US - AIRLINE SECURITY: The lone suspect in the failed Christmas Day (December 25) attempt to
blow up a U.S.-bound jetliner is scheduled to make his first court
appearance Friday .
U.S. prosecutors say Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab will hear the charges
against him during a brief hearing in (the U.S. city of) Detroit.
The 23-year-old Nigerian has been charged with six criminal counts,
including attempted use of a weapon of mass destruction and attempted
murder. Prosecutors say he tried to ignite explosives concealed in his
underwear during a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit.
PAKISTAN - VIOLENCE: Pakistani officials say it appears militants accidentally detonated
explosives, flattening their safehouse in the commercial center of
Karachi and killing at least seven people.
Bomb squads helped search through the rubble. Police say some of the
victims are militants and that at least two suspects have been
Officials also recovered guns, grenades, suicide vests and other explosives from the scene.
Interior Minister Rehman Malik says some of the men in the house were
from the country's Swat Valley. Pakistan's military launched a massive
offensive there last April to drive out the Taliban, causing millions
of people to flee their homes.
UN - SRI LANKA - VIDEO: Sri Lanka's human rights minister is dismissing calls for an
independent investigation into possible war crimes, saying a video of
the alleged atrocity is a fraud.
The video shows ethnic Tamils -- bound, blindfolded and naked -- being shot at close range by men in military camouflage.
On Friday, Mahinda Samarasinghe accused the United Nations official
demanding a war crimes inquiry of going on "a crusade" against Sri
Lanka and insisted the video had been doctored.
U.N. human rights investigator Philip Alston said Thursday that the
video was independently reviewed by three experts who concluded it
appears to be authentic.
MALAYSIA - RELIGION: Authorities in Malaysia have increased police patrols around Christian
churches after attacks against three of them early Friday, as tensions
rise over a court decision allowing a Catholic newspaper to use the
word "Allah" for God.
The entire ground floor of the Metro Tabernacle Church in suburban
Kuala Lumpur was destroyed in a firebomb attack. Authorities say
firebombs were also thrown at two other churches, one of them Catholic.
The Catholic church sustained minimal damage. No injuries or fatalities
have been reported from the attacks.
BURMA - STATE SECRETS: Two former Burmese officials have been sentenced to death for allegedly leaking classified information to exiled media. Sources say ex-Major Win Naing Kyaw and Thura Kyaw, an former official in the Burmese Foreign Ministry, were sentenced Friday in a Rangoon court under the state emergency act. The two men were jailed after exiled news media published photos last year of a trip to North Korea by General Shwe Mann, the ruling military junta's third-ranking official. The Irrawaddy magazine says Shwe Mann's trip to North Korea involved procuring military arms and visiting military facilities.
IRAQ - ELECTION: Iraqi officials said Thursday a prominent Sunni and secular lawmaker
and his party have been barred from participating in the upcoming
parliamentary election because of ties to the previous regime.
Ali Faysal al-Lami, director of the Accountability and Justice
Committee, said the party leader, Salah al-Mutlak was disqualified for
speaking out in support of members of Saddam Hussein's former ruling
Al-Mutlak dismissed the allegation and says he plans to appeal the decision.
Nevertheless, analysts say the move is a blow to U.S. officials who
hope the election will bring opposition factions into the political
process and stabilize the Iraqi government.
RUSSIA - GEORGIA - FLIGHTS: Georgia and Russia have temporarily opened air traffic for the first
time since they fought a brief war in 2008. A Georgian Airways charter
flight left from Tbilisi for Moscow Friday morning. Georgian Airways
plans to fly to Moscow and St. Petersburg from January 8th to the 10th.
Georgian Airways officials are hopeful about the resumption of regular
flights, but no agreement has been reached.
Direct flights between Russia and Georgia have been suspended since the
August 2008 war over the pro-Russian breakaway territories of South
Ossetia and Abkhazia.
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