Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun (right) prays with President Bashar Assad in Damascus on Feb. 5, 2012. The grand mufti has called on Syrians to join the army and fight for the government, his most partisan statement since the country's uprising began two years ago.
Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 1:28 pm
This story was written by a Syrian citizen in Damascus who is not being further identified out of safety concerns.
In a surprising religious decree, Syria's government-appointed grand mufti has issued a fatwa calling on Muslims to fight on the side of President Bashar Assad's regime against the rebels who have been waging an uprising for two years.
In a televised statement Sunday, Syria's Grand Mufti Ahmad Hassoun said: "I urge the sons of Syria to join the army and fight for the unity of this great country."
A candidate has finally been declared the winner in Kenya's presidential election. But the votes were close and the main opponent says he'll fight the results in court. Could the election become Kenya's version of the Bush-Gore battle from 2000?
Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad offered his condolences to Elena Frias, mother of Venezuela's late President Hugo Chávez, last week. This image was provided to news services by the Miraflores Palace — the office of the Venezuelan president.
A photo of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad holding the hand of the late Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez's mother and appearing to brush his face against her cheek as they consoled each other last week has him "mired in a fresh controversy" in Iran, as the BBC writes:
"Conservative critics, already irked by Mr Ahmadinejad's effusive eulogy for the leftist leader, reminded him that he has not only committed a sin, but also behaved in a way inappropriate for the president of an Islamic state."
Originally published on Tue March 12, 2013 1:25 pm
Update at 2:43 p.m. ET. No Pope Today:
Black smoke just poured from the chimney above the Vatican. That means, as was expected, the cardinals did not choose a pope on the first vote of their conclave to name a successor to the now-retired Pope Benedict XVI. As the cardinals' ballots are burned, NPR's Sylvia Poggioli says, chemicals are added to a fire in a second stove to turn the smoke black if there's no pope elected and white if there is.
President Obama's administration plans extra aid to Syrian rebels. As we heard yesterday, some analysts see hints in the statements of Secretary of State John Kerry that the U.S. could take even stronger steps.
James Dobbins hopes the U.S. does. The former envoy to Afghanistan, Bosnia and Kosovo argues U.S. policy is finally moving in the right direction.
An image of late President Hugo Chavez hangs behind acting President Nicolas Maduro, as he speaks to supporters after registering his candidacy outside the national electoral council in Caracas, Venezuela, on Monday.
Credit Rodrigo Abd / AP
Opposition leader Henrique Capriles accused Maduro of using Chavez's funeral to campaign for the presidency.
The tall and imposing Nicolas Maduro stepped forward last week to be sworn in as Venezuela's interim leader following the death of President Hugo Chavez.
Before the country's packed congressional hall, he swore to complete Chavez's dream to transform the OPEC power into a socialist state, allied with Cuba and decidedly opposed to capitalism and U.S. interests in Latin America.
This is a big week at the Vatican. The cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church will enter the Sistine Chapel tomorrow for a conclave to elect the next pope. NPR's Sylvia Poggioli is in Rome and has been talking with the faithful.
SYLVIA POGGIOLI, BYLINE: Small groups of people wander through St. Peter's Square. There's a sense of excitement, but also trepidation. These pilgrims came all the way from Brazil. Sister Paola Schneider is praying the cardinals will be inspired to make the right choice.
North Korean authorities cut off their "hotline" communication with South Korea on Monday as part of their announced withdrawal from the armistice agreement that ended the Korean War in 1953. The move came amid a flurry of bellicose North Korean threats, coinciding with the beginning today of joint U.S.-South Korean military exercises. The White House also vowed anew to protect U.S. forces and South Korean allies against any threats from the North. Analysts say it is among the most dangerous moments on the Korean peninsula in several years.
An Afghan policeman stands guard near the scene of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Feb. 27
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
The U.S. military is increasingly focused on helping the Afghan government and security forces become self-sufficient. Here, U.S. Army 1st Lt. Phillip Baki visits with an Afghan police officer, Abdul Karim, at a checkpoint overlooking the Dahla Dam in the southern province of Kandahar.
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
District government officials in Kandahar province meet to discuss security and governance challenges as NATO troops draw down.
The NATO campaign is now in a new phase. After years of fighting the Taliban and bolstering anemic local governance, NATO troops are handing those responsibilities over to the Afghans. NPR's Sean Carberry recently embedded with U.S. troops in the southern province of Kandahar as they worked on this new mission.
The fertile Arghandab Valley in Kandahar province is considered one of Afghanistan's breadbaskets. For years it was also a valley of death for NATO troops.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 11:57 am
Iran and Pakistan are moving closer to completion of a nearly 1,000-mile natural gas pipeline linking the two countries, despite U.S. objections that it could become a source of hard currency for Tehran in defiance of international sanctions.
Monday marks the beginning of construction on Pakistan's part of the pipeline, which will consist of a 485-mile run. Iran has already completed most of its 760 miles of the link, which will stretch from Assaluyeh along Iran's Persian Gulf coast to Nawabshah in Pakistan's Sindh province.
As NPR's Louisa Lim reported Monday on Morning Edition, a week of inflamed rhetoric from North Korea — including talk of a preemptive nuclear strike on the U.S. — is being followed by word that the North has carried through on its threat to annul the 1953 armistice that ended open warfare on the peninsula and has stopped answering calls on the telephone hotline to the South.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 11:52 am
Authorities have pulled more than 2,800 dead pigs out of Shanghai's main source of tap water — the Huangpu River. And they're still counting, according to reports on Monday.
