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Egypt's ISIS, Hollande As Hitler, Spectator Swearing

EGYPT’S ISIS TARGETS MILITARY
At least 26 people were killed yesterday in a series of attacks by an ISIS-affiliated group in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula, Al Jazeera reports. Most of the victims were Egyptian troops, but civilians were also among the victims. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi cut short his visit to Ethiopia, where he was attending an African Union summit. The attacks suggest Cairo’s crackdown on regional militant groups, which included the razing of much of the town of Rafah, on the border with the Gaza Strip, has failed, The New York Times notes.

ON THIS DAY
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On this day in 1948, Gandhi was assassinated. Time for your
57-second shot of history.

TALIBAN BEHIND KABUL MURDERS
The Taliban claimed responsibility for yesterday’s attack on a military base at Kabul’s airport in which one Afghan and three American civilians were killed. The American victims were Defense Department contractors who were training the Afghanistan air force, AFP reports.

HOLLANDE AS HITLER ON FRONT PAGE
The Jan. 29 front page of Morocco's weekly magazine Alwatan Alane features French President Francois Hollande wearing a Nazi outfit, complete with a swastika armband and Adolf Hitler's trademark mustache. The controversial photomontage is accompanied by the title, "Will the French revive Hitler's concentration camps to exterminate Muslims?"
Read more about it here: Extra! Moroccan Weekly Features Francois Hollande As Hitler.

FATE OF ISIS HOSTAGES UNKNOWN
An ISIS-imposed deadline for a prisoner swap passed yesterday at sunset, but Jordan refused to play ball after the terrorist group failed to provide proof that the Jordan pilot hostage is still alive. It’s unclear what, if anything, happened to the pilot and a second hostage, Japanese journalist Kenji Goto. Speaking for the first time since the hostage crisis started, Goto’s wife begged Tokyo and Amman to save her husband. Read more from The Japan Times.

5,260 MILES
Two pilots, American Troy Bradley and Russian Leonid Tiukhtyaev, have set a new world record for the longest distance flown in a helium balloon after crossing the Pacific Ocean. The duo is expected to land in Mexico tomorrow and could also break the record for duration.

AFRICAN UNION VS. BOKO HARAM
In its bid to secure support from the UN Security Council in the fight against Boko Haram, the African Union has agreed to plans for the creation of a regional task force of “7,500 women and men” to battle the Islamist sect, France 24 reports. As the terror group’s gains in Nigeria and Cameroon suggest, it could soon pose a regional threat. African Union Commission Chief Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma said it had been decided at yesterday’s meeting that “no efforts should be spared” to defeat Boko Haram.

WORLDCRUNCH-TO-GO
As Les Echos’ Laurence Albert writes, wine-loving France used to be a beer haven too, before shrinking to just 22 breweries three decades ago. Today it's up to more than 700 microbreweries, even if industrialists continue to dominate. “‘The resurrection of breweries is especially linked to the regional sphere,’ says Pascal Chèvremont, executive director of the Association of French Brewers. ‘It actually started in regions with strong identities, such as Corsica or Brittany. New brewers integrated flavors such as chestnut, nougat or cranberry. And regional structures that promote specialties helped them.’”
Read the full article, The Hoppy Comeback Of French Microbreweries.

PAROLE FOR “PRIME EVIL”
Eugene de Kock, South Africa’s apartheid death squad leader, was granted parole today after spending 20 years in jail “in the interests of nation-building,” Justice Minister Michael Masutha said. The date and location of his release will not be made public. De Kock, who was nicknamed “Prime Evil” for his role in the torture and murder of black South African activists in the 1980s and early 1990s, expressed remorse at his crimes and had helped authorities recover the remains of some of his victims, Masutha said. Read more from South Africa’s daily The Mail & Guardian.

MY GRAND-PÈRE'S WORLD


ISRAEL TO EXPAND IN WEST BANK
The Israeli government has published its plans to build an extra 450 illegal settlement units in the West Bank, ending a months-long freeze on new construction in Palestinian territories, Haaretz reports. NGOs have denounced the move as “pre-election opportunism” from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

DOUBLE VICTIMS OF UNDER-REPORTED CONFLICTS
Ongoing wars in Syria, Iraq and Ukraine have attracted a lot of media coverage, and their predominance is putting people affected by at least 30 other conflicts in even greater danger, experts from the think tank International Crisis Group told Reuters. “The horrific violence you still see in South Sudan is because there is no pressure from public opinion,” the think tank’s president said, adding that 2.4 million people have been displaced in Darfur alone. Similarly, an estimated 7 million people need aid in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

VERBATIM
“In the heat of the moment you can say stuff that you regret,” British tennis player Andy Murray said after his fiancée Kim Sears was caught on camera swearing during Murray’s hard-fought victory against Tomas Berdych in the semi-final of the Australian Open. While lip readers can’t seem to agree on exactly what she said, they agree there were a lot of F-words.

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FOCUS: Russia-Ukraine War

The Dead And Disappeared: A Village Emerges From 72 Days Of Russian Occupation

Russian forces have been pushed out of the area around Kharkiv. Villages that were occupied for two months are free once more — but utterly destroyed. And thousands of people have disappeared without a trace.

Kharkiv and the surrounding villages faced weeks of constant Russian shelling.

Alfred Hackensberger

TSYKRUNY — Andriy Kluchikov uses a walking stick, but is otherwise fairly sprightly for a 94-year-old. Under his black wool hat, Kluchikov seems fearless as he surveys his hometown in northeastern Ukraine. “The missiles don't scare me,” he says with a smile. “I have slept in my own bed every night and never went down into the basement.”

As for the two-meter-wide bomb crater that has appeared in his garden, between the vegetable patch and the greenhouse with its shattered plastic roof, Kluchikov almost seems proud. “No one can intimidate me,” he says. “Not even the Russians.”

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In the early days of the war, in February, Russian artillery almost completely destroyed this village of Tsyrkuny, near Kharkiv, Ukraine's second largest city. Only a few houses, including his own, were left undamaged. Shortly afterwards, Russian troops marched into the village and occupied it for 72 days. It was not until early this week that the Ukrainian army was able to liberate Tsyrkuny and many other areas to the north of the country’s second-largest city, Kharkiv.

It is the Ukrainians’ most successful counter-offensive so far. They are thought to have pushed the invading troops back almost to the Russian border. “The offensive is gaining momentum,” according to the independent American thinktank Institute for the Study of War. “It has forced Russian troops on the defensive and has successfully alleviated artillery pressure on Kharkiv City.”

In the modern city of Kharkiv, home to around 1.5 million residents, the relief has been palpable over the last few days. Restaurants and cafes have reopened. People are walking and riding bikes in the parks, and couples are strolling hand in hand, enjoying the warm spring sunshine. You can still hear the artillery, but it is now many miles away.

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Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

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