Egypt Independent: World-Main news en Pakistan's ruling party looks for gains in upper house election <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div><a href="">Pakistan</a>i lawmakers voted for new senators in parliament&#39;s upper house on Thursday in an election that could strengthen Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif&#39;s grip on power and increase his ability to pass important legislation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The main opposition party, the Pakistan People&#39;s Party (PPP), currently holds a majority in the Senate.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>But projections by analysts indicate that after Thursday&#39;s vote, Sharif&#39;s ruling Pakistan Muslim League is expected to win almost equal representation in the upper house.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Under the constitution, a bill cannot become law unless it is passed by both upper and lower houses of parliament.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Sharif, whose party holds a majority in the lower house of parliament, has his hands full with problems ranging from chronic power shortages, a near-failed economy, a Taliban insurgency and building relations with the United States and arch-rival India.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Toppled in a 1999 coup, jailed and later exiled, Sharif made a triumphant election comeback in May 2013, becoming prime minister for a third time and winning enough seats so he did not need to form a coalition with other major parties to push through badly needed reforms.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>There are 132 candidates in the running for 48 Senate seats on Thursday.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Members of both houses of parliament vote and results are expected later in the day. The newly elected senators will take oath and elect a chairman on 12 March.</div> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 10:25:00 +0000 Reuters 2445520 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/03/05/501271/pakistan.jpg Knife-wielding attacker slashes face of US ambassador in South Korea <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>US ambassador to South Korea Mark Lippert underwent two-and-a-half hours of surgery after he was slashed in the face by a Korean nationalist in an attack at a breakfast forum in Seoul on Thursday to discuss Korean reunification.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lippert, 42, was bleeding from deep wounds to his face and wrist but was able to walk after the attack. Doctors said later his condition was stable after &quot;very successful&quot; surgery that required 80 stitches in his face.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The assailant was caught and identified by police as 55-year-old Kim Ki-Jong. In 2010, Kim tried to attack the Japanese ambassador to South Korea by throwing a piece of concrete and was given a suspended jail term, according to police.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The attack was a protest against joint military exercises by South Korean and US troops, which Kim said interfered with reconciliation between North and South Korea, according to police following an interrogation.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Police are considering whether to charge him for attempted homicide, a police official involved in the case said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Witnesses and police said Kim used a small fruit knife in the attack, which took place in a government arts center across the street from the heavily guarded US embassy on the South Korean capital&#39;s main ceremonial thoroughfare.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We strongly condemn this act of violence,&quot; US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>US President Barack Obama called Lippert to wish him a speedy recovery, a White House official said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The assailant was dressed in traditional Korean clothing and shouted that North and South Korea should be reunited just before he attacked Lippert. He also shouted that he opposed &quot;war exercises&quot;, a reference to the annual joint US-South Korean military drills that began this week.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kim visited North Korea eight times from 2006 to 2007, where he planted trees near the border city of Kaesong, a South Korean Ministry of Unification official said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;I carried out an act of terror,&quot; Kim shouted as he was pinned to the floor by people at the event.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kim said while in police custody he had acted alone. South Korea&#39;s Yonhap news agency reported that Kim also said he was part of a group that had cut and burned a US flag on the embassy grounds in Seoul in 1985.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Kim is a member of the group that supports Korean unification that hosted the event, police said. He has also staged one-man protests against Japan over disputed islands known as Dokdo in Korean and Takeshima in Japanese, and, according to his blog, he led a protest outside a US army base in Seoul last November.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The guy comes in ... He yells something, goes up to the ambassador and slashes him in the face,&quot; witness Michael Lammbrau of the Arirang Institute think-tank told Reuters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Doctors at Yonsei University&#39;s Severance Hospital said they treated Lippert for an 11-cm (4 inches) gash on the right side of his face and a puncture wound on his left wrist, causing nerve damage that was repaired. He will be hospitalized for three or four days, they said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Doing well&amp;in great spirits!,&quot; Lippert tweeted after his surgery.