2 Ukraine regions to vote on sovereignty; president says it would be self-destructive
MARIUPOL, Ukraine — As two of the most tense regions in eastern Ukraine prepare to vote on declaring sovereignty, the country’s acting president is warning them against self-destruction.
Sunday’s ballots seek approval for declaring so-called sovereign people’s republics in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions, where pro-Russia insurgents have seized government buildings and clashed with police and Ukrainian troops.
At least seven people died Friday in clashes in the city of Mariupol. The city remained on edge Saturday, with barricades of tires blocking some streets in the city center.
The referendums are being conducted by the insurgent movements and are not regarded as legitimate by Kiev or the West.
“The United States will not recognize the results of these illegal referenda,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement late Saturday, calling the votes “an attempt to create further division and disorder.”
Syrians stream to war-battered Homs after rebels leave, checking on homes
HOMS, Syria — Thousands of Syrians returned to war-battered parts of the central city of Homs Saturday, many making plans to move back as opposition activists expressed bitterness over the rebels’ surrender of their strongholds to pro-government forces and vowed they will return.
The homecoming came as rival jihadi factions fought deadly battles to the east in an oil-rich region bordering Iraq, the latest clashes between groups trying to overthrow the central government in Damascus.
Residents from Homs’ smashed ancient quarters scavenged what they could from their homes, mostly clothes, dusty mattresses and some burned gas canisters, carrying them away in plastic bags and trolleys.
“My house was completely destroyed and burnt, but I found some photos,” said Sarmad Mousa, 49, a resident of the old Hamidiyeh district. “They will remain a memory for me of the beautiful days we had here.”
Some accused rebels of looting and burning their homes. Smaller crowds made the journey Friday.
Egypt to try 200 suspected members of al-Qaida-inspired group for attacks, conspiracy
CAIRO — Egypt’s chief prosecutor charged 200 suspected militants Saturday with carrying out more than 50 terrorist attacks, killing 40 policemen and 15 civilians and conspiring with the Palestinian militant group Hamas, in the first mass trial of a Jihadi group since the country’s recent turmoil.
The defendants, 98 of whom remain on the run, are all suspected members of the al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, or Champions of Jerusalem, which has claimed responsibility for the bloodiest attacks since a wave of violence picked up following the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer.
The prosecutor’s statement refers to the group as “the most dangerous terrorist group,” and accuses the defendants of receiving military training in the Palestinian Gaza Strip under the patronage of Hamas. It also says they traveled to Syria where they took part in fighting against government forces before returning to Egypt.
Washington designated the group as a terrorist organization in April, accusing it of carrying out attacks in Israel, against security forces and tourists in Egypt.
Officials in Egypt accuse Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the violence. The government has gone further, outlawing the Brotherhood and branding it a terrorist organization.
By wire sources