More than 60 people were killed in Egypt this weekend in clashes surrounding the third anniversary of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak. Thousands of people turned out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the revolution. But fighting broke out between supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and state forces, as well as backers of the military government that ousted the Brotherhood from power last year. Some 1,000 people were detained by Sunday night. In a sign of growing activity by militants, an Egyptian army helicopter was shot down in the Sinai desert, killing all five soldiers on board. The group Ansar Beit al-Maqdis has claimed responsibility. Six people were also killed in a series of bombings around Cairo. Following the weekend’s violence, the military government said it would hold presidential elections earlier than its political roadmap had called for, before the races to select a new parliament. Egyptian military leader General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, who led the coup that overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, is widely expected to run.
The Syrian government and opposition leaders are holding face-to-face talks for the first time at the U.N.-backed peace conference in Geneva. This weekend’s sessions focused on humanitarian gestures after initially facing potential collapse. U.N. envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said the Syrian government has agreed to let women and children leave the besieged city of Homs, and study a list of prisoners sought for release.
Lakhdar Brahimi: “Hopefully, starting tomorrow, women and children will be able to leave central — the old city in Homs. And I hope that the rest of the civilians will be able to leave soon after that. The government has asked the opposition to give them a list of the people that are in detention in the hands of the various armed groups, and the opposition have agreed that they will try and collect the lists that have been asked from those organizations they have authority over or contacts with.”
Homs has been under government siege for the past 18 months, and hundreds of civilians are in need of aid.
Today’s Syria negotiations are focusing on plans for a political transition, a key sticking point between the two sides. The Syrian opposition and world powers, including the United States, have demanded the departure of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Ahead of today’s talks, a spokesperson for the opposition Syrian National Coalition said the Assad regime has sought to stonewall discussions on a political transition.
Louay Safi: “Tomorrow, we’ll start talking about transition from dictatorship to democracy. Clearly the regime is not enthusiastic to talk about that. They are stalling. While stalling, they are trying to use delay tactics, trying to go into details about information that can’t be verified. They are asking about names, a list of names of people who were blockaded, rather than providing humanitarian corridors.”
The Assad regime has ruled out Assad’s departure. Syria’s deputy foreign minister said Syria’s future will be decided by elections in which Assad would presumably run.
Faisal Makdad: “But as far as the issue of the president is concerned, President Bashar al-Assad is the president of the Syrian Arab Republic, until the Syrian people says something else, and I think every Syrian has the right to be nominated, to be elected or not to be elected. That’s why we are coming here to say, look, the only solution at the end of the tunnel is to go to elections.”
At least 70 people were killed and dozens more wounded in a weekend of violence across Iraq. The United Nations says 65,000 people have fled the fighting in the cities of Fallujah and Ramadi over the past week. Overall, more than 140,000 have been displaced since clashes broke out between government forces and Sunni militants in Anbar province late last month.
The Afghan government has released a group of 37 prisoners from the former U.S. prison of Bagram. The Obama administration had lobbied intensely against the prisoners’ release, accusing them of attacks on Afghan civilians and U.S. troops. But the Afghan government has said there was insufficient evidence to justify their continued imprisonment. On Sunday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai called Bagram under U.S. control a “Taliban-making factory … where innocent people are tortured and insulted and made dangerous criminals.”
The United States has carried out a new missile strike in Somalia. The Pentagon says it was targeting a top leader of the militant group al-Shabab, but it is unclear if he was killed. The Obama administration recently deployed a new contingent of U.S. troops to Somalia to work as “advisers” to the Somali military.
The political opposition in Ukraine has rejected a sweeping power-sharing offer from President Viktor Yanukovych in a bid to stop the massive protests against his rule. Over the weekend, Yanukovych proposed the installation of top opposition leaders in key government positions, the release of political prisoners, and the re-evaluation of new anti-protest laws. But addressing the massive crowds in Kiev’s Independence Square, opposition leaders said protests will continue until elections are called for this year. More than a dozen anti-government rallies have been taking place nationwide.
Three people are dead after a gunman opened fire in a Maryland shopping mall before taking his own life. The gunman was 19 years old, while the victims were 21- and 25-year-old employees of a skateboard store. A witness described the scene.
Anthony Madole: “I was in Sears looking around, and I heard a bang, and I said, 'Man, that kind of sounds like a gunshot.' And then I see people running, and I heard some people screaming, and I heard it again, and it was just boom, boom, boom. And people just started screaming and running, and it was just complete madness. And I got out as quick as I could. You know, I definitely heard at least four or five gunshots.”
In another incident of gun violence, a student was killed Friday in a campus shooting at South Carolina State University. It was at least the fifth school shooting in the United States this month.
An adviser to Edward Snowden has ruled out plea talks with the U.S. government unless Snowden is offered amnesty. Attorney General Eric Holder said last week he is open to meeting with Snowden’s lawyers, but ruled out the prospect of amnesty or clemency. Calls for clemency have grown in recent weeks after Snowden’s disclosures led President Obama to announce a series of National Security Agency reforms and an independent government panel declared the agency’s bulk collection of phone records illegal. Speaking to NBC from Russia, Snowden adviser Jesselyn Radack said Snowden should be able to return a free man.
Jesselyn Radack: “It’s a little disheartening that he seemed to take clemency and amnesty off the table, which are two of the negotiating points. But again, none of us have been contacted yet about restarting negotiations. And also, I think the 'no harm, no foul' [for Snowden] is not apt. I mean, there has been plenty of suffering on the part of Edward Snowden. He’s been punished quite a bit already. And while we are glad to dialogue and negotiate, he is not going to come back and face an espionage prosecution.”
West Virginia has ordered the removal of all storage tanks from the site that leaked chemicals into the state’s water supply earlier this month. More than 300,000 people were left without tap water for as long as 10 days after the company Freedom Industries leaked the chemical crude MCHM into the Elk River. The Freedom Industries facility is just a mile upriver from the area’s main water plant. Under the order, Freedom Industries will be forced to remove all 17 of its tanks.
JPMorgan Chase has handed CEO Jamie Dimon a massive compensation package despite a year that saw the financial giant pay off a record amount of criminal fines. Dimon’s pay jumped 74 percent to $20 million for 2013, most of it in bonuses. The $20 million figure amounts to $1 million for each billion dollars that JPMorgan paid last year to resolve government probes into illegal activity. Most recently, JPMorgan paid $2.6 billion for failing to disclose suspicions of fraud in what turned out to be a massive Ponzi scheme by Bernie Madoff.
A Texas hospital has removed a brain-dead pregnant woman from life support following a lengthy battle with family members who said keeping her on life support would go against her wishes. Marlise Muñoz collapsed in November when she was 14 weeks pregnant. Despite her family’s pleas, the hospital kept Munoz on life support because of her pregnancy. On Friday, a judge ruled the hospital had to disconnect Muñoz because she was legally dead. Her life support was turned off on Sunday. Family attorneys say her relatives will now “proceed with the somber task of laying Muñoz’s body to rest, and grieving over the great loss that has been suffered.”