INTERNATIONAL

Looking back 2015

January
New Year stampede kills 36 in Shanghai

Citizens carrying placards reading ‘Charlie it is us’ and ‘The religions united against the hatred’ take part in a Hundreds of thousands of French citizens solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris January 11, 2015. French citizens will be joined by dozens of foreign leaders, among them Arab and Muslim representatives, in a march on Sunday in an unprecedented tribute to this week’s victims following the shootings by gunmen at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the killing of a police woman in Montrouge, and the hostage taking at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes. — Reuters photo

Citizens carrying placards reading ‘Charlie it is us’ and ‘The religions united against the hatred’ take part in a Hundreds of thousands of French citizens solidarity march (Marche Republicaine) in the streets of Paris January 11, 2015. French citizens will be joined by dozens of foreign leaders, among them Arab and Muslim representatives, in a march on Sunday in an unprecedented tribute to this week’s victims following the shootings by gunmen at the offices of the satirical weekly newspaper Charlie Hebdo, the killing of a police woman in Montrouge, and the hostage taking at a kosher supermarket at the Porte de Vincennes. — Reuters photo

A New Year’s stampede on Shanghai’s historic waterfront killed at least 36 revellers and injured dozens more, mostly women, as one police officer said fewer personnel than previously were securing the area. While some witnesses said partygoers had scrambled for fake money thrown from a building, others said this was unlikely to have been the main cause and huge crowds were to blame. The disaster, centred on a wide stairway leading up to a riverfront promenade, happened shortly before midnight on December1 as people packed the Bund area to usher in 2015. AFP, Shanghai

12 shot dead in ‘terrorist’ attack on French Charlie Hebdo newspaper
At least 12 people were killed when gunmen armed with Kalashnikovs and a rocket-launcher opened fire in the offices of French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo on January 7. Hundreds of thousands of people joined by world leaders flooded Paris on January 12 in a historic show of defiance and solidarity against terrorism following the attacks. As France mourned 17 victims of three days of

bloodshed that included Jews and a Muslim police officer, the leaders of Israel and the Palestinian Authority were among those attending the mass rally. AFP, Paris

Saudi King Abdullah dies
Saudi Arabia’s elderly King Abdullah died on January 23 and was replaced by his half-brother Salman as the absolute ruler of the world’s top oil exporter and the spiritual home of Islam. Global leaders paid tribute to the late monarch, a cautious reformer who led his kingdom through a turbulent decade in a region shaken by the Arab Spring uprisings and Islamic extremism. AFP, Riyadh

Yemen faces power vacuum after president, PM quit
Yemen faced a dangerous power vacuum on January 23 after its president announced his resignation over a deadly standoff with Shia militia controlling the capital and lawmakers called an emergency weekend session. Prime minister

Khalid Bahah also tendered his resignation, saying he did want to be part of the collapse of the country. President Abdrabuh Mansur Hadi, a key US ally in the fight against al-Qaeda, said he could no longer stay in office as the country was in ‘total deadlock’. AFP, Sanaa

Yingluck Shinawatra banned from politics

Yingluck Shinawatra

Yingluck Shinawatra

Thai authorities dealt a double blow to ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her powerful family on January 23, banning her from politics for five years and proceeding with criminal charges for negligence that could put her in jail. The moves could stoke tension in the politically divided country still living under martial law after the military seized power in May, toppling the remnants of Yingluck’s government to end months of street protests. Reuters, Bangkok

Obama, Modi break nuclear impasse

Handout picture released by the Panamanian Presidency showing Cuban president Raul Castro, right, and US president Barack Obama shaking hands as they head to the opening ceremony of the VII Americas Summit, in Panama City on April 10, 2015. — AFP photo

Handout picture released by the Panamanian Presidency showing Cuban president Raul Castro, right, and US president Barack Obama shaking hands as they head to the opening ceremony of the VII Americas Summit, in Panama City on April 10, 2015. — AFP photo

US president Barack Obama and India’s prime minister Narendra Modi broke the deadlock on a long-stalled nuclear pact on January 25 as they hailed a new era of friendship between the world’s two largest democracies. After greeting Obama with a bear hug as he stepped off Air Force One, Modi then trumpeted the ‘chemistry’ with his fellow leader on the first day of a three-day visit to the Indian capital. AFP, New Delhi

