An American chemistry teacher working abroad in Benghazi, Libya was shot and killed by gunmen Thursday during his routine jog near the U.S. Consulate, security sources in the country confirmed Thursday. The man died one week before he was supposed to travel back to his native state of Texas to celebrate Christmas with his wife and young son.
Security official Ibrahim al-Sharaa said that it is unclear why the Texas-native chemistry teacher working at Libya's International School Benghazi was shot, although he was doing his regular exercise routine close to the U.S. Consulate, where Islamic militants attacked and killed American ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans last September. The city's International School is a government-owned institution that follows American standards for curriculum, according to the Association Press.
"He was doing his morning exercise when gunmen just shot him. I don't know why. He was so sweet with everyone," Adel al Mansouri, director at the school, told Reuters. Libya's special forces have reportedly been struggling to contain Islamic extremists in the country, especially in Benghazi. Members of the militant Ansar al-Sharia group reportedly inhabit the city, and this same group is the one the U.S. blames for the September 2012 attacks on the U.S. Consulate. more >>
Syrian rebels have reportedly re-entered the historic Christian town of Maaloula, north of the country's capital of Damascus, this week while battling forces loyal to the country's President Bashar al-Assad. The rebel forces have been occupying the small, predominately Christian town intermittently for the past several months as they battle in the surrounding Qalamoun region. Recent reports from witnesses in Maaloula indicate that the Islamic rebels have reportedly kidnapped a group of nuns from a local monastery in the city.
Rami Abdel Rahman, director of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a local monitoring group, told The Daily Star on Sunday that the rebels are trying to regain control of the city as they clash with regime troops. The city sits in a mountain region and consists of tall look-out posts in the form of chapels and church spires that prove advantageous for camouflage and sniper nests.
"Fierce clashes are under way between rebel fighters, including the Al-Nusra Front, and regime troops in Maaloula, which the rebels have entered and are trying to gain control of," Abdel-Rahman said. more >>
A testimony from a 19-year-old Nigerian girl proves the terrorist group Boko Haram is kidnapping Christian women to use as slave brides, forcing them to "convert to Islam or die."
Hajja, a 19-year-old from a village in the Gwoza hills of remote northeastern Nigeria, recently shared her account of three months captivity under the rule of a local 14-man Boko Haram tribe that traveled the hillsides of northern Nigeria and forced her to cook and clean for them. Hajja had been kidnapped by members of Boko Haram, an al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist organization, while she picked corn near her home in July. She now tells Reuters that although she was never raped, she was treated terribly and ultimately forced to "convert to Islam or die."
"If I cried, they beat me. If I spoke, they beat me. They told me I must become a Muslim but I refused again and again," Hajja told Reuters in a recent interview. "They were about to slaughter me and one of them begged me not to resist and just before I had my throat slit I relented. They put a veil on me and made me read from the Koran." more >>
Pastor Saeed Abedini has revealed that he and fellow prisoners in Tehran are waiting on Iran to follow through with promises to start releasing thousands of prisoners of conscience, which so far has not happened.
"In recent weeks, hopes had been high that Iran was preparing to do the right thing and release Pastor Saeed and other prisoners of conscious as part of a good faith showing under newly elected president Hassan Rouhani," said a statement by the American Center for Law and Justice, which is representing Abedini's wife, Naghmeh, and their two children in the U.S.
The Iranian-American pastor has been imprisoned in Evin Prison in Tehran for more than a year, serving an 8-year sentence. The ACLJ has said that the pastor is being punished for his Christian faith – a fate that a number of other prisoners of conscience in the Islamic country are also facing. more >>
A large-scale battle between Nigerian forces and Islamic militants lasting over 5 hours in the state of Yobe has left 128 people dead, local sources have reported, raising questions about how much control the government has over the troubled region.
Details are still scarce about the violence that occurred late last week, but figures quoted by Nigerian military and hospitals state that 95 of the dead are militants, 23 are soldiers and eight others are police officers.
American pop singer Ke$ha has been banned from performing her upcoming concert in Malaysia after the government said her lyrics and image go against the country's conservative values. The pop singer claimed via Twitter that she was even threatened with imprisonment if she chose to go through with the performance.
The country's Ministry of Communications and Multimedia said in a brief statement late last week that its decision to cancel Ke$ha's upcoming performance "touches on religious sensitivities and cultural values of Malaysians." Sixty percent of Malaysia's 28 million-person population is Muslim, while only nine percent is Christian. Ke$ha's lyrics often make reference to partying, binge drinking, and a sexually promiscuous lifestyle, all topics that are taboo under strict Islamic culture.
The 26-year-old pop artist, whose real name is Kesha Rose Sebert, took to Twitter to defend herself in light of the news. "To be clear. I did NOT cancel. I was not allowed to play. [sic] and then I was going to play anyways and was threatened with imprisonment," she wrote. more >>