Middle East Updates / 'Russian Spies' Executed in ISIS Video

Egyptian judicial official: No legal grounds to detain Mubarak after retrial ordered; French parliament extends military intervention in Iraq.

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An image grab taken from the Egyptian state TV shows Egypt's ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak sitting in the defendants' cage on August 25, 2013 during his trial in Cairo.
An image grab taken from the Egyptian state TV shows Egypt's ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak sitting in the defendants' cage on August 25, 2013 during his trial in Cairo.Credit: AFP

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9:15 P.M. 'Russian spies' executed in Islamic State video

A video shared online Tuesday by Islamic State supporters purported to show the confessions and executions of two Russian spies within the organization.

The video, whose authenticity has not been verified by dpa, shows two middle-aged men answering questions in Russian from an unseen interrogator about their relations with Russia's secret service.

The two are heard saying they were asked to spy on and kill one or more Islamic State members, whose names were edited out.

Residents in areas of Iraq and Syria held by the Islamic State have recently reported witnessing the execution of members accused of treachery, cowardice or criminal offences. (DPA)

8:20 P.M. French parliament extends military intervention in Iraq

The French parliament voted overwhelmingly (488 against one) on Tuesday to extend the country's military intervention against Islamic State militants in Iraq that started four months ago. Full story

2:39 P.M. Turkey questions six people over Istanbul suicide bombing

Turkey's state-run news agency says authorities were questioning six people, including some foreigners, in connection with a suicide bombing at an Istanbul police station.

Last week's attack killed an officer and wounded another. The female bomber was also killed.

The Anadolu Agency said the suspects were being questioned by anti-terrorism authorities in Istanbul on Tuesday. It gave no further detail on the suspects.

Some Turkish media have said the bomber was a Russian citizen of Chechen origin.

A leftist group had claimed responsibility for the Jan. 6 bombing, but later retracted its claim saying it had mistakenly concluded that the bombing was the work of its members. (AP)

12:34 P.M. Body of kidnapped Egyptian police officer found in Sinai Peninsula

Security forces have found the body of an Egyptian police officer kidnapped by gunmen this week in the Sinai Peninsula, home to Islamist militants seeking to topple the government, the army spokesman said on Tuesday.

The officer was snatched on Sunday in the border town of Rafah.

"At dawn today, the body of the martyr captain Ayman al-Sayed Ibrahim al-Desouki was found... after he was killed by the terrorist elements," the spokesman said in a statement posted on his official Facebook page.

Egyptian security forces had exchanged fire with suspected militants during their search operation, killing 10 of them and confiscating weapons, ammunition and explosives, he added.

ISIS said on its official news cast earlier on Tuesday that its wing in Sinai had kidnapped the officer.

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis, Egypt's most lethal militant group, changed its name to Sinai Province last year after swearing allegiance to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni militant group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria. (Reuters)  

12:26 P.M. Egyptian judicial official: No legal grounds to detain Mubarak after court ordered retrial

An Egyptian judicial official says there are no legal grounds to keep deposed President Hosni Mubarak in detention after an appeals court ordered his retrial in a corruption case.

The official at the chief prosecutor's office says Mubarak has the right to walk free after the country's top Appeals Court ordered a retrial in a corruption case against him and his two sons earlier Tuesday.

The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to media.

He says "paperwork is being processed" for Mubarak's release but declined to speculate if and when that could happen.(AP)

11:42 A.M. Iran police confiscate seven tons of opium

Iran's state TV is reporting that police have confiscated seven tons of opium from drug smugglers in southern Iran in a single raid.

Local police chief, Gen. Ahmad Ali Goudarzi, told state television on Tuesday that the opium had been concealed in a cement truck heading toward the capital Tehran.

Iranian authorities often confiscate large quantities of narcotics, but Monday's seizure is the biggest in months.

Iran is the main route for drug smugglers to ship narcotics from the poppy fields of Afghanistan to Europe. Authorities confiscate hundreds of tons of narcotics — mostly opium — every year. In 2013, over 209,000 hectares (806 square miles) of poppies were planted across Afghanistan, up 36 percent from the year before. (AP)

10:41 A.M. Rohani: Countries behind oil price drop will suffer

Iranian President Hassan Rohani said on Tuesday that countries behind the fall in global oil prices would regret their decision and warned that Saudi Arabia and Kuwait would suffer alongside Iran from the price drop.

"Those that have planned to decrease the prices against other countries, will regret this decision," Rohani said in a speech broadcast on state television. "If Iran suffers from the drop in oil prices, know that other oil-producing countries such as Saudi Arabia and Kuwait will suffer more than Iran," he added. (Reuters) 

10:19 A.M. Turkish entrepeneur aims for university for Syrian refugees

At a Syrian refugee camp in Turkey, 19-year-old Usame Isa dreams of studying engineering. But Isa doesn't speak Turkish well enough to pass the language proficiency test required for entry at state universities.

He is not alone. Many of the 1.6 million Syrians in Turkey after fleeing their country's civil war do not speak Turkish and cannot afford language classes, said Metin Corabatir, who heads the Ankara-based Research Center on Asylum and Migration.

"Students should be able to study in the language they wish, but here we have to learn Turkish," Isa said at the Nizip camp near Turkey's southern city of Gaziantep. "I am trying to learn."

A Turkish education entrepreneur has ambitious plans to address this problem. He hopes to raise funds to start a Turkish university for Syrian refugees, with classes held in Arabic and English in addition to Turkish.

"I really believe that we have to educate these young people," the entrepreneur, Enver Yucel, told The Associated Press in a recent interview in New York, where he was receiving an education award. "If we cannot educate these young people, they will be a big problem both for Turkey and for their own country — for the whole region."

Yucel envisions several small campuses in Turkish cities close to Syria, including Gaziantep. The first one would be located in Hatay and, he hopes, would start in the 2015-16 academic year with 1,500 students if he gets the required government approvals. He proposes employing 400 Syrian faculty members who are also refugees. (AP)

10:15 A.M. Egypt orders re-trial for Hosni Mubarak, one of last steps to his release

An Egyptian court ordered on Tuesday a retrial in an embezzlement case against Hosni Mubarak, dropping the only remaining conviction faced by the ousted former president and potentially leading to his release.

Mubarak was sentenced to three years in jail in May for stealing public funds to renovate family properties. He has been serving that sentence in a military hospital in Cairo.

Now a retrial has been ordered, judicial sources say Mubarak could walk free as no convictions against him remain.

In November, another court dropped charges against Mubarak for conspiring to kill protesters in the 2011 uprising that removed him from power and cleared him in two graft cases. It was not clear if Mubarak would remain in detention pending retrials. (Reuters)

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