Bomb attack at Pakistani mosque kills 61
A powerful bomb tore through a busy Shia mosque in southern Pakistan on January 30, killing more than 61 people in the country’s deadliest sectarian attack in nearly two years. The blast hit the mosque in Shikarpur in Sindh province, around 470 kilometres north of Karachi, as hundreds of worshippers attended Friday prayers. Pakistan has suffered a rising tide of sectarian violence in

People stage a silent rally for Japanese hostage Kenji Goto called ‘Kenji, You will be alive in our memories” near the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on February 1, 2015. Some 200 people gathered the rally. prime minister Shinzo Abe on February 1 denounced as “heinous and despicable” the apparent beheading of a second Japanese hostage by the Islamic State group, as global leaders spoke out to condemn the militants. — AFP photo

People stage a silent rally for Japanese hostage Kenji Goto called ‘Kenji, You will be alive in our memories” near the prime minister’s official residence in Tokyo on February 1, 2015. Some 200 people gathered the rally. prime minister Shinzo Abe on February 1 denounced as “heinous and despicable” the apparent beheading of a second Japanese hostage by the Islamic State group, as global leaders spoke out to condemn the militants. — AFP photo

recent years, most of it perpetrated by hardline Sunni Muslim groups against minority Shiite Muslims, who make up around one in five of the population. AFP, Shikarpur, Pakistan

February
Japan condemns ‘despicable’
IS hostage beheading claim
Prime minister Shinzo Abe on February 1 denounced as ‘heinous and despicable’ the apparent beheading of a second Japanese hostage by the Islamic State group, as global leaders denounced the jihadists. IS claimed in a video released online Saturday that it had killed 47-year-old Kenji Goto – the second purported beheading of a Japanese hostage in a week – but made no mention of a Jordanian pilot it had also threatened to kill. Jordan’s

King Abdullah II said in a statement in Amman that every effort was being made ‘to seek the release of the hero pilot Maaz Kassasbeh’, captured after his F-16 plane crashed in Syria in December. AFP, Tokyo

25 dead as Taiwan plane plunges
into river

Rescue personnel in a rubber dinghy lift a passenger (bottom C) from the waters around the wreckage of a TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane that crash-landed into the Keelung river outside Taiwan’s capital Taipei in New Taipei City on February 4, 2015. At least 16 people were killed when TransAsia Aiways Flight GE235 with 58 people on board clipped a road bridge and plunged into the river in Taiwan, in the airline’s second crash in just seven months. — AFP photo

Rescue personnel in a rubber dinghy lift a passenger (bottom C) from the waters around the wreckage of a TransAsia ATR 72-600 turboprop plane that crash-landed into the Keelung river outside Taiwan’s capital Taipei in New Taipei City on February 4, 2015. At least 16 people were killed when TransAsia Aiways Flight GE235 with 58 people on board clipped a road bridge and plunged into the river in Taiwan, in the airline’s second crash in just seven months. — AFP photo

At least 25 people were killed February 4 when a passenger plane operated by TransAsia Airways clipped an overpass soon after take-off and plunged into a river in Taiwan, the airline’s second crash in seven months. As the rescue operation continued into the night, a crane lifted the rear and central sections of the plane from the water, with one body retrieved from inside.The front part, where 17 people are believed to be trapped, was still in the water. AFP, Taipei

Russian opposition leader Nemtsov
shot dead near Kremlin
Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov, a fierce critic of president Vladimir Putin, was gunned down while walking in sight of the Kremlin on February 27, prompting an international chorus of condemnation. The Kremlin decried as a provocation the murder of the 55-year-old former deputy prime minister, which came ahead of an opposition rally he was set to lead this weekend and sent shock waves across the country. AFP, Moscow

March
US ambassador slashed and bloodied in Seoul attack

Mark Lippert

Mark Lippert

The US ambassador to South Korea, Mark Lippert, was recovering from surgery on March 5 after being slashed on his face and arm in Seoul on Thursday by a blade-wielding activist opposed to ongoing US-Korean military drills. AFP, Seoul

IS militants bulldoze ancient Nimrud city
Islamic State fighters have looted and bulldozed the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud, the Iraqi government said on March 6, in their latest assault on some of the world’s greatest archaeological and cultural treasures. A tribal source from the nearby city of Mosul said the ultra-radical Sunni Islamists, who dismiss Iraq’s pre-Islamic heritage as idolatrous,