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>North Korea&#39;s official KCNA news agency described the attack as &quot;deserved punishment for the warmongering United States&quot;, calling it &quot;the knife of justice&quot; that it said reflected the anger of South Koreans opposed to the military exercises involving South Korean and US forces.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>&#39;Wrestled to the ground&#39;</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Police were at the venue as part of routine operations but not at the request of the US embassy or the organizer, a police official said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lammbrau said Kim shouted about Korean independence while he was being restrained. &quot;It sounded like he was anti-American, anti-imperialist, that kind of stuff,&quot; he said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The ambassador fought him from his seat ... There was a trail of blood behind him,&quot; Lammbrau said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>South Korean President Park Geun-hye, speaking in the United Arab Emirates, called it an &quot;attack on the South Korea-US alliance&quot;.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Known for his open, informal style, Lippert is active on Twitter and can often be seen walking his basset hound, Grigsby, in Seoul. His wife recently gave birth to a son, who was given a Korean middle name.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Thursday&#39;s event was hosted by the Korean Council for Reconciliation and Cooperation. The group later issued a statement in which it condemned the attack and apologized to the governments of the United States and South Korea.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The annual US-South Korean military exercises routinely provoke an angry response from North Korea, which denounces them as a preparation for war.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>A South Korean defense ministry spokesman said the drills, due to run for eight weeks, would continue as planned.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Lippert was a US Senate aide to Obama and served in the US Navy in Afghanistan and Iraq, winning the Bronze Star. He was chief of staff for former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel before taking up his post in Seoul in November.</div> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 10:14:00 +0000 Reuters 2445518 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/03/05/501271/z17520935qw-czwartek-rano-w-seulu-55-letni-mezczyzna-zaatako.jpg Chad’s president vows to ‘wipe out’ Boko Haram <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><div>Chadian President Idriss Deby on Wednesday vowed to &quot;wipe out&quot; Boko Haram and called on the group&#39;s chief Abubakar Shekau to give himself up, warning that he knew where the militant leader was hiding.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;It is in Abubakar Shekau&#39;s interest to surrender, we know where he is. If he refuses to give himself up, he will suffer the same fate as his comrades,&quot; Deby said at a press conference with his visiting Niger counterpart.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Deby said Shekau had fled the strategic northeast Nigerian town of Dikwa after Boko Haram fighters were chased out of the town by Chadian troops in fierce clashes last month.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Chadian army at the time said two of its soldiers and 117 Boko Haram Islamists were killed in the fighting around Dikwa in Nigeria&#39;s Borno state on 17 February.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;We are going to win the war and we are going to wipe out Boko Haram, contrary to what certain media think. The Chadian and Niger forces will continue their mission to finally put an end to this shadowy group,&quot; Deby said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Little is known of Shekau, who has been declared a global terrorist by the United States and sanctioned by the United Nations.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div><strong>Enigmatic figure</strong></div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nigerian security officials insist he is in fact a composite character whose role is taken by a rotating cast of different militant fighters.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>According to security services, the original Abubakar Shekau was the son of poor farmers who was radicalised while attending theological schools and took over Boko Haram in 2010.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Nigerian military said last September that a man posing as Shekau in videos posted online had in fact been killed after fighting with troops in the far northeast.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The United States and other experts, however, have questioned the credibility of that claim while Shekau has outright rejected it in a video.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nigeria and its neighbours Chad, Niger and Cameroon last month launched an unprecedented joint campaign against the Nigeria-based Boko Haram group, after the militants widened their offensive with attacks in the neighbouring countries.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Nigerian military spokesman, Major General Chris Olukolade on Wednesday also pledged to snuff out Boko Haram, which claims to be fighting ot create an Islamic state in Nigeria.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;Indeed there is no going back or slowing down anywhere,&quot; he told a news conference in the Nigerian capital Abuja.