Al-Qaida-linked group in Syria calls for an end to rebel infighting
BEIRUT — The head of an al-Qaida-linked group in Syria reached out to rival rebel groups who have been engaged in a bloody battle with his fighters this month, calling for the two sides to end their infighting and instead unite against the government and its allies.
Rebel-on-rebel infighting between the extremist Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and an array or ultraconservative and more moderate rebel factions has killed more than 1,000 people across opposition-held northern Syria since it began in early January. The clashes are the most serious among the opponents of President Bashar Assad in Syria’s nearly three-year civil war.
In a new 16-minute audio message posted online Sunday, Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi accused the other rebel brigades of stabbing his group in the back, and said the infighting only benefits the government.
“You know that we did not want this war, we did not go for it and we did not plan for it. It is clear that the beneficiaries of this war are the Nusayris and the Shiites,” he said, using a derogatory term for Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.
But he also called for reconciliation, saying the Islamic State “is extending its hand so that we refrain from attacking each other and so that we can join forces” against Assad and his allies.
Anti-government protests escalate into street battles in Kiev
KIEV, Ukraine — Anti-government protests in Ukraine’s capital escalated into fiery street battles with police Sunday as thousands of demonstrators hurled rocks and firebombs to set police vehicles ablaze. Dozens of officers and protesters were injured.
Police responded with stun grenades, tear gas and water cannons, but were outnumbered by the protesters. Many of the riot police held their shields over their heads to protect themselves from the projectiles thrown by demonstrators on the other side of a cordon of buses.
The violence was a sharp escalation of Ukraine’s two-month political crisis, which has brought round-the-clock protest gatherings, but had been largely peaceful.
Opposition leader Vitali Klitschko tried to persuade demonstrators to stop their unrest, but failed and was sprayed by a fire extinguisher in the process. Klitschko later traveled to President Viktor Yanukovych’s suburban residence and said the president has agreed to negotiate.
“There are only two ways for events to develop. The first one is not to negotiate,” Klitschko was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency. “A scenario of force can be unpredictable and I don’t rule out the possibility of a civil war. … And here we are using all possibilities in order to prevent bloodshed.”
Police: Md. woman charged in children’s death feared the devil
GERMANTOWN, Md. — A Maryland woman charged with killing two of her children has told investigators that she thought an exorcism was necessary to remove the presence of the devil and evil spirits, a police captain said Sunday.
Zakieya Latrice Avery, 28, of Germantown, is charged with first-degree murder in the stabbing deaths of the children, ages 1 and 2.
Montgomery County police responded to Avery’s home Friday morning following a neighbor’s 911 call. Police said they found the two children dead and two other siblings, ages 5 and 8, injured with stabbing wounds.
“She thought the devil was in the kids, and that’s sort of the thing she centered it around as to why she had to conduct an exorcism,” said Capt. Marcus Jones, director of the police department’s major crimes division. “She just thought that there were evil spirits within the kids.”
Another woman charged in the killings, Monifa Denise Sanford, 21, made similar statements during questioning, police said.
By wire reports