Briefs, January 31, 2013

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 January, 2013, 4:38am

French troops take control of Kidal airport

SEVARE - French forces in Mali have taken control of the airport in Kidal, seizing a key position in one of three provincial capitals the Islamist militants took over last year. French and Malian troops have recaptured two of the other provincial capitals, Timbuktu and Gao, in recent days and have been welcomed by overjoyed crowds. However, already concerns are emerging about whether the Islamists will try to return once France hands over the military operation to Mali and African soldiers. AP


Mining magnate to give away half his fortune

JOHANNESBURG - South African billionaire Patrice Motsepe announced he would give half his family's fortune to a charity, matching a pledge made by Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. "This is to be used during his lifetime and beyond … to improve the lifestyles, and living conditions, of the poor, disabled, unemployed, women, youth, workers and marginalised South Africans," his wife Precious Motsepe said. The mining tycoon becomes the first African to join the Giving Pledge, which challenges the world's wealthiest to give 50 per cent or more of their fortune to charity. AFP


Bodyguard of Gaddafi's son to be deported

OTTAWA - Canada ordered an Australian former bodyguard of slain Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi's third-born son to be deported. The Immigration and Refugee Board member, Alicia Seifert, was quoted by Canada's public broadcaster as saying Gary Peters was "complicit in war crimes". Seifert pointed to Peters' role in an alleged scheme to sneak Saadi Gaddafi and his family into Mexico with false documents at the height of pro-democracy protests in Libya in 2011. AFP


Priest's stomach filled with cocaine packages

MOSCOW - Russian agents detained a Colombian priest on arrival at a Moscow airport and found he had swallowed more than a dozen condoms stuffed with cocaine. Anti-narcotics officers detained the man at Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport because his "sickly appearance and nervous behaviour" raised suspicions. They took him to a hospital where they found 13 packages of cocaine in his stomach. They also found five more in his luggage, with a total of 780 grams of cocaine. AFP


Shops and offices to turn off lights at night

PARIS - French shops and office buildings will have to turn off their lights at night to save energy and reduce light pollution, the French environment ministry said. From July 1, all non-residential buildings will have to switch off interior lights one hour after the last worker leaves the premises. All exterior and shop window lighting must be turned off by 1am. Exceptions will be allowed for Christmas lighting and other events. The new law would save about two terawatt/hours of electricity a year - the equivalent of the annual consumption of 750,000 households, the ministry said. Reuters


'Israeli planes hit arms shipment to Lebanon'

BEIRUT - Israel conducted an airstrike inside Syria overnight near the border with Lebanon, regional security officials said. They did not say what the target was but said earlier Israel had been making plans in the days leading up to the airstrike to hit a shipment of weapons bound for the anti-Israel militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. They said the shipment included sophisticated, Russian-made SA-17 anti-aircraft missiles, which would be strategically "game-changing" in the hands of Hezbollah. Sources differed on whether the strike took place on Syrian or Lebanese territory. AP


Editor apologises for Netanyahu cartoon

LONDON - The acting editor of Rupert Murdoch's The Sunday Times newspaper apologised "unreservedly" for a cartoon depicting Israeli leader Benjamin Netanyahu building a wall using blood-red mortar that sparked outrage in the Jewish community. Murdoch on Monday said the paper owed a "major apology" for publishing the cartoon by Gerald Scarfe. His newspaper's editor, Mark Ivens, met on Tuesday with Jewish community leaders to express regret over the cartoon's publication. He called the cartoon a "terrible mistake" and apologised "unreservedly" for any offence caused. AP


Execution reprieve for US race case therapist

HUNTSVILLE, Texas - The first woman to be executed in the US since 2010 won a reprieve, just hours before she was scheduled to be taken to the Texas death chamber. State District Judge Larry Mitchell, in Dallas, rescheduled the execution of Kimberly McCarthy for April 3, so lawyers for the former nursing home therapist could have more time to pursue an appeal focused on whether her mostly white jury was improperly selected on the basis of race. McCarthy is black. AP


Russia treason fear sparks US staff move

MOSCOW - Two US pro-democracy groups have moved several employees and their families out of Russia over fears of persecution after the country passed new treason legislation. The National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute took the largely unprecedented step of moving their seven Russian employees and their families to Lithuania amid fears they could face treason allegations, the Kommersant daily said. AFP


Australia mops upafter Cyclone Oswald

SYDNEY - A huge clean-up operation began in Australia's flood-hit northeast after waters began to recede, as the death toll from Cyclone Oswald reached five and thousands of homes were left swamped. Many homes remained without power and a shortage of drinking water was feared after rivers burst their banks this week. AFP