IRAQ: Kurdish Peshmerga forces launched a major offensive yesterday against Islamic State (Isis) fighters in the north of the country.
Hundreds of Peshmerga have deployed on the front lines, pushing south from the Mosul dam in a bid to sever Isis supply routes.
There is as yet no intention to push into the Isis stronghold of Tal Afar, lest the Kurdish fighters spark resistance from the locals there.
CHINA: Eleven officials in Shanghai have been punished for the New Year’s Eve stampede that killed 36 people and injured 49.
An investigative report published yesterday blamed a lack of public security for the tragedy and cited “inadequate prevention and preparation … and poor on-site management.”
Those disciplined include local Communist Party, public security and tourism officials.
MALI: Tuareg separatist protesters said yesterday that they had pushed the UN’s mission from an airfield in Kidal in the north, burning generators and tearing down tents.
The protests came after a Dutch attack helicopter with the UN mission fired upon a car in the town of Gao on Tuesday, killing four rebels. The UN mission said its forces fired after experiencing “direct heavy fire.”
CHILE: MPs have voted by 86-23 for a Bill that will legalise same-sex civil unions.
President Michelle Bachelet called Tuesday night’s vote a stepping stone towards full same-sex marriage.
MPs also voted to change Chile’s electoral system — a hangover from the military dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet — to make it easier for small parties to compete.
INDIA: A court ordered the government on Tuesday to unfreeze £200,000 donated to environmental group Greenpeace by its foreign partners.
Officials froze the funds in June last year amid accusations that the group’s actions — including against “wild west” coalmines — were hurting development.
Greenpeace said the decision was a vindication of its work and that the government should stop harassing civil society groups.
Authorities stopped a Greenpeace activist last week who was about to travel to Britain to brief MPs on Indian coalmines.
SWAZILAND: President of the Danish parliament Mogens Lykketoft called on Denmark and the European Union to do everything to secure the release of socialist leader Mario Masuku and student activist Maxwell Dlamini.
Pudemo party president Mr Masuku was charged with terrorism offences for shouting “Viva Pudemo” and criticising the absolute monarchy in a May Day speech last year.
SWITZERLAND: International Monetary Fund head Christine Lagarde revealed yesterday that Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko had asked for bailout loans.
The two met at the World Economic Forum at the Swiss resort of Davos.
Mr Poroshenko wants to replace the current £11 billion bailout package with a new one, though the US and EU have already pledged more money, demanding austerity measures in return.
INDONESIA: Investigators said yesterday that there were no signs of foul play in the crash of AirAsia Flight 8501, which plunged into the Java Sea on December 28 killing over 160 people.
Transport safety chief Tatang Kurniadi said an initial report would be submitted to international air authorities next week but a full investigation could take a year.