Afghan security personnel and bystanders look on as black smoke billows from the Afghan Parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015, during an attack in the Afghan capital. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. — AFP photo

Afghan security personnel and bystanders look on as black smoke billows from the Afghan Parliament building in Kabul on June 22, 2015, during an attack in the Afghan capital. Taliban militants attacked the Afghan parliament on June 22, with gunfire and explosions rocking the building, sending lawmakers running for cover in chaotic scenes relayed live on television.The insurgents tried to storm the complex after triggering a car bomb but were repelled and have taken position in a partially-constructed building nearby, officials said about the ongoing attack. All MPs were safely evacuated after the attack, which came as the Afghan president’s nominee for the crucial post of defence minister was to be introduced in parliament. — AFP photo

had pillaged the 3,000-year-old site on the banks of the Tigris river, once capital of the world’s most powerful empire. Reuters, Baghdad

Former Maldives president Nasheed jailed for 13 years
Former Maldives president and opposition leader Mohamed Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in prison on a terrorism charge after what rights groups said was a ‘flawed’ trial, sparking international concern over the honeymoon islands. Nasheed called on his supporters to take to the streets to protest against the sentence after a trial his party said was ‘blatantly politicised’. AFP, Male, Maldives

Plane with 150 on board crashes in French Alps

A handout CCTV picture received from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on February 23, 2015 shows (L-R) British teenagers Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum walking with luggage at Gatwick Airport, south of London, on February 17, 2015. Britain debated on February 22 how to stop teenage girls joining the Islamic State group in Syria after three high-achieving youngsters became the latest to run away from home. School friends Kadiza Sultana, 17, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase left their east London homes on February 17, 2015 and flew to Istanbul, raising concerns they would travel on to Syria to join IS jihadists. — AFP photo

A handout CCTV picture received from the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) on February 23, 2015 shows (L-R) British teenagers Amira Abase, Kadiza Sultana and Shamima Begum walking with luggage at Gatwick Airport, south of London, on February 17, 2015. Britain debated on February 22 how to stop teenage girls joining the Islamic State group in Syria after three high-achieving youngsters became the latest to run away from home. School friends Kadiza Sultana, 17, and 15-year-olds Shamima Begum and Amira Abase left their east London homes on February 17, 2015 and flew to Istanbul, raising concerns they would travel on to Syria to join IS jihadists. — AFP photo

A German airliner crashed near a ski resort in the French Alps on March 24, killing all 150 people on board, in the worst plane disaster in mainland France in four decades. France’s junior transport minister said there were ‘no survivors’ from the crash of the Germanwings Airbus A320, a low-cost subsidiary of Lufthansa, in a remote part of the Alps that is extremely difficult to access. AFP, Paris

April
700 migrants feared dead in
Mediterranean shipwreck
As many as 700 migrants were feared drowned on April 19 after their packed boat capsized off Libya in what was described as the deadliest such disaster to date in the Mediterranean. AFP, Rome

Hundreds dead in Nepal quake

A body of a victim lies trapped in the debris after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The shallow earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu on Saturday, killing more than 100 people, injuring hundreds and leaving a pall over the valley, doctors and witnesses said. — Reuters photo

A body of a victim lies trapped in the debris after an earthquake hit, in Kathmandu, Nepal April 25, 2015. The shallow earthquake measuring 7.9 magnitude struck west of the ancient Nepali capital of Kathmandu on Saturday, killing more than 100 people, injuring hundreds and leaving a pall over the valley, doctors and witnesses said. — Reuters photo

A massive 7.8 magnitude earthquake killed more than 6,700 people on April 25 as it ripped through large parts of Nepal, toppling office blocks and towers in Kathmandu and triggering a deadly avalanche that hit Everest base camp. Officials said at least 876 people are known to have died in Nepal, making it the worst earthquake there in more than 80 years. But that the toll could be much higher, and more than two dozen people were also reported killed in neighbouring India and China. AFP, Kathmandu

May
Jayalalithaa cleared of corruption

Jayalalithaa Jayaram

Jayalalithaa Jayaram

The head of India’s largest Tamil party was cleared of corruption May 11, a verdict that sparked wild celebrations by supporters and paved the way for the return of one of the country’s most powerful politicians. Former film star Jayalalithaa Jayaram was forced to stand down as chief minister of prosperous Tamil Nadu state after being found guilty last September of amassing illegal wealth while in office. AFP, Bangalore

