Need to know:
Egypt claims that it killed 20 militants in the Sinai during a skirmish between soldiers and gunmen. The strikes come just days after Egypt's new President vowed revenge for an attack by militants that killed 16 Egyptian soldiers near the Gaza border.
Egyptian police checkpoints in the Sinai have come under gunfire in the days following the border incident. The latest attack occurred in Al- Arish and nearby Sheikh Zuweid, where reports say there is a heavy military build-up to deal with militant fighters. Egyptian forces said they pursued the gunmen with helicopter gunships and killed them with missiles. It is the first time Egypt has launched missiles in the Sinai since 1973, said the Guardian.
Want to know:
Iran said Wednesday that the US was responsible for the fate of 48 Iranian hostages kidnapped by Syrian rebels last week. "Because of the US manifest support of terrorist groups and the dispatch of weapons to Syria, the US is responsible for the lives of the 48 Iranian pilgrims abducted in Damascus," said Iran to the US via its intermediary, Switzerland. In a statement that also accused the US of warmongering in Syria, Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said that the US should use its influence with the rebels to release the hostages. There are certainly better ways of asking for help.
Iran has claimed that the 48 hostages were Shia pilgrims on their way to a holy site. The rebels said that the hostages are Iranian spies and fighters sent to support the Assad regime. A Youtube video shows the hostages, who suspiciously appear to be all men in their mid 40s. Some have licenses with them allowing them to carry weapons. Iran has admitted that a few of the pilgrims are “retired” Revolutionary Guards.
Dull but important:
Wild weather around the world has people scrambling for cover. In China, typhoon Haikui - the country's third storm this week - has sent thousands fleeing and at least a dozen people dead. The storm had already ravaged Hong Kong and the Philippines, the latter inundated by record flooding in the capital.
In Mexico, Hurricane Ernesto has tourists and locals alike fleeing to shelters after the storm crashed into the Yucatan Peninsula early this morning. Ernesto was recently downgraded from a category 1 storm but still continues to annoy sun-seekers with 70 mph wind.
Seven Cameroon athletes have "gone missing" at the London Olympic Games. Five boxers, a footballer and a swimmer all disappeared from the Olympic village this week. The seven athletes were mostly young and did not see much success during the current games. Few believe that the seven would return to their homeland.
Indeed, there is 70-year history of Olympic defections, the most famous cases occurring during the Cold War, with athletes from communist countries defecting to the West. It is still unclear why the Cameroon athletes fled but economic reasons are the most likely motive.
Strange but true:
The Kenyan parliament is in the hot seat after bills for renovations of the assembly showed that the flamboyant red chairs for MPs cost about $2500 a piece. They are said to be the most expensive assembly chairs in all the Commonwealth.
Original estimates for the plush seats were put at $5000 but a scheme to have Kenyan prisoners make them cut the exorbitant cost to something few find reasonable.