Briefs, January 24, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 24 January, 2013, 4:37am

Rebels on rampage at Syria's religious sites

BEIRUT - Rebels in Syria have burned and looted the religious sites of minorities, Human Rights Watch said, as the civil war becomes increasingly sectarian. In northern Idlib province, the New York-based rights group said opposition fighters destroyed a site devoted to Hussein, a martyr in Shiite tradition. In western Latakia, Human Rights Watch quoted residents as saying opposition gunmen had broken into and stolen from Christian churches in two villages. Indiscipline and looting by rebels in some areas has undermined civilian support for their cause. Reuters


Kurds say murder suspect a Turkish agent

ANKARA - Kurdish groups in France and Iraq claimed that the alleged killer of three activists shot dead in Paris must have been a double agent working for Turkey. Omer Guney, 30, was charged with the murders on Monday. Police sources said Guney told them he had been a member of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) for two years. That was denied by the PKK, while a Kurdish group in Paris said the alleged killer faked his Kurdish identity to infiltrate the group. AFP


Research chimpanzees 'should be retired'

NEW ORLEANS - All but about 50 of hundreds of research chimpanzees belonging to the US National Institutes of Health (NIH) should be retired to a sanctuary in the state of Louisiana, and should have plenty of room to play and climb, an NIH committee recommended. Chimps would be used only if there was no other way to study a threat to human health, and any research would be approved by a committee with members from the public. Animal rights groups welcomed the proposal. AP


Sudanese leaders to hold talks in Ethiopia

ADDIS ABABA - Rival leaders of Sudan and South Sudan are expected to meet tomorrow in the Ethiopian capital in the latest attempt to implement stalled oil, security and border deals, officials said. Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir and his Southern counterpart Salva Kiir will meet face to face at African Union-mediated talks for the second time this month to push deals settled after a bloody border conflict last year. Khartoum accuses South Sudan of supporting rebels in Sudan, which has been a major obstacle to implementing the agreements. AFP


Muslim Brotherhood boycotts Jordan poll

AMMAN - Jordanians voted yesterday in their first parliamentary election since the Arab spring revolts, but a boycott by the main Islamist party will ensure there is no repeat of an Egypt-style revolution via the ballot box. The Muslim Brotherhood shunned the poll, saying the electoral system was rigged against urban areas where it is strongest in favour of rural tribal areas where conservative, pro-government forces are entrenched. The Muslim Brotherhood is the most popular party in Jordan. Reuters


Gaddafi mansion hit in French bomb raid

BAMAKO, Mali - French air raids on the fabled Malian city of Timbuktu destroyed a mansion belonging to late Libyan dictator Colonel Muammar Gaddafi , which was being used by Islamist radicals as their headquarters, officials said. A fabled caravan town on the edge of the Sahara, Timbuktu has become a byword for exotic remoteness in the Western imagination. Today it is a battlefield, overrun by militants who have been razing its world-heritage religious sites. AFP


Stolen US$1m Matisse returned after 25 years

STOCKHOLM - A Matisse painting stolen 25 years ago has been returned to the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm, its owner said, after a dealer had tried to sell it in London. Henri Matisse's oil on canvas Le Jardin from 1920, now worth about US$1 million, was found when a London dealer ran it through a database of stolen art - standard practice before a sale. AFP


Morocco set to scrap controversial rape law

RABAT - Nearly a year after Morocco was shocked by the suicide of a 16-year-old girl who was forced to marry her alleged rapist, the government has announced plans to change the penal code to outlaw the traditional practice. Women's rights activists welcomed Justice Minister Mustapha Ramid's announcement, but said it was only a first step in reforming a penal code that did not do enough to stop violence against women in the country. AP