Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Bahrain goes to polls as Shiite opposition boycotts <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Bahrain holds legislative elections Saturday for the first time since a 2011 uprising, despite a boycott by the Shiite opposition that led the pro-democracy movement.</p><p>The polls are being contested without a compromise in sight between authorities in the Sunni-ruled monarchy and the opposition, as highlighted by the two sides in interviews Friday.</p><p>The Gulf state&#39;s electorate of almost 350,000 is being called to choose 40 deputies, with most of the 266 candidates being Sunnis.</p><p>Al-Wefaq, the main opposition group, warned that failure by the kingdom&#39;s rulers to loosen their grip on power could trigger a surge in violence.</p><p>For her part, Information Minister Samira Rajab stressed that the government would not tolerate &quot;chaos, unrest and foreign meddling&quot; -- a reference to Shiite Iran.</p><p>The opposition&#39;s month-long uprising in early 2011 was crushed by the authorities.</p><p>On the eve of elections, hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets of the Shiite village of Diraz in support of the boycott, with police firing tear gas to disperse them.</p><p>&quot;Boycott! Boycott!&quot; they chanted.</p><p>Shiite demonstrators frequently clash with security forces in villages outside the capital, and hundreds have been arrested and tried since the uprising.</p><p>The political rivals have struggled to bury their differences through a so-called &quot;national dialogue&quot; that fell apart despite several rounds of negotiations.</p><p>Al-Wefaq chief Sheikh Ali Salman told AFP the opposition could only resume talks if the government agreed to implement reforms in line with a strict timetable.</p><p>He warned that failure to reach a political accord could spark an &quot;explosion&quot; of violence in Bahrain, home to the US Navy&#39;s Fifth Fleet and a partner in the US-led campaign against the Islamic State group in Syria and Iraq.</p><p>The boycott stems from &quot;the people&#39;s demand for democratic reforms,&quot; he said, predicting a maximum 30 percent turnout.</p><p>The opposition wants a &quot;real&quot; constitutional monarchy with an elected prime minister independent from the Al-Khalifa royal family.</p><p>But the Saudi-backed Sunni dynasty that rules over the majority Shiite kingdom has rejected the demand.</p><p>In October, a court banned Al-Wefaq for three months for violating a law on associations.</p><p>The movement refused to resume talks with the authorities in September despite a new proposal announced by Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad al-Khalifa.</p><p>Salman said he did not expect the opposition to reach an agreement with the government, following Shiite-led protests he said had cost &quot;at least 100 lives&quot; over the past three years.</p> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 09:58:00 +0000 AFP 2440299 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/22/499612/bahrain_goes_to_polls_as_shiite_opposition_boycotts.jpg Mexico ex-police official arrested in student abductions <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>A former police chief in Cocula, the Mexican town where witnesses say 43 missing students were massacred, was arrested for allegedly participating in handing the young men over to a criminal gang, prosecutors said Friday.</p><p>Cesar Nava Gonzalez was arrested on November 16, the statement said, calling the former official a &quot;member of the Guerreros Unidos criminal organization.&quot;</p><p>The teacher college students&#39; disappearance and presumed slaughter has infuriated Mexicans fed up with corruption, impunity and a drug war that has left more than 100,000 people dead or missing since 2006.</p><p>Lawyer Vidulfo Rosales, who represents the parents of the missing students, said the families were told earlier Friday of the latest arrest at a briefing with officials.</p><p>The students were taken on September 26, after the mayor of the city of Iguala allegedly ordered police to confront students, sparking a night of violence that also left six people dead.</p><p>Members of the Guerreros Unidos drug gang have told investigators they killed the students and burned the bodies after police had handed them over.</p><p>The then police chief Nava Gonzales, who had been on the run since soon after the crime came to light, has confessed to responding to a call from the Iguala police chief on the night of September 26, to help with detaining the students, said lawyer Rosales.</p><p>Nava Gonzales said he helped take the students to the entrance of his town to deliver them to the Guerrero Unidos cartel, Rosales said.</p><p>Iguala&#39;s police chief remains at large, but the Iguala mayor and his wife have both been arrested.