World Digest: Jan. 12, 2018


Rebels who hit base eliminated, Russia says

The Russian military said Friday that it eliminated a group of rebels that had attacked its air base in Syria.

The Russian Defense Ministry said it tracked the rebels with drones and other assets and hit them with artillery while they were getting into a vehicle in the northwestern province of Idlib.

It said in a statement that the Russian military also destroyed a rebel facility for assembling drones in Idlib.

A mortar attack on the Hmeimim air base killed two Russian servicemen on New Year’s Eve, the Defense Ministry said. It said that warplanes weren’t hit, but the Russian business daily Kommersant reported that seven aircraft were damaged beyond repair.

Last weekend, rebels also launched a drone attack on Hmeimim and a Russian naval base in Tartus. The raid involving 13 drones was the first such attack since Russia launched its military intervention in Syria in September 2015.

— Associated Press


Defiant Lula readies presidential bid

Brazil’s former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will launch his bid for the presidency Jan. 25, regardless of the outcome of an appellate court hearing on his corruption conviction scheduled for the day before.

Lula’s bid is “an act of defiance” in response to political persecution, Alexandre Padilha, vice president of the Workers’ Party, said in an interview. Political parties will not officially formalize their candidates
for October’s elections until August.

Lula was sentenced to 9½ years for graft and money laundering in July and faces a handful of other criminal charges.

The former president and his supporters say the charges against him are politically motivated and an attempt to
stop him from returning to power.

Lula leads the opinion polls for this year’s presidential election. If the appeals court upholds his conviction on Jan. 24, he may be barred from running.

— Bloomberg News


New arrests include opposition leaders

Tunisian authorities arrested 150 more people, including opposition leaders, on Friday, bringing the total detained to nearly 800 in response to protests this week against price and tax increases.

Demonstrations, some violent, flared across Tunisia on Monday, when one protester was killed, before ebbing Thursday. Protesters have burned dozens of state buildings, prompting the government to send the army into several cities and towns.

Activists and opposition politicians appealed for fresh protests in the capital, Tunis, on Friday and Sunday, the seventh anniversary of the toppling of the country’s authoritarian president, Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali. On Friday, things were mostly quiet, with just 200 people protesting peacefully in the capital, a witness said.

— Reuters

3 churches in Chile firebombed: President Michelle Bachelet asked Chileans on Friday to receive Pope Francis in a “climate of respect,” hours after three Roman Catholic churches were firebombed and a note was left at the scene threatening the pontiff. In the overnight attacks in Santiago, the capital and largest city in the country where the pope will arrive Monday, the churches were hit with firebombs and then sprayed with accelerant. “The next bombs will be in your cassock,” read pamphlets found outside one of the churches.

Canadian police search for man who cut 11-year-old’s hijab: Toronto police are investigating an attack on an 11-year-old girl whose hijab head covering was repeatedly cut on her way to school Friday, heightening pressure on Canadian governments to take further action against attacks on Muslims. An assailant, in two attempts within 10 minutes, cut the girl’s hijab using scissors while she was walking with her brother, Toronto police said.

Ex-army figure to challenge Sissi in Egyptian election : A former Egyptian army chief of staff will contest the upcoming presidential election in March, a top aide said, as other candidates have faced heavy pressure to drop out and pave the way for a sweeping reelection victory for President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi. Ragab Helal Hemida, head of the policies committee in the Egypt Arabism Democratic Party, said that Lt. Gen. Sami Anan has accepted his party’s nomination. Voting is scheduled to take place March 26-28. Hemida said that Sissi’s popularity has taken a blow after painful austerity measures saw a large sector of Egyptians fall into poverty or hardship. He added that under Sissi, Egypt’s human rights record has sharply deteriorated.

— From news services