- - Monday, May 9, 2011

NIGERIA

Islamist sect rejects governor’s amnesty offer

MAIDUGURI - A radical Islamist sect in remote northeastern Nigeria, blamed for almost daily killings and attacks, on Monday rejected an offer of amnesty.

Kashim Shettima, governor-elect of Borno state, made the amnesty offer to the Boko Haram sect shortly after winning April elections to try to end months of attacks on symbols of authority, including politicians and police officers.

“We reject any offer of dialogue or so-called amnesty from Kashim Shettima for two reasons,” a spokesman for the group said in a statement broadcast on the BBC Hausa service, a local language radio station in northern Nigeria.

Sect members launched an uprising in 2009, attacking government buildings and triggering days of gun battles with the security forces in which up to 800 people were killed.

TURKEY

Gaza flotilla scheduled for late June departure

ISTANBUL - An aid flotilla will depart for the Gaza Strip in the third week of June, just more than a year after a similar flotilla was raided by Israeli forces, leaving nine people dead on a Turkish boat, activists said Monday.

A coalition of pro-Palestinian groups, most of them based in Europe, announced the date in a statement after a meeting in Paris. The unfolding plans for the new flotilla set up a possible confrontation with Israel, which has vowed to stop any attempt to breach its sea blockade of Gaza.

Turkish officials, who have stepped up criticism of Israel since the three-week war in Gaza that ended in early 2009, have indicated that the Turkish activists are free to sail from home waters.

ITALY

Berlusconi denounces judges in appearance at trial

MILAN - Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi once again accused magistrates of mounting a politically motivated campaign against him, as he appeared in court Monday on charges that he bribed a witness to lie in a trial.

Mr. Berlusconi’s hearing in a corruption case coincided with commemorations honoring magistrates killed by domestic terrorists. A handful of demonstrators gathered outside the court in support of prosecutors, and Italian President Giorgio Napolitano choked up in Rome as he delivered a speech honoring ones slain in the line of duty.

It was Mr. Berlusconi’s fourth court appearance in recent months. He has pledged to appear as often as official duties allow to defend himself in four active cases. He denies wrongdoing.

BELGIUM

EU sanctions on Syria to take effect Tuesday

BRUSSELS - An arms embargo and sanctions against Syrian officials deemed responsible for the regime’s savage crackdown on protesters will come into force Tuesday, the European Union said Monday.

“The [EU] Council has adopted a regulation and a decision providing for an embargo on exports to Syria of arms and equipment that could be used for internal repression, as well as a visa ban and an assets freeze,” an EU statement said.

The visa ban and assets freeze targets 13 officials and associates of the Syrian regime identified as responsible for the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria, it added.

GERMANY

Court sentences militant for contacts with al Qaeda

FRANKFURT - A German man was sentenced to four years and nine months in prison Monday for being a member of the al Qaeda terrorist group.

The German-Syrian man, identified only as Rami M., confessed in a Frankfurt court last week to having traveled to Pakistan’s tribal regions and trained with the group in 2009 and 2010.

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