Cameron’s Tories win big in British polls
Prime minister David Cameron’s Conservatives won a stunning victory in Britain’s election on May 8, which cut short the careers of his top three rivals and put the country’s European Union future in doubt. Widespread predictions of a close contest with the opposition Labour party turned out to be wide of the mark, as Cameron won 331 seats in the 650-seat House of Commons and a new term as head of a majority Tory government. AFP, London

June
Maggi noodles ordered off India’s shelves due to lead level
Indian shopkeepers withdrew a popular brand of Nestle instant noodles from their shelves on June 3 after tests revealed the snack contained unsafe levels of lead. AP, New Delhi

World’s displaced hits record high of 60m: UN
Almost 60 million people worldwide were forcibly uprooted by conflict and persecution at the end of last year, the highest ever recorded number, the UN refugee agency said on June 18. More than half the displaced from crises including Syria, Afghanistan and Somalia were children, UNHCR said in its annual Global Trends Report. AFP, Kabul

Mother Teresa’s successor
Sister Nirmala dies
Sister Nirmala Joshi, who succeeded Mother Teresa as head of her Missionaries of Charity in the eastern Indian city of Kolkata, died on June 23 at the age of 81, church officials said. Joshi had been suffering from a heart condition and her health had been deteriorating recently, confining her to a Missionaries of Charity home, Archbishop of Kolkata Thomas D’Souza and media reports said. AFP, Kolkata

A migrant child’s dead body lies off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. Thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Athens on September 2, as Greek ministers held talks on the crisis, with Europe struggling to cope with the huge influx fleeing war and repression in the Middle East and Africa. — AFP photo

A migrant child’s dead body lies off the shores in Bodrum, southern Turkey, on September 2, 2015 after a boat carrying refugees sank while reaching the Greek island of Kos. Thousands of refugees and migrants arrived in Athens on September 2, as Greek ministers held talks on the crisis, with Europe struggling to cope with the huge influx fleeing war and repression in the Middle East and Africa. — AFP photo

July
Obama says ‘Africa on the move’
in landmark Kenya visit
US president Barack Obama declared on July 25 that ‘Africa is on the move’, praising the spirit of entrepreneurship at a business summit on landmark visit to Kenya. Obama arrived in Kenya late on Friday, making his first visit to the country of his father’s birth since he was elected president. ‘I wanted to be here, because Africa is on the move, Africa is one of the fastest growing regions in the world,’ Obama said, drawing cheers and applause from delegates. AFP,

 

 

Nairobi
Former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam dies

APJ Abdul Kalam

APJ Abdul Kalam

Former president APJ Abdul Kalam died on July 27 at a hospital in Meghalaya, where he had gone to deliver a lecture at the Indian Institute of Management in Shillong, reports Press Trust of India. He was 83. Dr Kalam reportedly collapsed on stage at the IIM in Shillong and was rushed to hospital. He was the 11th president on India between 2002 and 2007.  NDTV, New Delhi

August
Child abuse scandal shocks Pakistan
Parents at the centre of a growing child abuse scandal in Pakistan accused police on August 10 of failing to do enough to break up a paedophile ring in Punjab province, the prime minister’s political heartland. Villagers in the central Punjabi village of Husain Khan Wala said that a prominent family there has for years forced children to perform sex acts on video. The footage was sold or used to blackmail their impoverished families. Rubina Bibi says her 13-year-old son was a victim, but when she tried to file a report at the Ganda Singh Wala police station a month and a half ago, ‘the police station clerk told me to get lost and I was thrown out’. Reuters, Husain Khan Wala, Pakistan

Huge blasts kill 50 in China
Enormous explosions at a chemical warehouse in a major Chinese port city killed at least 50 people and injured more than 700, official media said on August 13, leaving a devastated landscape of incinerated cars, toppled shipping containers and burnt-out buildings. An AFP reporter in Tianjin saw shattered glass up to three kilometres from the site of the blast, a storage facility for dangerous goods where the detonation unleashed a vast fireball that dwarfed towers in the area, lit up the night sky and rained debris on the city. AFP, Tianjin, China

