activists, overshadowed since leading the 2011 uprising against Hosni Mubarak, showed a new vigor Tuesday, scuffling with supporters of the military-backed government in Cairo’s Tahrir Square and wrecking a state memorial dedicated to slain protesters only hours after it was inaugurated. The vandalizing of the memorial reflected the youth activists’ anger against a perceived attempt by the government to paper over past bloodshed.

Spain seeks arrests of China’s Jiang Zemin, others: Spain’s National Court issued arrest orders for former Chinese president Jiang Zemin and four others as part of a probe into alleged genocide by China against Tibet, saying it accepted arguments from Spanish pro-Tibet rights groups that international reports appear to implicate the five. Among the others being sought for questioning in the investigation, which China has condemned as interference in its affairs, are former prime minister Li Peng and former security and police chief Qiao Shi.

Genocide convicts freed in Bosnia: A Bosnian court has released 10 Bosnian Serb war-crimes convicts, including six jailed for genocide, because it applied the wrong criminal code during their trials. Those six were sentenced to 28 to 33 years for having participated in the killing of more than 1,000 Muslim men in the 1995 Srebrenica massacre. Families of the victims said that they were outraged and that the move “defies reason.”

Abbott balks at apology to Indonesia: Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he won’t apologize as Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono recalled his envoy from Canberra and warned of damaged ties after media reports that Australian spies tried to tap his phone. “Australia should not be expected to apologize for the steps we take to defend this country,” Abbott told Parliament. The spying claims could complicate Australia’s bid for a free-trade agreement with its neighbor, with whom two-way trade was worth $13.7 billion last year.

Cyclone kills 18 in Italy: A cyclone killed 18 people and left hundreds homeless as extreme rainfall flooded eastern parts of the Mediterranean island of Sardinia, Italian authorities said. The government declared a state of emergency after Cyclone Cleopatra dropped 17.7 inches of rain in 11 / 2 hours overnight, causing rivers to burst their banks, sweeping away cars and flooding homes.

U.S. death toll in Philippines typhoon updated: Testifying before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department’s Scot Marciel said that five Americans have died in the typhoon that hit the Philippines this month and that hundreds of others have received assistance. About 475 Americans have been located, he said.

— From news services

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