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Ex-leader barred from Iran election

TEHRAN, Iran — The Iranian panel that screens presidential candidates approved the country’s incumbent president and five challengers but disqualified former hardline President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad from running in next month’s election, state television reported Thursday.

The decision by the Guardian Council means that President Hassan Rouhani, a relative moderate, will face off against a field that includes two prominent hard-liners: Ebrahim Raisi, who is considered close to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Tehran Mayor Mohammad Bagher Qalibaf.

Other presidential candidates who made the cut, according to an Interior Ministry statement carried by state TV, include moderate Senior Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri, former conservative culture minister Mostafa Mirsalim, and former pro-overhaul Vice President Mostafa Hashemitaba.

21 militants killed by Egyptian forces

CAIRO — Egyptian forces killed 21 extremists, at least 19 of them in an airstrike, the military said Thursday, including three senior figures of the Islamic State militant group’s affiliate in the Sinai Peninsula.

The announcement came in two statements, with the military saying in the first that its air force killed 19 militants and destroyed four vehicles in northern and central Sinai. The statement was coupled with a video that showed its air force striking the vehicles and “terrorist strongholds.”

The second statement said two additional militants were killed and three injured in central Sinai. It also said security personnel seized two vehicles carrying large quantities of materials used to manufacture explosives. Both were passing through a tunnel that runs under the Suez Canal, according to the statement.

On its official Facebook page, the military published photos showcasing stacks of money and three handcuffed men.

According to the military, one of the senior figures killed was responsible for conducting interrogations within the Islamic State affiliate and another led a committee on religious affairs.

Religious group outlawed in Russia

MOSCOW — Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday banned Jehovah’s Witnesses from operating anywhere in the country, accepting a request from the Justice Ministry that the religious organization be considered an extremist group.

The court ordered the closure of the group’s Russian headquarters and its 395 chapters, as well as the seizure of its property.

The Interfax news agency on Thursday quoted Justice Ministry attorney Svetlana Borisova in court as saying that Jehovah’s Witnesses pose a threat to Russians.

“They pose a threat to the rights of citizens, public order and public security,” she told the court.

Borisova also said Jehovah’s Witnesses’ opposition to blood transfusions violates Russian health care laws.

Yaroslav Sivulsky, a spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses in Russia, said in a statement that the group is “greatly disappointed by this development and deeply concerned about how this will affect our religious activity.”

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