About 9,000 migrants rescued over weekend

Nearly 9,000 mainly African migrants were rescued in the Mediterranean this past long weekend after being put by smugglers in Libya on unseaworthy boats heading toward Italy, United Natons aid agencies said Tuesday.

The migrants board the overcrowded boats, often just inflated rubber vessels unsuitable for such a journey, in the hope of starting a new life in Europe.

More than 35 vessels, including private charity boats, the European Union border agency Frontex, the Italian and Libyan coast guards, and 12 merchant ships were involved in rescuing dozens of vessels, the Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said.

At least 900 migrants have died or have gone missing trying to reach Europe by sea this year, a spokesman for the International Organization for Migration said.

He said about 36,000 migrants have been rescued, compared with 24,000 at this time last year.

— Reuters

‘Imminent’ attack foiled, authorities say

French police thwarted an imminent “terror attack” and arrested two suspects in the southern port city of Marseille, authorities said Tuesday, just days before the first round of France’s presidential election.

Paris prosecutor François Molins said the suspects “were getting ready to carry out an imminent, violent action on national territory.” He said investigators have not determined “the day, the targets and the exact circumstances” of the alleged plot.

France votes Sunday in the first round of its two-stage election. Extra safety measures are being put in place for the balloting, with recent attacks having made security one of the major issues of the presidential campaign.

The suspects, Mahiedine Merabet, 29, and Clement Baur, 23, both French, were detained under arrest warrants for terrorist criminal association, according to a police document.

Molins said Merabet had, in recent days, tried to send a video to the Islamic State group to claim “allegiance or responsibility” for a potential attack.

Baur was signaled to authorities by his family in 2015 as radicalized, with the possible intention of going to Syria. He had links with Belgian extremist networks, Molins said.

The two were known to police and intelligence services for their religious radicalism. They met in prison in 2015, Molins said.

— Associated Press

669 reported killed in months of protests

Months of violent protests that sparked Ethiopia’s ongoing state of emergency left at least 669 people dead, but security forces used “proportionate measures” to counter the unrest, the government-affiliated Ethiopian Human Rights Commission said Tuesday.

The protests, which began in November 2015 and spread nationwide, demanded wider political freedoms and posed a challenge to one of Africa’s fastest-growing economies.

The commission’s report largely blamed opposition groups for what it called illegal rallies. But it also said security forces were not properly prepared for a protest that turned into a deadly stampede in October and sparked the emergency declaration.

Human rights groups have accused Ethiopia’s government of carrying out extrajudicial killings during the protests.

The commission’s report recommended that security forces at fault in a number of incidents be brought to justice.

More than 25,000 people suspected of taking part in protests were detained under the state of emergency. Several thousand have been released.

— Associated Press

No talks with Palestinian hunger strikers, Israel says: Israel will not negotiate with hundreds of Palestinian prisoners who have begun a hunger strike to press for better conditions, a government minister said. If sustained, the strike, led by Palestinian leader Marwan Barghouti, would be the largest in recent years. Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan said that the strike is politically motivated and that the prisoners have no legitimate complaints. Erdan said Barghouti was transferred to another prison and placed in solitary confinement.

Crash kills 12 Saudi officers in Yemen: The Saudi-led military coalition fighting in Yemen said one of its helicopters crashed in the east, killing 12 Saudi officers in one of the deadliest incidents for Saudi troops since the conflict began more than two years ago. The Black Hawk crashed in Marib province, the coalition said. The coalition of mostly Arab Sunni countries has been waging a campaign to dislodge Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital and some other areas in 2014.

— From news services