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The air campaigns are continuing with a view to dislodging all the identified terrorist cells, enclaves or hideouts anywhere in the designated mission area,&quot; the spokesman said.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>&quot;The continuous aerial bombardment of identified terrorists&#39; cells and hideouts by the Nigerian Air Force and subsequent ground offensive by the Nigerian troops pursuing the dislodged terrorists is proving worthwhile.&quot;</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Boko Haram conflict has killed more than 13,000 people since 2009 and forced more than one million to flee their homes in northeast Nigeria.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>On Tuesday, the Nigerian military claimed to have killed more than 70 Boko Haram fighters and repulsed their bid to seize a key town in Nigeria&#39;s restive north.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Around 150 Boko Haram fighters entered the fishing town of Konduga on Monday with a large herd of cattle pretending to be herders and opened fire on troops stationed in the town, leading to a six-hour gun battle.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Soldiers and vigilantes have repelled more than a dozen attacks by Boko Haram on Konduga, which is some 35 kilometres (21 miles) southeast of Maiduguri, the capital of Borno state and the birthplace of the Boko Haram movement.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>Konduga could serve as a launching pad for attacks on Maiduguri.</div><div>&nbsp;</div><div>The Boko Haram unrest has seen nearly 250,000 people flee to neighbouring countries, according to the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR.</div> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 09:04:00 +0000 AFP 2445513 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/02/07/499612/boko_haram_in_ne_nigeria_and_neighbouring_countries.jpg Libya asks UN to approve arms contracts <img src="" alt="" title="" class="imagecache imagecache-media_thumbnail" width="152" height="114" /><p>Libya urged the UN Security Council to approve a request for military purchases as it struggles to combat Islamic State extremists and protect its oil fields.</p><p>The internationally-recognized government, one of two bodies that claims to rule troubled Libya, has asked the council&#39;s sanctions committee to grant an exemption to an arms embargo and allow it to beef up its air force.</p><p>&quot;The leadership of the Libyan army has submitted specific requests for exemptions from the arms embargo to the sanctions committee,&quot; Libyan Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the 15-member council.</p><p>&quot;These requests relate to reinforcing the ability of the Libyan air force so that it may be able to monitor Libya&#39;s territory and borders, and prevent the terrorists from reaching oil fields and oil facilities, so that it can protect the fortune and wealth of the country,&quot; he said.</p><p>According to a document from the sanctions committee seen by AFP, Libya is seeking to purchase 14 MiG fighter jets, seven helicopters, 150 tanks, 150 armed personnel carriers mounted with machine guns, 10,000 grenade launchers, along with ammunition rounds and mortars from defence contractors in Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Serbia.</p><p>The request came less than two weeks after Libya asked the council to lift the arms embargo imposed in 2011 when the country descended into violence after the uprising against Moamer Kadhafi.</p><p>Britain, France and the United States oppose scrapping the embargo, arguing that it would fuel violence, but diplomats have stressed that arms contracts can be approved by the sanctions committee on a case-by-case basis.</p><p><strong>Monday deadline for contract&nbsp;</strong></p><p>The Libyan ambassador said the request for the military purchases was coupled with measures to tighten control, including allowing an observer to be dispatched on site to check on the shipment&#39;s whereabouts.</p><p>The sanctions committee notified council members that it plans to approve the request on Monday if no objections are raised.</p><p>A previous request made by Libya for an exemption to the arms embargo was turned down because of the volume of weaponry on the list, some of which was highly-sophisticated, diplomats said.</p><p>&quot;We will see in the next few days the level of seriousness among the members of this council and how much they care for the security and stability of Libya and the region,&quot; said Dabbashi.</p><p>Libya has two rival governments and parliaments, one recognized by the international community and the other with ties to powerful militias.</p><p>Islamist militants seized control of at least two oil fields in central Libya on Tuesday in the latest attack targeting the sector.</p><p>Libya has been awash with weapons since the uprising that toppled and killed Kadhafi, and opposing militias have since been battling for control of its cities and oil wealth.</p><p>The United Nations is brokering talks among the various factions and the government, with a fresh round set to take place in Morocco on Thursday and two other sessions planned in Algeria and Brussels next week.</p><p>UN envoy Bernardino Leon told the council that ending the conflict in Libya was &quot;possible&quot; but that the situation on the ground was &quot;deteriorating rapidly&quot;.</p><p>The international community, he said, must &quot;move quickly to present a clearly articulated strategy in support of the Libyan state and the efforts of a national unity government in combatting the growing threat of terrorism.&quot;</p> Thu, 05 Mar 2015 08:56:00 +0000 AFP 2445511 at sites/default/files/photo/2015/02/21/499612/fajr_libya_libya_dawn_militia.jpg