• Obama vows again to close Guantanamo prison
By Lin Zhifei
U.S. President Barrack Obama vowed on Sunday of December 21 that he will do everything possible to close the U.S. military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
“I’m going to be doing everything I can to close it,” Obama said in an interview taped Friday and aired on a CNN’s Sunday program.
“It is something that continues to inspire jihadists and extremists around the world, the fact that these folks are being held,” said Obama, adding that it “is contrary to our values.”
Obama’s statement came after his administration announced Saturday that four Afghans held at the Guantanamo prison had been sent home, in its latest efforts to close the infamous military prison.
The four men, identified as Shawali Khan, Khi Ali Gul, Abdul Ghani and Mohammed Zahir, were unanimously approved for transfer after a review of their cases, the Pentagon said in a statement.
The review, part of an executive order signed by Obama in January 2009, examined a number of factors, including the security issue.
The repatriation of the four Afghans brings down to 132 the detention population at the secret Guantanamo prison, which was established by Obama’s predecessor, George W. Bush, after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks to house terror suspects detained overseas.
Obama promised to close the widely condemned prison when he took office about six years ago.
• Obama: cyber attack on Sony not “act of war”
By Lin Zhifei
President Barack Obama said on Sunday of December 21 that he regards the hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment (SPE) as an “act of cyber vandalism” rather than an “act of war,” while reiterating the U.S. will respond proportionately.
“No, I don’t think it was an act of war. I think it was an act of cyber vandalism that was very costly, very expensive. We take it very seriously. We will respond proportionately,” Obama told CNN’s Candy Crowley, anchor of the Sunday program “State of the Union,” in an interview taped on Friday of December 19.
Obama stood by his criticism of the U.S.-based SPE in its decision to cancel the scheduled Dec. 25 release of its comedy movie “The Interview,” which depicts an assassination attempt on Kim Jong Un, leader of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ( DPRK).
Sony took the step after hackers hacked into its computer system and released some of the stolen data late November. The hackers threatened to disclose more Sony data if it goes ahead with the movie’s release, while warning movie-goers to stay away from theaters if they were to screen the movie.
The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) claimed Friday that investigators had found what it called “enough information” to conclude that the DPRK was “responsible for” the attack.
Speaking at his end-of-the-year news conference Friday, Obama said Sony made a mistake by canceling the release of the movie. He said he wished the company had contacted him directly before taking the action, while vowing to “respond proportionally” to the cyber attack.
The DPRK on Saturday rejected the U.S. accusation that Pyongyang was behind the cyber attack on Sony and proposed conducting a joint investigation with the United States.
“Reference to the past cyber attacks quite irrelevant with the DPRK and a string of presumptive assertions such as ‘similarity’ and ‘repetition’ can convince no one,” said the official DPRK news agency, KCNA, quoting a DPRK foreign ministry spokesman.
The spokesman also said in a statement that the DPRK will target its retaliation at only those responsible for anti-DPRK acts and their bases, but will not get involved in terrorist attacks on innocent audience in theaters.
It also warned the U.S. of “serious consequences” should it reject the proposal for a joint investigation and insist on taking responsive measures.
• One more police officer killed in U.S.
By Lin Zhifei
Local authorities in the U.S. state of Florida on Sunday of December 21 confirmed one police officer was shot and killed in Tarpon Springs of the state after responding to an emergency call early in the morning.
The officer, identified as 45-year-old Charles Kondek, was gunned down shortly after 2 a.m., local time, when he was responding to a call for service, the Pinellas County Police Department said in a statement.
Kondek, a 17-year veteran officer, died from wounds at a local hospital. He had served in the Police Department of New York City (NYPD) for more than five years before moving to Tarpon Springs.
The suspect, 23-year-old Marco Antonio Parilla, who fled the scene in a vehicle before crashing into a pole and another vehicle, was detained by the police on charges including first-degree murder, said local sources.
Sunday’s shooting came after two NYPD officers were shot and killed in Brooklyn of New York Saturday afternoon by a black gunman, who alleged to seek revenge for the recent police killings of two unarmed black people in New York and Ferguson, Missouri. The motivation of the latest shooting remained unknown pending further investigation.
• Egypt’s intelligence chief replaced
By Marwa Yahya
Egypt’s intelligence chief Gen. Mohammed Farid el-Tohamy was removed from his post on Sunday of December 21, official news agency MENA reported.
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has issued a presidential decree to retire Tohamy, in his 60s, and ordered to grant him a first class republic medal in appreciation for his efforts along his long career path.
Served as the head of the Administrative Control Authority, Tohamy was appointed chief of general intelligence agency immediately after Sisi, then chief of the military, led the ouster of former President Mohamed Morsi in July 2013.
The reasons for Tohamy’s leaving were not clear, but some independent websites said it’s for health reasons.
MENA added that Khaled Fawzy, who headed the national security agency, was appointed Tohamy’s successor.
• Pakistan hangs 4 militants involved in attacking former president
By Wang Yu
Four militants involved in attacking former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf were executed in the country’s east Faisalabad city on Sunday of December 21, local media reported.
