Protest leader claims more official powers

The head of Thailand’s protest movement on Tuesday extended his extraordinary claims of control over government activities, issuing orders to officials over whom he has no legal or actual authority.

Suthep Thaugsuban’s latest move was bold but bizarre. He turned the tables on his nemesis, Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, saying his opposition group was ordering her prosecution on a charge of insurrection — a capital crime with which he himself has been charged.

The move provided no clue as to how Thailand’s political crisis might be resolved but appeared likely to keep tensions high.

Yingluck said earlier Tuesday that she would not resign ahead of national elections she had set the day before for Feb. 2. Her opponents scorned her declaration and said they would appoint their own government in her place.

Suthep’s claim to authority lacks a basis in law or in the control of any state institutions, but it has nonetheless been taken seriously by protesters and some Thai media.

— Associated Press

7 dead as mobs loot during police strikes

Mobs of looters swarmed into the streets of more cities across Argentina as police officers abandoned their posts in spreading copycat strikes called to pressure provincial governors into raising their pay.

While officers gathered outside negotiating sessions, people smashed storefronts and hauled out goods from mattresses to baby carriages to beer. One group of six men in rural Tucuman province hauled an
entire freezer unit from an ice cream store and loaded it onto a donkey cart.

The death toll rose to at least seven by Tuesday — five suspected looters, a police officer, and a shop owner who died after a mob set fire to his market. Hundreds of people have been injured and thousands of stores and homes plundered as the violence spread to at least 19 of Argentina’s 23 provinces.

— Associated Press

2 French soldiers killed in new fighting

Two French soldiers have been killed in combat in Central African Republic’s capital, President François Hollande’s office in Paris announced Tuesday, underscoring the challenges of a new French military intervention in the nearly lawless former colony.

The early casualties underscore the volatility of the mission — soon to be aided by the United States — to disarm combatants and bring stability to the largely anarchic capital, Bangui. A mob on Monday stoned to death a suspected enemy in the street, and armed fighters have abducted and killed hospital patients.

Tensions stemming from the overthrow of the mainly Christian country by Muslim rebels in March flared again Tuesday as a mob of young men set fire to a mosque in Bangui’s Fou district.

— Associated Press

Clashes spread to 2nd university in Cairo: Egyptian security forces fired tear gas to disperse students protesting outside Cairo University in support of the country’s ousted Islamist president, as unrest spread to a second college campus in the capital. Across town, students at the Islamic al-Azhar University have clashed sporadically with police since Sunday as they rally in support of 20 of their peers who have been arrested and charged with protesting against the military-backed authorities.

Bangladeshi Islamist leader wins eleventh-hour reprieve: An Islamist opposition leader in Bangladesh won a dramatic stay of execution hours before he was due to be hanged, according to his lawyers, allaying fears for now of a violent backlash less than a month before elections. Abdul Quader Mollah, who was found guilty in February of war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan, was to have been hanged at one minute past midnight at Dhaka Central Jail. A hearing is pending.

17 die in bombings, shootings in Iraq: A shooting at a construction site and a double bombing at a small Shiite shrine killed 17 people northeast of Baghdad, Iraqi officials said. Two bombs exploded Tuesday afternoon in the Imam Idris Shiite shrine near the city of Baqubah, 35 miles from the capital, killing 10 people. Earlier, gunmen in a speeding car opened fire on Sunni workers building a house in the village of Abara, about 40 miles from Baghdad, killing seven.

— From news services