</p><p>Prosecutors accuse the mayoral couple of colluding with the gang and ordering the attack over fears the students would disrupt a speech by the mayor&#39;s wife, who was head of the local child protection agency.</p><p>Officials have stopped short of declaring the students dead, pending an Austrian university&#39;s DNA tests on charred bones. Federal authorities continue to search for them in Guerrero.</p><p>Highlighting their deep distrust of the authorities, families of the missing say they will only trust DNA test results from independent foreign forensic experts.</p> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 07:43:00 +0000 AFP 2440294 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/12/499612/mexico_protesters_torch_ruling_party_regional_hq.jpg Ebola death toll rises to 5,459; Cuban doctor 'stable' <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>The death toll in the Ebola epidemic has risen to 5,459 out of 15,351 cases identified in eight countries by the end of Nov. 18, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.</p><p>The figures showed an increase of 39 recorded deaths and 106 new cases since those issued on Wednesday.</p><p>&quot;Transmission remains intense in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone,&quot; the WHO said, referring to the three hardest-hit West African countries that account for all but 15 of the deaths.</p><p>All six known Ebola cases in Mali have now died and 327 contacts exposed to the virus are being monitored in the capital Bamako, it said.</p><p>A Cuban doctor, the first infected with Ebola, was evacuated overnight from Sierra Leone to Geneva by the WHO. Swiss authorities told a news briefing on Friday at University Hospital of Geneva, where Felix Baez is in isolation, that he was in a stable condition.</p><p>The 43-year-old is being given the experimental drug ZMapp, made by Mapp Biopharmaceutical, they said.</p><p>Earlier on Friday, the WHO declared that a separate outbreak of Ebola in Democratic Republic of Congo was over after no people showed symptoms for two incubation periods since the last case. In all, there were 49 deaths out of 66 people infected in the remote northwestern Equateur province.</p> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 07:32:00 +0000 Reuters 2440293 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/11/14/499612/in_ebola-hit_sleone_dignity_in_death_protects_the_living.jpg Indiana man beheaded in Syria remembered in Muslim prayer service <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Muslims in Indiana held a funeral service on Friday for Abdul- Rahman Kassig, formerly known as Peter, who was beheaded by Islamic State militants in<a href="" title="Full coverage of Syria">Syria</a>&nbsp;after being held captive for a year.</p><p>Kassig adopted Islam while he was a hostage. His family said he made a sincere conversion in a process that began before he was captured by Islamic State, which has seized parts of Iraq and Syria and is the target of U.S. bombings.</p><p>Friends and family of different faiths attended the funeral service in Fishers, an Indianapolis suburb, which included a sermon by a prominent Syrian exile, cleric and Muslim scholar Shaykh Muhammad al-Yaqoubi, formerly Imam of the Grand Umayyad Mosque in Damascus.</p><p>&quot;He took every risk in order to help the Syrian people, to remove some of their tragedy, to offer them some relief,&rdquo; al-Yaqoubi said. He called Kassig &quot;one of our brothers who sacrificed his life for the sake of God.&quot;</p><p>He offered condolences to the Kassigs, calling their son a great hero &ldquo;who carried in his heart the principles of Islam even before becoming a Muslim.&rdquo;</p><p>Kassig&#39;s parents, Ed and Paula Kassig attended the service. During their son&#39;s captivity, the Kassigs repeatedly called on Islamic State to spare their son, who became the fifth European or American captive killed by the militants.</p><p>They said that they adopted Kassig as a newborn.</p><p>&quot;We have always been, and will always be, grateful that his birthmother, Rhonda Schwindt, chose us to be his parents,&quot; they said in a statement.&nbsp;&quot;We know that she and Peter&#39;s siblings, Jana and Sam Schwindt, share in our grief.&quot;</p><p>Kassig was a medic and former U.S. Army Ranger who served briefly in Iraq in 2007 in the U.S. Army. He returned to the Middle East in 2012 for a spring break trip while studying political science.</p><p>Moved by the suffering of Syrian refugees, he went to Lebanon and volunteered as an emergency medical technician.</p><p>He later founded an aid organization to provide food and medical supplies to refugees from the conflict in Syria, where some 200,000 people have died and millions are displaced.</p><p>Another Muslim prayer service will be held for Kassig on Saturday in Indianapolis. A memorial service will be held on Sunday at Butler University in Indianapolis, where Kassig had been a student.</p> Sat, 22 Nov 2014 07:13:00 +0000 Reuters 2440292 at sites/default/files/photo/2014/08/27/94/download.jpg