Police in France, Belgium and Germany have made arrests over the past 24 hours in a series of raids targeting suspected Islamic militants. In Belgium, police killed two men who reportedly opened fire on them during one of about a dozen raids. Police say the men recently returned from Syria. Thirteen other people were arrested in Belgium. In Germany, police arrested two Turkish men suspected of having links to an organization supporting the self-described Islamic State. And in France, police arrested 12 people suspected of aiding Amedy Coulibaly, the kosher supermarket attacker.
The French government has announced it will award French citizenship to a Muslim man from Mali who has been credited with saving the lives of several customers during last week’s hostage situation at the kosher supermarket in Paris. Lassana Bathily hid shoppers in a cooler during the attack and then escaped to alert police to the hostage situation.
Lassana Bathily: “When I ran downstairs, I went to the freezers. Several people came with me. I switched off the light. I switched off the freezers. The people who were with me, one with a two-year-old baby, in the room, I pushed the women behind the door and told them: ’You stay here and stay calm. I will get out.”
Bathily will also be given France’s highest honor, the Légion d’Honneur.
In Dresden, Germany, police are investigating the death of a 20-year-old asylum seeker from Eritrea. The man was found on Tuesday morning with multiple stab wounds. Dresden has been at the center of recent protests against Islam and immigration.
In its first lethal injection since a botched one last spring, the state of Oklahoma executed Charles Warner on Thursday. It took him 18 minutes to die — about twice as long as the average. His final words were: “My body is on fire.” Lawyers for Warner criticized the state for using midazolam, a drug that is not approved for general anesthesia. Warner was originally scheduled to die last April. But his execution was postponed after the botched killing of Clayton Lockett, who died of a heart attack 43 minutes after the execution began.
During the trial of former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling, former National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice revealed Thursday she personally pushed The New York Times to kill a news article about a secret operation to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program. Sterling is charged with revealing classified information to New York Times reporter James Risen. Rice told the court the White House relies on two main ways to block publication of news articles. They can essentially confirm the report by arguing that it is too important to national security to be published, or they can say that the reporter has it wrong.
Amnesty International is reporting Saudi Arabia has postponed the scheduled flogging of jailed activist Raif Badawi. Badawi was arrested in 2012 after setting up a website for political and social debate. He was sentenced to 1,000 lashes — 20 batches of 50 lashings each after Friday prayers. Today’s lashings were reportedly postponed for medical reasons.
The United Nations is calling on Israel to unlock $127 million in taxes owed to the Palestinian Authority that were withheld after the Palestinians decided to join the International Criminal Court. A senior U.N. official, Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen, told the Security Council that the freeze was in violation of the Oslo agreements between Israel and the Palestinians.
Jens Anders Toyberg-Frandzen: “We call on Israel to immediately resume the transfer of tax revenue. … The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is now entering uncharted territory, which, lamentably, seems to have dashed any immediate hope for a return to peace talks.”
Riyad Mansour, Palestinian ambassador to the United Nations, said his government was undeterred by Israel’s actions.
Riyad Mansour: “The focus must be on ending this illegitimate, belligerent, colonial Israeli occupation in all its manifestations and realizing the international consensus for a peaceful solution. We will thus continue to reject all of the irrational arguments against our peaceful, nonviolent, political, diplomatic and legal endeavors and will continue on this path for justice and peace.”
In news from Iran, the jailed American journalist Jason Rezaian has been indicted five months after his arrest. Rezaian is The Washington Post’s bureau chief in Tehran. He will be tried in a Revolutionary Court. It is still not known what he is being charged with.
The Obama administration has announced sweeping new rules that will significantly ease sanctions on Cuba while opening up the island to expanded U.S. travel, trade and financial activities. The new regulations will allow Americans to travel to Cuba for any of a dozen specific reasons, including family visits, education and religion, without first obtaining a special license from the U.S. government. But general tourism will still be banned. While the overall trade embargo remains, the new rules will make it easier for U.S. companies to export mobile phone devices and software as well as to provide Internet services in Cuba.
A major new scientific study has concluded humans are on the verge of causing unprecedented damage to the oceans and the animals living in them. The ecologist Douglas McCauley, who wrote the study, said, “We may be sitting on a precipice of a major extinction event.” The report said coral reefs have declined by 40 percent worldwide, and carbon emissions are altering the chemistry of seawater, making it more acidic. The study appears in the new issue of Science.
The parents of an Ohio man accused of plotting to attack the U.S. capitol say their son was entrapped by the FBI. The government accuses Christopher Cornell of planning to set off pipe bombs and open fire on congressional officials and staffers. The former high school wrestler was arrested outside the Point Blank Range & Gun Shop after purchasing ammunition and guns. His father accused the FBI of setting Cornell up by giving him money to purchase the weapons. His parents spoke to WCPO on Thursday.
Massachusetts State Police arrested 29 people who stopped traffic on two sections of a major highway into Boston during the morning rush hour Thursday to protest the recent killings by U.S. police of unarmed black men. Protesters chained themselves to concrete barrels on the roadway. In a statement, organizer Katie Seitz said, “Our nonviolent direct action is meant to expose the reality that Boston is a city where white commuters and students use the city and leave, while black and brown communities are targeted by police, exploited and displaced.”
Dozens of protesters marched down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C., on Thursday. Eugene Puryear of D.C. Ferguson helped organize the march.
Eugene Puryear: “Whether it’s out in the streets getting petitions, whether it’s out in the streets protesting, whether it’s folks having teach-ins and talking more about these issues, whether it’s people pushing legislation, I mean, from the streets to the legislative chambers what we’re seeing all around this country is people continuing to push forward on this issue. And I think there was no better way to honor the birthday of Martin Luther King Jr. than to get out and get into the streets.”
The 2015 Oscars nominations were announced Thursday. For the first time in almost two decades, all 20 acting nominees are white. The dramatic civil rights film Selma was nominated for just two awards — best film and best original song. The Twitter hashtag #OscarsSoWhite began trending soon after the nominees were announced. A 2012 survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times found Oscar voters are 94 percent white, 76 percent male, and the average age is 63 years old. Meanwhile, Laura Poitras’ film CitizenFour about Edward Snowden was nominated for best documentary.
The former U.S. ambassador to El Salvador, Robert White, has died at the age of 88. In 1981, he was fired after he refused to cover up the Salvadoran military’s responsibility for the murders of four American women who were Maryknoll church workers. White was there when the women’s bodies were dug up. He was quoted as saying, “This time the bastards won’t get away with it.”