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    12 July 2009

    Heavy fighting rocks Mogadishu

    Clashes between Islamist insurgents and government forces in the Somali capital Mogadishu have killed at least forty people.

    African Union peacekeepers are said to have directly intervened to help beleagured Somali troops for the first time.

    The 4,300 strong AU force generally tries to avoid being drawn into battles with the insurgents. But it’s believed the peacekeepers responded when their positions came under threat.

    Since Ethiopian troops ousted an Islamist regime in Somalia in late 2006, at least 18,000 people have died in violence.

    Hundreds of thousands more have had to flee from their homes.

    The Somali transition government is begging for more help, saying more money and weapons are needed to turn the tide against the rebels.

    But, as is often the case, civilians are bearing the brunt of the latest fighting.

    Swiss hostage freed in Sahara

    A Swiss man kidnapped by al Qaeda’s North African wing has been freed. Werner Greiner was captured in the Sahara in late January. Three other Westerners were with him: two women were later freed, but a Briton, Edwin Dyer, was murdered in May. The four were picked up near the town of Gao, in northeastern Mali, near the border with Niger.
    They had been attending a music festival. Greiner is said to be tired, but well. Negotiations to free him had been going on since the killing of Dyer, but were hampered by clashes between Malian security forces and Islamist rebels.

    Defiant England cling on for draw

    Paul Collingwood hit a valiant 74 and England's last-wicket pair defied Australia for 40 minutes to clinch a draw in the first Ashes Test.

    England, 20-2 overnight, lost three further wickets inside 90 minutes but somehow clung on in the final stages.

    Collingwood's innings lasted 245 balls - five hours and 43 minutes in all.

    Then, amid scenes of high tension, with every dot ball roared by a capacity crowd, James Anderson and Monty Panesar kept Australia's spinners at bay.

    Lithuania’s “Iron Lady” sworn in as president

    At an historic ceremony in parliament, Lithuania’s so-called “Iron Lady” has been sworn into office as the Baltic state’s first female president. Dalia Grybauskaite takes over from veteran Valdas Adamkus, who at 82 is retiring after serving two five year terms.

    His successor’s straight-talking style and conservative reformist stance are behind comparisons with Britain’s former leader Margaret Thatcher. An ex-finance minister, Grybauskaite has also spent time in Brussels. Her efforts in helping reform the EU’s budget earned her the title European Commissioner of the Year in 2005.

    She will be hoping to use her economics experience to help turn things round in Lithuania which has been hit hard by the global downturn. After rapid growth following EU entry in 2004, the country’s economy is expected to shrink by more than 10 percent this year. Lithuania’s new leader certainly has the confidence of her fellow citizens, having won a landslide victory in May’s elections.

    Cheney 'ordered CIA to hide plan'

    The head of the CIA has accused former US Vice-President Dick Cheney of concealing an intelligence programme from Congress, a top US senator says.

    The existence of the programme, set up after 9/11, was hidden for eight years and even now its nature is not known.

    Democrat Senator Dianne Feinstein confirmed CIA chief Leon Panetta told Congressional committees he had abandoned the project on hearing of it.

    He said that Mr Cheney was behind the secrecy, Sen Feinstein said.

    BNP 'does not want all-white UK'

    British National Party leader Nick Griffin has said he no longer wants to see an all-white United Kingdom.

    Mr Griffin, who is due to take up his seat as an MEP for the North West, said the idea of a UK without ethnic minorities was "simply not do-able".

    Speaking on the BBC's Andrew Marr Show, Mr Griffin said: "Nobody out there wants it or would pay for it."

    He said claims that he was a fascist were "smears" but said the European Union was "very close to fascism".

    Greek police raid illegal immigrant camp

    Hundreds of illegal immigrants have been forced from their camp in the Greek port city of Patras.
    Police bulldozers and around 80 officers took part in the operation. Those living here were mostly Afghans. But the squalid conditions of the camp prompted complaints from local residents.

    Those detained have been moved to hotels in the area, the children to a special centre in the north of Greece. It is not clear if they will be deported.

    “This has been a successful and effective, even if late, demolition,” said Patras police chief Thanassis Davlouros. “All legal procedures and measures concerning the future of these people have been taken.”

    Greece has often been criticised by international organisations and rights groups for the conditions of its dentention centres. But the conservative government said this month it would get tougher on illegal immigration.

    Those who arrive here are mainly from Asia and use the Petras port to move on to other European countries. The Greek Prime Minister will meet with his Italian and Spanish counterparts next week to discuss the problem.

    Police say nobody was injured during the operation, although a fire did break out. Two immigrants were arrested for arson.

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