The militants, whose death penalties were signed by the country ‘s Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif, were hanged to death in a prison in Faisalabad, a main city in the country’s east Punjab province.
Musharraf, the then president, narrowly escaped when two suicide car bombers rammed their vehicle into his motorcade on Dec. 25, 2003, in Rawalpindi.
Fifteen people including soldiers were killed in the attack which was the second attempt on Musharraf’s life that month.
Following the attack several militants including the four hanged Sunday were arrested.
The four militants were sentenced to death earlier by the military court, however, the government was keeping a moratorium on death penalty since 2008, due to which their execution could not take place earlier.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Wednesday announced the lifting of the 2008 moratorium on executions in Pakistan.
The decision came in the wake of a Taliban attack on an army school which killed 132 schoolchildren and nine staff members.
As Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif approved implementation of the executions in terrorism-related cases, the federal government has reportedly asked all provincial governments to collect details of all convicts on death row.
Officials say that security has also been tightened for jails across Pakistan in view of the possible hanging of the convicted militants.
• IS militants recapture oil refinery town of Iraq’s Baiji
A militant group of the Islamic State (IS) recaptured the oil refinery town of Baiji which has been freed recently by the Iraqi security forces, a source from the northern central province of Salahudin said on Sunday of December 21.
On late Saturday afternoon, dozens of IS militants carried out a massive attacks on several points of the main road that bisected the town of Baiji, some 200 km north of Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and seized government and security compounds, the source told Xinhua on condition of anonymity.
militants also surrounded the oil refinery in north of the town, where some of the withdrawing troops and their allied Shiite and Sunni tribal militiamen resorted after the attacks, while other forces and militiamen withdrew to the villages of al-Mazraa and al-Malha in south, the source said.
On Sunday morning, the IS militants fired dozens of mortar rounds on the oil refinery and started to fortify their positions in the town and booby trapped many buildings in center of the town, the source added.
According to the source, at least three army brigades, including an armored one, arrived on Saturday night to an air base on Saturday, 30 km south of Baiji, apparently preparing for a counter attack in the coming hours or days.
The provincial Governor Raed al-Jubouri issued a statement urging Baghdad government to “immediately intervene to save Baiji and the forces who are in an unenviable situation because the weapons and equipment of the militant are more sophisticated than the troops.”
Iraqi security forces fought a series of battles about three weeks ago, freeing the town of Baiji and breaking the siege of the adjacent oil refinery after driving out the IS militants, but sporadic skirmishes occurred later on.
Salahudin, a predominantly Sunni province with its capital of Tikrit, some 170 km north of Baghdad, is the hometown of former President Saddam Hussein. The seizure of Salahudin province was part of the June 10 drastic security deterioration in the country, when bloody clashes broke out between Iraqi security forces and Sunni militants who took control of the country’s northern city of Mosul and the later swathes of territories in Nineveh and other predominantly Sunni provinces.
• Iohannis sworn in as Romania’s new president
By Chen Jin and Lin Huifen
Klaus Iohannis was sworn in as Romania’s new president on Sunday of December 21 in front of the country’s bicameral parliament.
“Today I stand here before you aware of the importance of this moment for the future of Romania. I am honored by the confidence that Romanian citizens have given me. I’ll be the president of all Romanians,” Iohannis said after the ceremony.
Under him, Romania will have “a different state of mind and a different social climate, where people will enjoy peace and stability,” Iohannis said.
The 55-year-old ex-mayor ran for presidency under the banner of the center-right Christian Liberal Alliance and won 54.43 percent of the votes in the presidential runoff on Nov. 16, defeating his center-left rival, Social Democratic leader and incumbent Prime Minister Victor Ponta.
After taking his oath, Iohannis will go to the Cotroceni Presidential Palace, where he will take over from the outgoing leader Traian Basescu, who has completed two tenures as the head of state, starting from 2004.
According to the country’s constitution, the presidential election is held every five years, with a maximum of two consecutive terms allowed.
• Aggressive crimes on rise in Indian capital
By Wu Qiang
Aggressive crimes were on the rise in both number and degree of violence in 2014 in the Indian capital where communal violence, crimes against women, assaults on policemen and terrorism posed as prior threats, said Press Trust of India on Sunday of December 21.
The news agency quoted police as saying the number of serious crimes in Delhi this year could double that of 2013, without providing specific figures.
Delhi Police made several arrests of key members of banned terrorist group Indian Mujahideen this year including its chief Tehseen Akhtar, who the anti-terror unit of Delhi Police, Special Cell, nabbed from India-Nepal border on March 25.
Women security has remained the Achilles’ heel of Delhi police. A 27-year-old financial executive was allegedly raped by a Uber cab driver inside his taxi on Dec. 5 in Delhi, reminiscent of a horrifying gang rape two years ago in south Delhi, in which a woman was killed in a moving bus by six rapists.
The mysterious death in a luxury hotel of the wife of a local politician remained unsolved. Sunanda Pushkar, wife of former Union minister Shashi Tharoor who was found dead at a 5-star hotel on Jan. 17, led to many conspiracy theories worth a dozen thrillers.