Bomb in Thai capital kills 27 in bid ‘to destroy economy’
A bomb on a motorcycle exploded on August 17 just outside a Hindu shrine in the Thai capital, killing 27 people, including foreign tourists, media reported, in an attack the government said was a bid to destroy the economy. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast at the Erawan shrine at a major city-centre intersection. Thai forces are fighting a low-level Muslim insurgency in the predominantly Buddhist country’s south, but those rebels have rarely launched attacks outside their ethnic Malay heartland.  Bangkok

Sri Lanka’s ruling party wins election
Sri Lanka’s ruling party won parliamentary elections on August 18, making huge gains and strengthening its mandate for reform, although it has fallen short of an outright majority, official results showed. Former strongman Mahinda Rajapakse admitted his dream of a political comeback was over as parliamentary election results showed a huge surge in support for the party that helped engineer his ousting. Prime minister Ranil Wickremesinghe’s United National Party (UNP) secured 106 seats, short of a majority in the 225-member assembly but enough to form a government. AFP, Colombo

Pictures of drowned Syrian boy shock world as refugee crisis grows
Harrowing pictures of a drowned Syrian boy washed up on a Turkish beach brought home the horror of the escalating refugee crisis on September 3 as Europe was accused of letting the Mediterranean become a ‘cemetery’ for migrants. Turkey’s president Recep Tayyip Erdogan bluntly blamed EU states for the death of every single migrant who lost their lives making the perilous journey to Europe. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban also lashed out at Germany over its handling of the crisis as scenes of chaos erupted in his country. AFP, Brussels

September
107 dead as crane crashes into Makkah’s Grand Mosque
A massive construction crane crashed into Makkah’s Grand Mosque in stormy weather on September 11, killing at least 107 people and injuring 184, Saudi authorities said, less than a fortnight before the hajj pilgrimage starts. The civil defence authority said on Twitter that emergency teams were sent to the scene after a ‘crane fell at the Grand Mosque.’ That came about an hour after it tweeted that Makkah was ‘witnessing medium to heavy rains,’ with pictures circulating on social media showing lightning. AFP, Riyadh

42 Killed as Taliban gunmen attack Pakistan Air Force Base

Women mourn during a vigil at a Walmart parking lot in Roseburg, Oregon, on October 2, 2015. The 26-year-old gunman behind America’s latest mass shooting hoarded an arsenal of weapons, authorities said, describing him as a loner with a gripe against religion — AFP photo

Women mourn during a vigil at a Walmart parking lot in Roseburg, Oregon, on October 2, 2015. The 26-year-old gunman behind America’s latest mass shooting hoarded an arsenal of weapons, authorities said, describing him as a loner with a gripe against religion — AFP photo

Taliban gunmen killed 29 people, including 16 praying in a mosque, when they stormed a Pakistani air force base on September, a military spokesman said, in the deadliest Taliban attack on a military installation in the country’s history. The 13 gunmen were also killed in the attack on Badaber air base, close to the northwestern city of Peshawar. Reuters, Peshawar

Evidence of brine ‘flows’ on Mars
Curious lines running down slopes on the Martian surface, may be streaks of super-salty brine, said the latest findings on September 28 in the scientific quest for extra-terrestrial liquid water, a prerequisite for life. A team from the

Migrants walks past Macedonian police after crossing the Macedonian-Greek border, near Gevgelija, Macedonia, November 30, 2015. — Reuters photo

Migrants walks past Macedonian police after crossing the Macedonian-Greek border, near Gevgelija, Macedonia, November 30, 2015. — Reuters photo

United States and France said it found evidence in the lines of ‘hydrated’ salt minerals, which require water for their creation. AFP, Paris

People react outside the Paris morgue in Paris, November. 14, 2015. French president Francois Hollande vowed to attack the Islamic State group without mercy as the jihadist group admitted responsibility Saturday for orchestrating the deadliest attacks inflicted on France since Second World War. — AP photo

People react outside the Paris morgue in Paris, November. 14, 2015. French president Francois Hollande vowed to attack the Islamic State group without mercy as the jihadist group admitted responsibility Saturday for orchestrating the deadliest attacks inflicted on France since Second World War. — AP photo

