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Friday, September 22, 2017

Egypt's new parliament held its opening session on Sunday, state television reported, more than three years after a court dissolved the old Islamist-dominated chamber.

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A pre-dawn raid on an Indian air base in the northwestern state of Punjab has ended after a 15-hour gun battle that left all five attackers, and at least seven soldiers dead, according to police and security forces.

Saturday's attack, 50km from the border with Pakistan, came just a week after Narendra Modi, India's prime minister, made an unannounced Pakistan visit to meet his counterpart in a bid to revive bilateral talks that had previously been derailed by armed attacks.

Rajnath Singh, home minister, confirmed that all five attackers were killed in Pathankot.

The defence ministry said there had been intelligence reports about a possible attack on military installations in Pathankot, and that the air force had been prepared to thwart any attackers.

"Due to the effective preparation and coordinated efforts by all the security agencies a group of terrorists were detected by the aerial surveillance platforms as soon as they entered the air force station at Pathankot," the ministry said in a statement.

Intermittent gunfire had continued into the day and helicopters flew as an operations continued to comb the base.
Suresh Arora, Punjab's police chief, said the attackers had earlier hijacked a police officer's car and driven it to the heavily guarded base.

Rochelle D'Silva, Indian Air Force spokesperson, said the men entered the living quarters of the base, but were not able to penetrate the area that houses fighter helicopters and other equipment.

The airbase was cordoned off and a heavy contingent of police deployed to the area, with elite paramilitary force of the National Security Guard (NSG) and the Guard Commando Force called in.

A senior Indian police officer said that a red alert was issued across Punjab in the wake of the incident.

No responsibility claim

There was no immediate claim of responsibility but India's junior home minister hinted at involvement of armed groups based in Pakistan.

"We have credible information that this attack was sponsored by some elements across the border," Kiren Rijiju, the minister, said in New Delhi.

Rajnath Singh, India's home minister, said the country wanted peace with Pakistan but that any "terrorist attack" would get "a befitting response".

Pakistan condemned the attack and said it wanted to build on the goodwill created by the recent high-level contacts.

"Pakistan remains committed to partner with India as well as other countries in the region to completely eradicate the menace of terrorism," Qazi Khalilullah, foreign ministry spokesman, said in a series of tweets.

Ayesha Siddiqa, an independent social scientist in Pakistan, says it is too early to point fingers as nothing has been proven as yet.

"It's a bit tricky and Pakistan's involvement has not been proven yet," Siddiqa, the author of Military Inc, told Al Jazeera from Islamabad.

"The environment has completely changed after Mumbai [the 2011 attacks]. There are military outfits operating from Pakistan and they keep themselves very vocal on social media, so there's a temptation to interpret the attacks in a certain way."

Uday Bhaskar, head of the New Delhi-based Society for Policy Studies, said there was a fair amount of speculation and conjecture about the identity of the attackers.

"As an analyst I would say the probability that perpetrators are linked to one of the better known terror groups that have targeted India over the last decade is fairly high," Bhaskar told Al Jazeera.

"I think the motive seems to disrupt the current traction as far as India-Pakistan bilateral relations are concerned.

"We have had similar pattern in the past where those groups and constituencies that are against any improvement in bilateral relations play the terror card. I see it as part of this pattern. How Pakistan would respond would be an indicator about the next course of events in bilateral ties.

Sambo Dasuki has denied any wrongdoing and says the allegations are politically motivated
Nigeria's former national security adviser, Sambo Dasuki, has been arrested for allegedly stealing $2bn (£1.3bn), his representatives say

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Liberal leader Justin Trudeau named a young, ethnically diverse and gender-equal Cabinet on Wednesday as he was sworn into office as Canada’s 23rd prime minister, marking the end of nearly a decade of Conservative rule.

Trudeau, 43, kicked off his majority government with some controversy with his decision to name an equal number of men and women to a slimmed-down Cabinet, the first time gender parity has been achieved in Canada’s team of ministers.

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Iran will fulfil its commitments under the July nuclear agreement with major powers in time to have sanctions, that have crippled its economy, lifted by the end of the year, its atomic energy chief said on Thursday.

President Hassan Rouhani reaffirmed last week he expected sanctions to be lifted by year-end, paving the way for the return of the biggest economy to the global trading and financial system since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Iran has begun work to remove uranium enrichment centrifuges as part of the landmark agreement, Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of the Atomic Energy Oranization of Iran announced this week.

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Colombia's constitutional court lifted a restriction on adoptions by gay couples on Wednesday, overturning a previous ruling that banned same-sex partners from adopting unless one of the pair was a biological parent of the child.

In a 6-2 decision, the court said that excluding homosexual couples as possible adoptive parents "limits children's right to a family."

The ruling brought cheers from gay rights advocates in the largely socially conservative Andean country, while opponents promised to appeal the decision.

Although same-sex couples in Colombia can get legal unions similar to civil marriages, Congress rejected a 2013 proposal to fully legalize gay marriage.

Moscow's military force in Syria has grown to about 4,000 personnel, but this and more than a month of Russian air strikes have not led to pro-government forces making significant territorial gains, U.S. security officials and independent experts said.

Moscow, which has maintained a military presence in Syria for decades as an ally of the ruling Assad family, had an estimated 2,000 personnel in the country when it began air strikes on Sept. 30. The Russian force has since roughly doubled and the number of bases it is using has grown, U.S. security officials said.

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Nearly everyone in Zimbabwe struggles with the country’s failing electricity supply, but for many rural young people it may be their future that is at risk of shutting down, experts say.

Among the hardest hit by worsening electricity shortages across the country are school students, particularly in rural areas, they say.

Blackouts linked to drought are leading to disrupted or cancelled classes, above all in rural schools, which serve about 55 percent of the country’s students, school officials say.

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Liberia's economic growth will slow to almost zero in 2015 before picking up next year as the country continues to recover from an Ebola epidemic, the International Monetary Fund said on Wednesday.

The West African economy has been hit by a slump in global commodity prices and a delay in natural resource investment projects, the IMF said. Ebola killed more than 4,800 people in Liberia and hurt the agricultural and mining sectors.

"Growth in 2014 is estimated at 0.7 percent and is projected to remain weak at 0.3 percent this year," Liberia's IMF mission chief Carlo Sdralevich said during an annual budget review.

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Russia has sent missile systems to Syria to protect its military forces there, the head of Russia's air force said on Thursday.

Colonel General Viktor Bondarev said fighter jets could be hijacked in countries neighbouring Syria and used to attack Russian forces.

"We have calculated all possible threats. We have sent not only fighter jets, bombers and helicopters, but also missile systems," Bondarev told Komsomolskaya Pravda newspaper.

"We must be ready."

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