Two French radio journalists were kidnapped by gunmen in northern Mali on Saturday and killed hours later, the French Foreign Ministry said, adding that their bodies had been found.
Officials in the town of Kidal said Claude Verlon, 58, and Ghislaine Dupont, 51, who worked for radio station RFI, were grabbed by several armed men in a 4x4 vehicle after they finished an interview with a Tuareg rebel leader in Kidal. Their bodies were later dumped a dozen miles outside the town, according to a person who saw the corpses and four officials briefed on the matter.
It was not clear who had slain the pair, but suspicion immediately fell on Islamist militants. France launched a military intervention in January in its former colony to try to oust jihadists from Kidal and other towns across northern Mali. Separatist rebels have since returned to the area.
The deaths came four days after France rejoiced at the release of four French citizens held for three years by al-Qaeda’s affiliate in North Africa, which has used the kidnapping of foreigners for ransom to bankroll its operations.
— Associated Press
Hard-liners in Iran have unveiled two “Death to America” songs at the former U.S. Embassy in Tehran, hoping to keep anger high ahead of nuclear talks with Western powers.
The songs were performed Saturday, in advance of a planned massive protest Monday to mark the anniversary of the embassy takeover in 1979.
This year, the anniversary is drawing greater attention because of hard-line opposition to moderate President Hassan Rouhani’s outreach to the West as talks over the country’s contested nuclear program continue. Hard-liners also criticized Rouhani’s historic telephone conversation with President Obama in September.
Authorities pulled down dozens of anti-U.S. banners and posters across Tehran last week.
— Associated Press
Japan, Russia agree to expand defense ties: Japan and Russia held their first high-level defense and diplomatic talks Saturday and agreed to step up cooperation between their militaries amid regional security concerns such as those posed by North Korea and China. Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and Defense Minister Itsunori Onodera and their Russian counterparts, Sergei Lavrov and Sergei Shoigu, meeting in Tokyo, also agreed to hold joint military and anti-piracy exercises and establish a framework for defense consultation.
Jailed Russian punk-band member transferred: Russia’s prison service said Pussy Riot member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova is being sent to another penal colony. The Interfax news agency reported the move after Tolokonnikova’s husband complained that there had been no contact with her in recent days. Officials said that in accordance with regulations, her family would be informed within 10 days of her arrival. Tolokonnikova is serving a two-year sentence related to the band’s politically provocative performance in a Moscow cathedral in February 2012.
Egyptian TV channel criticized over suspension: Amr Moussa, a former presidential candidate who chairs a panel tasked with amending Egypt’s constitution, chastised the private broadcaster CBC for its decision Friday to suspend the popular satirical program of Bassem Youssef, often described as Egypt’s Jon Stewart. Moussa urged CBC to reconsider, saying the decision raises concerns about freedom of expression in Egypt.
Cease-fire implemented in northern Yemen: A cease-fire went into effect between an Islamic Salafist movement and rebels in the country’s restive north after three days of fighting that left more than 100 people dead. Yehia Mansour, a member of a presidential committee tasked with negotiating the truce, said two army battalions would enforce the agreement in the northern province of Saada.
Cuba shutters private movie theaters, game salons: Cuban authorities are bringing down the curtain at the privately run movie theaters and video-game salons that have mushroomed on the island, saying the businesses are unauthorized. The movie and video parlors are not mentioned on the list of nearly 200 areas of independent enterprise authorized under limited economic changes begun by President Raúl Castro, but until now they were not explicitly prohibited, either.
— From news services