The year saw several communal flare ups in the national capital, including the Diwali festival of light night riot in East Delhi’s Trilokpuri area between low caste Hindus and Muslims, which left at least 70 injured including 56 police personnel. Consequently, police started to use drones to patrol the streets of the riot-hit zone.
This passing year also saw a steep rise in the cases of attacks on policemen, with more than 300 such cases reported and seven policemen killed till Dec. 15, compared with two policemen killed in 2013.
• Man runs over 11 pedestrians in Dijon, France
By Xing Jianqiao
A man ran over, yelling “Allahou Akbar”, a dozen of pedestrians Sunday evening in Dijon, local media reported, with 11 hurt, including two seriously wounded.
The incident took place on Sunday evening of December 21 in Dijon where four pedestrians were knocked by a car near Place Wilson before seven others were hit a few minutes later in nearby blocks, reported French newspaper Le Figaro.
According to the police source, the driver was yelling “Allahou Akbar” while driving and “in the name of the children in Palestinian” at his arrest.
But the police also said the driver, born in 1974, who has the profile of a mentally disordered man, would be sent to a psychiatric hospital. An investigation will be started to find out his motivations.
Meanwhile on Saturday night, a 20-year-old man was shot dead after attacking three police officers with a knife, shouting “Allahou Akbar”, at the police station in Joue-les-Tours. The anti-terrorism section of the Paris prosecutor’s office is investigating the case.
• Gunmen snatch 5 mln USD in bank robbery in Libya’s Tripoli
By Mahmoud Darwesh
A Bank in the Libyan capital Tripoli on Sunday of December 21 was robbed by gunmen, stealing seven million Libyan Dinars (five million U.S. dollars), according to a bank official.
The official told Xinhua that a number of gunmen came in two cars and attacked the bank, located in downtown Tripoli, stealing seven million Libyan Dinars before leaving.
“The attack was sudden and fast. The gunmen, who were carrying many weapons, surrounded the main gate of the bank and threatened to kill staff if they follow them.” The official added.
Libya has suffered continuing lawlessness since the 2011 civil war. The largest armed bank robbery in Libya is in the city of Sirte last year, when a group of gunmen attacked a vehicle of the Libyan central bank carrying money to Sirte branch.
The money stolen was about 50 million Libyan Dinars (35.7 million dollars) along with foreign currencies.
• One killed, another wounded in Czech shooting incident
By Tomas Kesner
One person died and another was wounded in a shooting incident in Czech city Vysoke Myto after midnight of Saturday on December 21.
Police spokeswoman Jitka Vavrinova said on Sunday that the shooting happened in front of one of the entertainment venues in the city. The dead and the wounded were members of the bouncers working for one of the local discotheque, said local media.
Vavrinova said that one man died on the spot, the second was taken to the hospital with serious injuries.
Police detained two persons at the spot and seized the firearm. The pistol were sent to experts for further detection. The two detained men had not been charged with anything, said Vavrinova, but she refused to disclose further information about the case.
Mayor of Vysoke Myto Francis Jirasky said that one municipal policeman allegedly shot.
He said that there was a tussle in front of the local disco or restaurant in Brewer Street. The municipal policeman was involved in it and allegedly shot.
The policeman was not on duty at that time. He has the license for a private firearm and took that pistol with him. According to Jirasky, nobody remembers a similar incident had happened in the city. He said that the policeman had no problem in the past, he did not understand how this could happen.
According to local media, three men demanded entry to the discotheque without paying admission, the tussle occurred after the bouncers of the discotheque refused them.
Investigators determined preliminarily the case as murder and attempted murder for two times for the shooter has threatened another man with pistol.
• Floods from torrential rains displace 40,000 in Sri Lanka
More than 40,000 people have been displaced in the north central and east regions of Sri Lanka as torrential rains made dams overflow and hampered transport, an official said on Sunday of December 21.
The eastern town of Batticaloa is the worst hit with an estimated 30,000 people displaced from their homes, an official said.
Thousands more had to be evacuated by the army and navy officials, including from tourist hot spots such as Anuradhapura where ancient ruins are a popular attraction.
The towns of Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa in the north central province are also home to some of Sri Lanka’s largest rice cultivation with hundreds of dams scattered around the region to provide water in the usually arid region.
Lashed by heavy showers for days as many as 29 of the big dams and 83 of the medium ones have reached spill level, forcing sluice gates to be opened, threatening people living downriver.
“The safety of pilgrims and foreign visitors is being given priority. They have been evacuated from hotels near major tanks while pilgrims were removed from the sacred city,” Anuradhapura District Secretary Mahinda Seneviratne told reporters.
Severe rain is expected to continue during the Christmas week, dampening relief efforts.
Met Department Forecaster Jeewan Karunaratne said a disturbance in the upper atmosphere had activated the northeast monsoon.
“We are expecting heavy rains in the coming weeks as atmospheric disturbances are occurring in a wave pattern,” he said. Landslide warnings have also been issued to four districts in central Sri Lanka.
The floods have also hampered road and railway transport services. Saturday’s trains carrying mail from Colombo to the east and north were canceled after tracks were submerged at several locations, local media reported.