Mali attacks

BAMAKO – Mali’s National Assembly has voted to extend a state of emergency by six months in a bid to quell an upsurge in attacks by Islamist militants based in the desert north of the West African country.

Strike kills eight

BEIRUT – Eight Syria Civil Defence workers died on Saturday when an air strike hit their office in northern Hama province, the rescue service said on its Twitter page. Also known as the White Helmets, the civil defence rescue service operates in opposition-held parts of Syria.

Mosul blast

WASHINGTON – A US service member died of wounds caused by an explosive device outside the northern Iraqi city of Mosul on Saturday, the US-led military coalition said. US-backed forces have been fighting to retake the Islamic State strongholds of Mosul.

Sahara talks

ALGIERS/RABAT – The United Nations Security Council unanimously backed attempts to restart talks between Morocco and the Polisario independence movement over the Western Sahara conflict, and extended its peacekeeping mission there for another year.

Adviser sacked

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Saturday sacked one of his special advisers and sanctioned another bureaucrat after an inquiry into a newspaper leak, but the country’s powerful army rejected Sharif’s directive as “incomplete”.

Taliban death

PESHAWAR – Islamic State killed a senior Afghan Taliban official in the northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar, the Afghan militants said on Saturday, in a rare clash between the rival Islamist groups inside Pakistan. Afghan Taliban sources said Maulvi Daud was killed on the outskirts of Peshawar.

Militants killed

ANKARA – Turkey’s military said it killed 14 members of the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in air strikes in northern Iraq, as Ankara steps up a push against the group and their affiliates in Iraq and Syria.

Turkey intensified attacks on the PKK in northern Iraq and its Syrian-Kurdish affiliate in northern Syria.

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that as many as 220 militants had been killed in recent strikes elsewhere in northern Iraq.

Six militants were killed around the area of Sinat-Haftan and eight in the countryside around Adiyaman in two separate air strikes in northern Iraq on Saturday morning, the military said in a statement.

The PKK, which has carried out a three-decade insurgency against the Turkish state, has camps in the mountains of northern Iraq. Both the United States and Turkey consider it a terrorist organisation.

Pope, at Cairo Mass, urges unity against fanaticism

By Philip Pullella and Mahmoud Mourad

CAIRO (Reuters) – Pope Francis warned against religious fanaticism on Saturday, wrapping up a brief trip to Cairo where he urged Muslim leaders to unite against violence by Islamic militants threatening to rid the Middle East of its ancient Christian communities.

Francis’ trip comes three weeks after Islamic State killed at least 45 people in attacks on two Egyptian churches. He has used the visit to launch a strong appeal for religious freedom and to accuse extremists of distorting the nature of God.

After a dense first day of meetings with political and religious leaders, the highlight on Saturday was a Mass in the Air Defence Stadium, where Vatican officials said 15,000 people gathered, among them Coptic bishops and senior Anglican figures.

Crowds arrived early, waving Egyptian and Vatican flags and braving intense security measures to welcome Francis, who toured the sun-drenched stadium in a golf buggy to the sound of hymns performed by a choir and orchestra.

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