Obama calls for action as 10 dead in school massacre
A visibly angry president Barack Obama has made an impassioned plea for gun control after a shooting at an Oregon college left 10 dead and seven wounded, saying such tragedies had become ‘routine’. In the close-knit community of Roseburg, AFP, Roseburg

Nobel Prize 2015
Nobel Foundation and Sveriges Riksbank awarded Nobel Prize in 2015 to a total of 14 individuals for their contribution in physics, chemistry, medicine, literature, peace and Economics. Takaaki Kajita and Arthur B McDonald were awarded Nobel Prize 2015 in Physics  ‘for the discovery of neutrino oscillations, which shows that neutrinos have mass’ while Tomas Lindahl, Paul Modrich and Aziz Sancar achieved the Prize in Chemistry ‘for mechanistic studies of DNA repair’. The Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine 2015 went to William C Campbell, Satoshi Ōmura ‘for their discoveries concerning a novel therapy against infections caused by roundworm parasites’ and Youyou Tu ‘for her discoveries concerning a novel therapy against Malaria’. Svetlana Alexievich received the Prize in Literature ‘for her polyphonic writings, a monument to suffering and courage in our time’ and Angus Deaton ‘for his analysis of consumption, poverty, and welfare’ won the The Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences. However, The Nobel Peace Prize 2015 was awarded to National Dialogue Quartet of Tunisia ‘for its decisive contribution to the building of a pluralistic democracy in Tunisia in the wake of the Jasmine Revolution of 2011’. AFP\Reuters, Stockholm

95 dead in attack on Ankara peace rally
At least 95 people were killed on October 10 when two explosions ripped through groups of leftist and pro-Kurdish activists gathering for an anti-government peace rally in the Turkish capital Ankara. The attack, near Ankara’s main train station, was the deadliest in the city’s history and has ratcheted up tensions ahead of Turkey’s November 1 snap elections, which were already riding high amid the government’s offensive on Kurdish militants. AFP, Ankara

October
Canada’s Liberals storm to landslide election win
Canada’s Liberals won a landslide general election victory Monday, with young leader Justin Trudeau ending a decade of Conservative rule with pledges to raise taxes on the rich in a struggling economy. For many Canadians the vote was a referendum on outgoing premier Stephen Harper’s management style, criticised as autocratic, and on who was better placed to put a sputtering economy back on track. Besides raising taxes on the richest Canadians, Trudeau, the youthful and good-looking son of the late and beloved ex-premier Pierre Trudeau, has said he will lower them for the middle class. AFP, Ottawa

Quake kills over 350 in Pakistan, Afghanistan
Rescuers were picking their way through rugged terrain and pockets of Taliban insurgency in the search for survivors after a massive quake hit Pakistan and Afghanistan on October 26, killing more than 350 people. AFP, Islamabad

China ends one-child policy
China announced the end of its hugely controversial one-child policy on October 29, after decades of strict, sometimes brutal enforcement left it with an ageing population and shrinking workforce, heightening the challenges of slowing growth. AFP, Beijing

Russian plane crashes in Sinai, all 224 aboard ‘killed’
A Russian charter plane carrying 224 people crashed in a mountainous part of Egypt’s Sinai Peninsula on October 31, killing all on board, Egyptian security and medical officials said. The plane with 214 Russian and three Ukranian passengers, and seven crew, had taken off from the Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh in the south Sinai bound for Saint Petersburg. AFP, Cairo

Nepal’s parliament elects first female president

Bidhya Bhandari

Bidhya Bhandari

Nepal’s parliament elected communist lawmaker Bidhya Bhandari as the country’s first female president on October 28 after the adoption of a landmark constitution last month. The former defence minister defeated her opponent Kul Bahadur Gurung by 327 to 214 votes to become the Himalayan nation’s ceremonial head of state. Bhandari, the vice-chair of the ruling Communist Party of Nepal (Unified Marxist Leninist), replaces Ram Baran Yadav. AFP, Kathmandu

November
Arundhati Roy, Bollywood figures join protest over intolerance
Booker Prize-winning novelist Arundhati Roy and two dozen Bollywood award winners added their voices to the artists, scientists and historians who say they are alarmed by a climate of religious intolerance and violence in India on November 5. Filmmaker Sanjay Kak, who was among Indian film industry figures returning National Film Awards in Mumbai, said that those protesting ‘have deployed their visibility – and credibility – to articulate the growing anxiety of a vast number of Indians, those who may remain less visible but are no less perturbed at what is going on around them.’ Roy, most famous for her 1997 novel ‘The God of Small Things,’ said in a sharply worded editorial in The Indian Express that millions of minority people including Muslims, Christians and members of low-caste or tribal communities ‘are being forced to live in terror, unsure of when and from where the assault will come.’ AP, New Delhi

