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25 Jan

News and Analyses, A Foreign Perspective

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An image of Haruna Yukawa from his Google account

An image of Haruna Yukawa from his Google account. Photograph: Google

Shinzo Abe: claims of Haruna Yukawa’s murder by Isis appear genuine

  • Man claiming to be captive journalist announces killing of ‘cellmate’

  • Japanese PM left ‘speechless’ by apparent killing of hostage

  • Abe refuses to comment on demand for prisoner swap

A violent end to a troubled life

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe said that the chilling recording claiming that Haruna Yukawa, one of two Japanese men taken hostage by Islamic State, had been beheaded appeared to be genuine.

Barack Obama issued a statement condemning what he called “the brutal murder” and that the United States would stand “shoulder to shoulder” with Japan. The US president called for the immediate release of the second Japanese hostage, 47-year-old journalist Kenji Goto.

In the brief tape a man claiming to be Goto says his “cellmate” is dead and pleads for his own life. Speaking in English with a Japanese accent, he says Isis has dropped its demand for a $100m ransom and instead wants to organise a prisoner exchange for a woman held in Jordan. The still image released with the tape shows Goto apparently holding a picture of Yukawa’s body………………

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Missile attacks kill at least 30 in Mariupol, east Ukraine

Pro-Russian rebels announce major new offensive in Ukraine, after attacks on crowded residential district

Pro-Russian rebels announced a major new offensive in Ukraine on Saturday after missiles killed at least 30 people in Mariupol, a strategic city linking rebel territory with Russian-occupied Crimea.

The local mayor’s office said 97 people were also wounded in the attack, which struck a crowded residential district early in the morning and then again shortly after midday.

Rebel leader Alexander Zakharchenko said on Friday that he had withdrawn from all peace talks with pro-western leaders in Kiev. On Saturday he said his forces had launched “an offensive against Mariupol” but did not accept direct responsibility for the earlier rocket attack…………………

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Omaha shooting

Omaha police block an intersection close to the scene of a shooting in which three people were killed and five injured. Photograph: Jeff Bundy/AP

Three dead and five wounded in ‘gang-related’ shooting in Omaha, Nebraska

  • Two women and one man killed at party in empty home early on Saturday

  • Police suspect gang-related motive, say witnesses are not co-operating

Gunfire erupted during a crowded party in a vacant house in Omaha early on Saturday, leaving three people dead and five wounded, and most witnesses refusing to help investigators, according to police.

As many as 50 people were in and around the small home when shots were fired “by multiple shooters” around 2am, Omaha police chief Todd Schmaderer said. No arrests have been made, and police said they were confident the shootings were gang-related.

The vast majority of people at the scene refused to help police, the chief said during a news conference on Saturday evening. He said he understood witnesses’ fear but pleaded for them to come forward.

“Now that you are away from that scene and have opportunity to be away from any intimidation, I’m asking you for the sake of the community to contact law enforcement,” Schmaderer said……………….

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Other News

   High-stakes election may put Greece on collision course with European Union

o    Nigerian city under attack from suspected Boko Haram militants

o    Ukraine crisis: dozens die as pro-Russia rebels shell Mariupol

o    Hard times return as China bids to bring its economic miracle to an end

o    Students who survived Mexico’s night of bloody horror accuse army and police

o    Louisiana governor Bobby Jindal to prayer rally: US needs ‘spiritual revival’

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Opinion

new saudi king salman

King Salman, the new ruler of Saudi Arabia, during the funeral of his predecessor, Abdullah. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

King Abdullah’s gone, but the Saudi monarchy’s pact with the mosques remains

The Saudi regime is brutal and oppressive, but it stays in power due to an enduring religious pact

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, who ruled since 2005, has died at a time of serious regional unrest – political, economic and social. He presided over a regime that has a zero tolerance approach to dissent, peaceful or not. For expressing opinions critical of the political system or the religious establishment, thousands have been prosecuted, detained, banned from travel, or – as in the case of 11 members of a civil rights organisation working to end arbitrary detention and calling for a constitutional monarchy – given lengthy prison sentences .But western leaders have always seen Abdullah as a friend. In fact the head of the International Monetary Fund, Christine Lagarde, said of him: “In a very discreet way he was a strong advocate of women” – despite the fact that two Saudi women drivers’ activists have been held in prisons since early December on terror-related charges of using social media to incite public opinions and defame the country.

There’s little sign that human rights in the country are improving. Waleed Abul-Khair – the lawyer for Raif Badawi, who has been publicly flogged – was sentenced to 15 years in prison for setting up an independent human rights organisation, under a new law concerning communication with international organisations, questioning the religious scripture or atheism as an act of terror.

The absolute monarchy of Saudi Arabia means in theory that the king holds sole power over appointing any official or deciding any policy: in all senses a guardian over his subjects. So he should be solely responsible for any violations of people’s rights.

In reality, the king delegates powers: domestically to the minister of interior, and internationally to the foreign minister. This dissection of powers can leave observers puzzled. While rights have been restricted internally, in foreign affairs we’ve seen the walk with world leaders in Paris this month to condemn violence against free speech; an alliance with western countries to fight Islamic State in Iraq and Syria; the establishment of a world-class centre for inter-faith dialogue; and a prominent position on the UN women’s council………………………Despite this he’s faced little international censure: indeed, within days of the imprisonment of two activists for defying the ban on women driving, President Obama received Nayef in the Oval Office. Ironically, according to a White House statement on the event, the two met to discuss how to “delegitimise Isil’s extremist ideology”…………..

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