The discovery has raised fears of drinking water contamination in China's most populous city, although state media reports that officials have run tests and determined that so far there's nothing to fear.
In India, an investigation is under way into the death of the man who police say was the lead accused in the gruesome gang rape of a young woman on a bus in New Delhi last December. Authorities at the Tihar jail in Delhi say he was found early Monday morning hanging in his cell. For more, Steve Inskeep speaks with NPR's Julie McCarthy.
Two years ago today, an earthquake and tsunami triggered a meltdown at the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant in Japan. Hundreds of thousands of people living near the plant were forced to flee. The World Health Organization recently predicted a very small rise in cancer risk from radioactive material that was released. For the nuclear refugees, though, anxiety and depression could be the more persistent hazard. Correspondent Geoff Brumfiel traveled to Fukushima prefecture and met victims of the accident to see how they are coping.
Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 2:00 pm
Militants in Nigeria have killed seven hostages, including three Westerners, in an act the British foreign secretary called "pure, cold-blooded murder."
The seven hostages — four Lebanese and one British, one Greek and one Italian citizen – worked for the Setrapo construction company. They were kidnapped Feb 16 from Jama'are, a town about 125 miles north of Bauchi, the capital of Bauchi state. Ansaru, a group that's an offshoot of Boko Haram, the militant Islamist movement, claimed responsibility for the killings.
Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai claims the U.S. is holding talks outside Afghanistan with the Afghan Taliban.
The allegations come as Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel continues his first visit to the nation as Pentagon Chief – and after a deadly explosion in Kabul on Saturday that the Taliban called a message to the new defense secretary.
Karzai made his claims in a nationally broadcast address just hours before he was to meet with Hagel, reports NPR's David Welna, who is traveling with Hagel.
Originally published on Sun March 10, 2013 1:59 pm
With a stroke of her pen, Queen Elizabeth II is giving royal support to equal rights.
Her majesty is expected to sign a new charter for the Commonwealth on Monday. The charter declares the core values for the 54 member states, most of which were once under British rule. It's getting attention for statements on gender equality and what it may imply for gay rights.
Syrians carry a large revolution flag and chant slogans during a protest in Aleppo, Syria, where young people and children sang songs against President Bashar Assad and the Syrian regime, Dec. 21, 2012.
Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel is taking his first overseas trip since taking the top job at the Pentagon. He'll be visiting troops and key officials in Afghanistan. Host Rachel Martin speaks with NPR's David Welna, who is along on the trip.
Military Police Sgt. Joshua Hancock and Nero, his Dutch shepherd, play at Forward Operating Base Frontenac in Kandahar province in southern Afghanistan. Nero is trained to sniff out improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, and to attack.
Credit Sean Carberry / NPR
Hancock says Dutch shepherds like Nero aren't that common in the field, but they are great working dogs.
Lucy is a stereotypically giddy black labradoodle. She's not what you picture when you think of a military dog serving on the front lines in Afghanistan. She wiggles around the room chasing her tennis ball and thinks my microphone cover is a chew toy.
But her handler, Spc. Heath Garcia, says when Lucy is on a mission, she's all business. She's highly trained to sniff out improvised explosive devices, or IEDs, which are the No. 1 killer of civilians and troops in Afghanistan.
Listen to the full story on Hugo Chavez's legacy on All Things Considered
Venezuela's elections commission announced Saturday that voters will go to the polls on April 14 to choose a successor to President Hugo Chavez, who died this week after a battle with cancer.
The nation's constitution mandated that an election be called within 30 days of Chavez's death on March 5, but the scheduled date falls outside of that window. Nicolas Maduro, Chavez's vice president, was sworn in as interim leader on Friday.
An Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission official carries closed ballot boxes to be counted in Mombasa.
Credit Ben Curtis / AP
An electoral worker at the National Tallying Center reads a newspaper headlining the problems in the vote counting and tallying process in Kenya this week. Election officials had to count the ballots from the nation's presidential election by hand after abandoning the electronic tabulation system.
Credit Ben Curtis / AP
Voters queued for hours across Kenya as old-fashioned paper ballots had to be rushed to polling stations.
It was supposed to be the most modern election in African history. Biometric identification kits with electronic thumb pads, registration rolls on laptops at every polling station, and an SMS-relayed, real-time transmission of the results to the National Tallying Center in Nairobi.
Ambitious? Of course. Only 23 percent of the country has access to electricity.
Originally published on Mon March 11, 2013 4:51 am
The Islamist rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra has been secretive, keeping to itself and refusing to meet Western journalists. The group has been designated a terrorist organization by the Obama administration and was thought to be made up mostly of foreign fighters, working alongside Syrian rebels.
But lately, members are starting to open up as more Syrians join the group and they make more gains on the ground in the fight against the Syrian government.
Not every Syrian American can go to the lengths that Abu Ahmed did, but here in the United States, they are watching the conflict closely. Muna Jondy was born in this country, but her father's family is from Daraa where the first protest back in 2011 began. She's an immigration lawyer in Flint, Michigan and president of a group called United for a Free Syria. She joins us from Michigan Radio in Ann Arbor. Thanks for being with us.
This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. A court in Egypt today upheld the death sentences of 21 soccer fans from Port Said for murder during a bloody soccer riot that occurred there last year. And the court's decision apparently enraged the city.
Some Syrians in the U.S. are wracked with guilt that they can't do more to help their countrymen. Others are taking action. One Syrian-American gun enthusiast is doing his part to arm and train the rebels, and a Syrian doctor hopes to help train civilian doctors in conflict zones on trauma medicine. (This piece initially aired March 5, 2013 on All Things Considered.)