Suu Kyi party chalks up wins in first Myanmar poll results
Supporters of Aung San Suu Kyi’s pro-democracy party on November 9 cheered in growing excitement as early results from Myanmar’s historic election boosted hopes of sweeping gains to carry it to power after decades of military dominance. Election authorities have so far released only a small fraction of the results, but of the 36 announced the National League for Democracy has scooped 35, in a psychological boost to crowds of Suu Kyi supporters gathered in front of her party headquarters in Yangon Monday evening.  AFP, Yangon

Wave of attacks across Paris kill 128

Pairs of shoes are symbolically placed on the Place de la Republique, after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France, November 29, 2015. — Reuters photo

Pairs of shoes are symbolically placed on the Place de la Republique, after the cancellation of a planned climate march following shootings in the French capital, ahead of the World Climate Change Conference 2015 (COP21), in Paris, France, November 29, 2015. — Reuters photo

Islamic State jihadists on November 14 claimed a series of coordinated attacks by gunmen and suicide bombers in Paris that killed at least 128 people in scenes of carnage at a concert hall, restaurants and the national stadium. At least three foreigners, including two Belgians and a Portuguese man, were killed in the attacks, officials from both countries said. Some 300 people were hospitalised of whom 80 are in ‘critical’ condition, the city’s hospital authority said. French president Francois Hollande also blamed the Islamic extremist group for the bloodshed and called the coordinated assault on Friday night at six different sites an ‘act of war’. The discovery of a Syrian passport near the body of one of the attackers appeared to confirm fears over the threat posed to Europe by extremism in the Middle East. AFP, Paris

14 killed in California shooting, two suspects dead
America’s epidemic of gun violence has struck again and claimed 14 lives, this time at the hands of a heavily armed man and woman who shot up a Christmas party in California and were later gunned down by the police. It was the worst mass shooting in three years. Police said they did not yet know the motive but did not rule out terrorism in Wednesday’s slaughter. AFP, San Bernardino

December
Donald Trump urges ban on Muslims entering US
Republican frontrunner Donald Trump called on December 8 for a ‘total and complete shutdown’ of Muslims entering the United States, unleashing some of the most provocative and divisive remarks of his controversial presidential campaign. The stunning statement followed last week’s mass shooting in California by a Muslim couple believed to have been radicalised by extremists, and landed with a thunderclap just as fellow presidential candidates were contemplating ways to improve national security. AFP, Washington

Saudi holds first ever election open to women

Saudi women vote at a polling center during the country’s municipal elections in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 12, 2015. Saudi women are heading to polling stations across the kingdom on Saturday, both as voters and candidates for the first time in this landmark election.— AP photo

Saudi women vote at a polling center during the country’s municipal elections in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, December 12, 2015. Saudi women are heading to polling stations across the kingdom on Saturday, both as voters and candidates for the first time in this landmark election. — AP photo

Covered from head to toe and driven by male guardians, Saudi women voted December 12 for the first time, in a tentative step towards easing sex discrimination in the ultra-conservative Islamic kingdom. In another first, women were allowed to stand as candidates in the polls for municipal councils, the country’s only elected public chambers. ‘Now women have a voice,’ Awatef Marzooq said after casting her ballot at a school in the capital. ‘I cried. This is something that we only used to see on television taking place in other countries.’ AFP, Riyadh

Kejriwal accuses ‘psycho’ Modi after raid
Delhi chief minister Arvind Kejriwal on December 15 accused his arch-rival Narendra Modi of waging a political vendetta, branding the Indian premier a ‘psychopath’ after federal investigators raided his city administration’s headquarters. The firebrand chief minister, who founded and leads the anti-corruption Aam Aadmi party, is a bitter opponent of Modi and they have clashed repeatedly in recent months.   The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) confirmed officers had raided the Delhi city government headquarters and 13 other locations in connection with a corruption case involving Kejriwal’s principal secretary Rajendra Kumar. AFP, New Delhi

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