Airstrike Kills 31 al-Qaeda Militants
Yemen authorities launched an air strike and ground assault in the mountainous region of the Southern province of Shaba on Thursday, targeting a meeting of al-Qaeda operatives, according to a statement by the Yemen Embassy in Washington, D.C. Anwar al-Awlaki, a radical American-Yemen Muslim clerk who has been linked to the suspected Fort Hood shooter, was believed to be present at the meeting. Yemen authorities have reported over 31 deaths and 34 militants associated with al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula according to global intelligence agency STRATFOR. Those killed include militants from Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and Iraq. Yemen authorities held similar raids last week.
Pope Knocked Over by Woman Before Christmas Mass
Pope Benedict XVI was knocked down as he tried to walk down the aisle at St. Peter’s Basilica by an unstable woman who breached security, said a Vatican spokesperson. The Pope was unharmed, and went on to give the midnight Christmas mass, which was scheduled two hours earlier this year to safeguard his health. The woman, who also knocked over another Vatican official, Cardinal Roger Etchegaray, was taken into custody.
Blasts Kill 27 Across Iraq
Bomb attacks across Iraq killed 27 Iraqis on Thursday, AP reported. In the central Iraqi city Hillah, explosions targeted Shiite pilgrims who had gathered ahead of a religious holiday near a busy bus terminal. A second bomb exploded after emergency workers arrived at the scene, killing 13 and wounding 74. In the city of Mosul, two men—one a Christian—were shot dead in separate attacks. The Iraqi government has announced increased security in areas with large Christian populations amidst fears of attacks against the minority group during the Christmas holidays.
Russia – Georgia
Russia-Georgia Border Crossing Re-open
Georgia and Russia have reached an agreement to re-open the only border between the two countries, following last year’s brief war between the two former Soviet Union nations. The agreement shows a relief in relations between Russia and Georgia, which have not had diplomatic relations since the war. Swiss diplomats helped the countries reach an agreement. The border is the only land border that does not pass through Georgia’s Russian-backed rebel region of South Ossetia, AP reported. After Georgian troops entered South Ossetia last year, Russia responded with a massive retaliation.
Two Shot Dead In Iran Amid Melee at Public Execution
Two relatives of two convicts, who were set for public execution on Wednesday, were shot dead by Iranian security forces, as confirmed by the state-owned Iran Daily, as a scuffle developed into a melee, setting the the convicts free. The convicts were later recaptured. Public memorials were also banned on Thursday in an attempt to stave off reformist uprising, as the Iranian regime approaches what Washington officials claim is a military state. Abdullah Ramezanzadeh, a former spokesperson for the Iranian regime who backed opposition leader Mir Hossein Mousavi in the disputed presidential vote in June, was charged with inciting unrest and sentenced to six years in prison, says the semi-official Fars News Agency.