TOGO-ANGOLA-FOOTBALL: Togo's prime minister says its national football (soccer) team must return home immediately and not compete in the African Cup of Nations tournament in Angola set to begin Sunday. Gilbert Houngbo made the announcement Sunday in Lome, two days after a deadly ambush on the team's bus in the Angolan enclave of Cabinda. The prime minister said if a team presents itself "under the Togolese flag," it will be a "false representation."
The Togo team said Saturday it planned to stay and play in the tournament, even though Togo's government had said it was recalling the squad.
The Togolese team bus was attacked Friday as it crossed from the Democratic Republic of Congo into Angola's Cabinda region. Gunmen killed the bus driver, Togo's assistant coach (Abalo Amnalete) and its spokesman (Stanislas Ocloo). At least seven others were wounded.
AFGHANISTAN-BAGRAM: Afghan officials are set to take over responsibility for the U.S.-run detention facility at Bagram Air Base, following criticism of human rights abuses at the prison. Afghanistan's Defense Ministry announced that a transfer agreement was signed Saturday, under which the Afghan government will take over the investigation, detention, and trials of inmates. The ministry says troops will begin training for the responsibility in the coming days. The site, near Kabul, has been used to hold detainees captured during the U.S. and NATO-led offensive against the Taliban beginning in 2001.
U.S. troops were accused of beating two prisoners to death at Bagram in 2002. Human rights groups have criticized the United States for detaining inmates for lengthy periods of time without charge. About 700 detainees are being held at Bagram.
IRAN: Iran's Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has urged his security forces to take strong action against anti-government protesters. Khamenei says authorities must carry out their duties against those he calls "corrupt and rioters." But he says rules must be followed in confronting protesters and that security personnel must avoid taking arbitrary measures.
His remarks follow some of the worst violence to hit Iran since June when President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad won a disputed election. Opposition supporters say the vote was rigged. Late last month, at least eight people were killed in clashes between Iranian security forces and opposition activists.
In Saturday's speech, Khamenei also criticized the West for supporting the opposition, saying "oppressive powers" have been "trying to overthrow" the Islamic regime for a long time.
EGYPT-CHRISTIANS-SHOT: Christians in southern Egypt are accusing Muslims of arson, as sectarian tensions flare following Wednesday's shooting that killed six Christians and a Muslim policeman outside a Coptic church.
Christians living in Bahjora said Saturday that Muslims set fire to their homes and stores overnight. The village is near the town of Nag Hamadi, where gunmen opened fire on a worshippers as they left a Christmas eve mass. (In accordance with the Coptic calendar, Christmas was observed Thursday.)
On Friday, Egyptian police detained three men suspected in the drive-by shooting. The interior ministry says all three have prior criminal records.
Officials say the attack was in retaliation for an alleged rape of a Muslim girl in November by a Coptic man in a nearby village. On Thursday, thousands of Christians took to the streets of Nag Hamadi to protest the shooting.
MALAYSIA-RELIGION: Arsonists in Malaysia have thrown fire bombs at two more Christian churches as tensions rise over the use of the word "Allah" by non-Muslims. Officials said Sunday that the two attacks in Taiping, in northern Perak state, brought the total number of bombings to six since Friday. There were no reports of injuries. Despite the attacks, thousands of parishioners showed up for Sunday services presenting a united front to the unidentified attackers. A Lutheran church in Kuala Lumpur was firebombed Saturday. Arsonists attacked three other churches in the area Friday, badly burning one.
Religious tensions in the mostly-Muslim country have risen since Malaysia's High Court in late December overturned a government ban on the use of the word "Allah" as another word for "God" by non-Muslims.