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story.lead_photo.caption Congo opposition candidate Martin Fayulu greets supporters Friday at a rally in Kinshasha.

Congo candidate to challenge results

KINSHASA, Congo -- Congo runner-up Martin Fayulu announced Friday that he will file a court challenge to the presidential election results, while his opposition coalition asserted he actually received 61 percent of the vote according to the findings of the influential Catholic Church's observers.

Fayulu spoke to hundreds of supporters who gathered in the capital, Kinshasa, to denounce what they called "the people's stolen victory."

A heavy police presence was on hand. A businessman and vocal campaigner against Congo's widespread corruption, Fayulu accuses outgoing President Joseph Kabila of making a backroom deal with the declared winner, largely untested opposition leader Felix Tshisekedi.

The Catholic Church, the rare authority that many Congolese find trustworthy, has said its 40,000 election observers in all polling stations found a different winner from the official results but it has not given details. Diplomats briefed on the findings say they found Fayulu won easily.

The church's findings showed Tshisekedi received just 18 percent of the vote, just ahead of ruling party candidate Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, Fayulu's coalition asserted.

Fayulu urged that Congo's electoral commission publish detailed results, polling station by polling station, and said he would file his court challenge today.

Lebanon objects to Israeli border wall

BEIRUT -- Lebanon says it will file a complaint at the U.N. over Israel's construction of a wall along the border, which Israel says is entirely within its own territory.

Lebanon's state-run National News Agency quoted Foreign Minister Gebran Bassil as calling the Israeli move a violation of a U.N. Security Council resolution that ended the 2006 war between Israel and the militant Hezbollah group.

The wall is being built on the edge of the Lebanese border village of Kfar Kela.

Israel said the wall is being constructed on its side of the border in coordination with U.N. peacekeepers.

Last month, Israel announced the discovery of border tunnels, which it says were dug by Hezbollah in order to carry out attacks.

Explosion in Iraqi city kills two people

BAGHDAD -- Iraq's Health Ministry said two people have been killed in an explosion in a city to which displaced families are being encouraged to return.

The ministry said 25 others were wounded in the blast in Al-Qaim on Friday. It did not give further details.

Al-Qaim, a city along the border with Syria in Iraq's western Anbar province, was one of the last cities liberated from Islamic State militants in 2017.

The Iraqi army is closing camps for people displaced by war in Anbar and pressuring families to return to their communities before basic services have been restored, according to a recent Associated Press report.

Nearly 40,000 Iraqis have returned to their communities in Al-Qaim and the surrounding district, according to data from the U.N.

Reports: Chechnya again detains gays

MOSCOW -- Several people have been recently detained in Russia's Chechnya region on suspicion of being gay, in a throwback to an earlier crackdown, activists said Friday.

The reports come a year and a half after more than 100 gay men in Chechnya were arrested and subjected to torture, and some of them were killed, according to activists. Chechen authorities never admitted their role in the well-documented abuse, and federal authorities conducted a probe that did not produce any findings to back up the reports.

Prominent activist Igor Kochetkov said Friday that gay-rights supporters have seen a spike in detentions of men and women suspected of being gay since late December. Kochetkov would not say how many people have been detained or where they are now. He said the activists are preparing a short report to be released Monday.

The Interior Ministry in Chechnya was not immediately available for comment.

Independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta, which broke the news of the crackdown in 2017, earlier Friday reported renewed persecutions of gay people in Chechnya.

Russian authorities kept denying that the killings and torture took place in the predominantly Muslim region where homosexuality is a taboo, even after one man came forward to talk about the time he spent in detention in Chechnya.

Maxim Lapunov said he was detained by unidentified people on a street in the Chechen capital, Grozny, and kept in custody for two weeks, where he was repeatedly beaten. He was let go after he signed a statement acknowledging he was gay and was told he would be killed if he talked about his time in detention.

Lapunov, who is not an ethnic Chechen and who hails from Siberia, was the first to file a complaint with Russian authorities over the wave of arrests of gay people.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe last month called on Russia to investigate the reports, and Lapunov's case specifically.

A Section on 01/12/2019

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