Six In The Morning Sunday January 3

US warns Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent cleric risks inflaming sectarian tensions

US state department says killing of Nimr al-Nimr, one of group of 47 people put to death by Saudi regime, raises concerns about unrest in the region

Saudi Arabia’s execution of prominent Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr risks worsening sectarian tensions, the US has warned, joining a chorus of critics from the west and the Middle East who have condemned the killing.

As protesters in Tehran reacted with fury by setting fire to the Saudi embassy, US state department spokesman John Kirby said in a statement that the US was “particularly concerned” that al-Nimr’s execution risked “exacerbating sectarian tensions at a time when they urgently need to be reduced.”

He said the US was calling on Saudi Arabia to ensure fair judicial proceedings and permit peaceful expression of dissent while working with all community leaders to defuse tensions after the executions.

Breaking the Silence: Former Israeli soldier branded a traitor for asking troops to tell their West Bank stories

Group publicises anonymous testimonies of soldiers to show ‘moral price’ of occupation and to bring it to an end

Achiya Schatz does not fit the profile of a traitor to Israel or an enemy of its people. As a young man, he was a Boy Scout counsellor and role model; as a soldier, he risked his life serving in the elite Duvdevan combat unit; and then he became an emissary for the Jewish Agency, a quasi-governmental Zionist organisation with the task of bolstering support for Israel abroad.

As a soldier, Mr Schatz was known in his unit as the “cuffer” because he could handcuff a Palestinian faster than anyone else.

Yet Mr Schatz, 30, and the organisation for which he is spokesman, Breaking the Silence, stand accused of stabbing the army and the country in the back and even endangering the lives of Israeli citizens.

Ten images that marked 2015

Team Observers

Journalists aren’t always in the right place at the right time. But there’s usually a good chance that a citizen journalist will be there, ready to photograph newsworthy events that regular media outlets would have missed. The Observers team has picked the 10 amateur images that we believe made the biggest impact in 2015. Be aware: you may find some of these images disturbing.

France: The ‘Charlie Hebdo’ attacks

On the morning of January 7, armed men burst into the Paris offices of one of France’s best-known satirical magazines, ‘Charlie Hebdo’. They left behind a bloody massacre. 12 people were killed, including the publication’s editorial staff and two policemen, and a further 11 were injured. The attack sent shockwaves across France. The assault, and the subsequent police chase, were followed by both media outlets and amateurs. It was the perfect opportunity for conspiracy theorists to distort photos, in an attempt to back up claims which were nothing more than wild imaginings.

Tracking the footprints: All roads lead to South Punjab


THE year witnessed a significant de-escalation in terrorist and sectarian attacks in south Punjab as militant violence mostly shifted elsewhere, mainly to the northern cities, in the province.

Apart from a deadly attack on a gathering at the election office of Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) legislator Amjad Farooq Khosa in Taunsa near DG Khan in mid-October and a suicide raid in Multan, no other significant incident of violence took place in the southern Punjab that made headlines a year earlier as the hub of nationwide militant activity, especially in Urban Pakistan.

Having said that, the ‘footprints’ the militants left behind elsewhere in the province have more often than not led the investigators back to the southern districts to hunt for suspects and their abettors. “Even of the two California shooting suspects, Tafsheen Malik had links with south Punjab,” a former Punjab counter-terrorism official sighed.

Mexico mayor killed less than a day after taking office

Gunmen open fire on leftist Gisela Mota of the Democratic Revolution Party at her house in Temixco.

| Latin America, Mexico, Crime, Politics

The mayor of a city south of Mexico’s capital was shot to death less than a day after taking office, officials said.

Gunmen opened fire on Mayor Gisela Mota on Saturday at her house in the city of Temixco, said the government of Morelos state, where Temixco is located.

Two presumed assailants were killed and three others detained following a pursuit, said Morelos security commissioner Jesus Alberto Capella. He said the suspects fired on federal police and soldiers from a vehicle.

On his TwitterACCOUNT, Morelos Governor Graco Ramirezattributed Mota’s killing to organised crime, without citing a particular drug cartel or gang.

Cartels seeking to control communities and towns have often targeted local officials and mayors in Mexico.

Mota’s leftist Democratic Revolution Party released a statement describing her as “a strong and brave woman who on taking office as mayor, declared that her fight against crime would be frontal and direct.”

Gary Powers: The U2 spy pilot the US did not love

Steven Spielberg’s most recent movie, Bridge of Spies, tells the story of a Cold War prisoner exchange between the Soviet Union and the US. The deal allowed US spy plane pilot Gary Powers to return home – but once there he faced a chorus of criticism.

Gary Powers had been in flight for four hours when his troubles began. His spy mission from an American airbase in Pakistan took him over central Russia, where, at more than 70,000 feet above the ground, he believed he was beyond the range of either fighter planes or missiles.

The 30-year-old CIA pilot, a veteran of the Korean war, expected to make his way, without incident, all the way across the Soviet Union to another base in Norway.

But when he was over the Russian city of Sverdlovsk, the unimaginable happened. His U2 spy plane was hit by a Soviet missile barrage.

“I looked up, looked out, and just everything was orange, everywhere,” Powers recalled.