Around The World Lille, France Evil clowns

Lille, France
Evil clowns: A wave of attacks by fake clowns has terrorized cities across France, leading several to ban clown costumes. Teens and young adults dressed in clown makeup and carrying weapons— including axes and chain saws—have threatened people in Lille, Agde, and other towns. Most of the pranksters are just trying to scare people, but some do attack. In Montpellier, an 18-year-old fake clown was arrested last week for severely beating a man with an iron bar. In response, other youths have formed vigilante groups of clown hunters and begun patrolling the streets. The trend of dressing up as evil clowns, which began on social media, hit areas of England and Spain earlier this year, but the French outbreak is more violent.

Tijuana, Mexico
U.S. Marine freed: Mexico has finally released a former U.S. Marine who was jailed for eight months after crossing the Mexican border with loaded guns in his car. Andrew Tahmooressi, 25, had recently moved to Southern California from Florida and said he took a wrong turn out of a San Ysidro parking lot and did not intend to enter Mexico. After a congressional hearing on the case last month and intense pressure from the U.S., a Mexican judge ordered Tahmooressi’s release on humanitarian grounds, because he suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder. His family said he would seek treatment for “the residual effects of months of incarceration—which has taken a toll on him far worse than his two tours in Afghanistan.”

Iguala, Mexico
Fugitive mayor caught: Mexican authorities have arrested a mayor and his wife, who are suspected of collaborating with a criminal gang in the September kidnapping of 43 university students. Federal authorities say José Luis Abarca, mayor of Iguala, was on the payroll of the Guerreros Unidos (“United Warriors”), and his wife, María Pineda, was a top operative of the gang, an offshoot of her brothers’ cartel. The couple had been on the run for weeks, after Iguala police told authorities that Abarca ordered officers to round up the students to prevent them from protesting a speech by Pineda. The police handed the students over to Guerreros Unidos, which is believed to have killed them all.

Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso
Military coup: African leaders are urging Burkina Faso’s military to cede power to civilians after a coup last week. The upheaval began when tens of thousands of protesters attacked government buildings to try to prevent President Blaise Compaoré, who has ruled for 27 years, from amending the constitution to run for a fifth term. Compaoré resigned, but in a twist that the protesters had not envisioned, the army declared a top member of his security detail, Lt. Col. Isaac Zida, the new head of state. “Don’t let them take our popular revolution hostage,” said opposition leader Saran Sérémé.

Dachau, Germany
Concentration camp theft: Someone has stolen the iron gate that reads “Arbeit Macht Frei” at the former Nazi concentration camp in Dachau. The iconic sign, whose inscription means “Work Sets You Free,” hung over the entrance to the forced-labor camp, where some 200,000 political prisoners, Jews, and Roma were interned from 1933 to 1945. Thieves struck between shifts of security guards and made off with the 6-foot-by-3-foot structure. Dachau’s police chief, Thomas Rauscher, said officers were investigating a possible neo-Nazi motive for the theft. In 2009, the “Arbeit Macht Frei” sign was stolen from Auschwitz; it was later found cut into three pieces.

La Paz, Bolivia
Epidemic of child rape: A Bolivian official says the country is in the grip of an epidemic of abuse of young girls. In the past two weeks, three girls ages 4 and 5 have been raped and killed, and Bolivia’s public advocate, Rolando Villena, said those cases were just the most attention-grabbing of a wave of such violence. He said one out of three young girls is sexually assaulted in Bolivia because of a culture of impunity and abuse. “We don’t know how many more cases we have to have before the government accepts that we’re facing a situation with untenable levels of violence against women, and girls in particular,” Villena said. Bolivia has the highest rate of violence against women, including against female lawmakers, in Latin America.

Donetsk, Ukraine
War threatens: The cease-fire agreement in Ukraine collapsed this week after separatists in the east held an illegal vote and elected pro-Russian leaders. President Petro Poroshenko responded by scrapping part of the September deal to allow eastern Ukraine greater autonomy, and rebels indicated they would abandon the cease-fire. Kiev sent troops to defend eastern cities against a widely expected new rebel offensive, while Russia moved troops closer to the Ukrainian border. “Russia continues to support separatists by training them, by providing equipment, and by also having Russian special forces inside eastern parts of Ukraine,” said Jens Stoltenberg, secretary general of NATO.

Unrest and attacks: Jerusalem was in turmoil this week after a dispute over a contested religious site—known to Jews as Temple Mount and to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary—erupted into riots and attacks. The site, the holiest in Judaism and third-holiest in Islam, houses Al-Aqsa Mosque and is administered by an Islamic trust. Last week, an Israeli-American settler activist who wants Jews to be allowed to pray there was shot and wounded. Israeli police killed the suspect, an Islamic Jihad member, sparking Palestinian riots in East Jerusalem. The riots grew so intense that Israeli authorities ordered the holy site closed for a day. This week, a low-level Hamas member rammed his minivan into a crowded train stop in east Jerusalem, killing a police officer before being shot dead.

Ankara, Turkey
Byzantine excess: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has built himself a massive $600 million palace four times the size of Versailles. The opulent compound, inaugurated last week, was built in a protected national park—in violation of court orders—on the outskirts of the capital, Ankara, and has some 1,000 rooms bedecked with silk wallpaper and granite inlays. The building was originally intended to be the prime minister’s residence, but Erdogan, who was prime minister for 11 years, became president this year and ordered the switch. Revelation of the palace’s cost did not go over well with Turks. “The so-called sultan has built this for himself in a country where 3 million people are without work,” said Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party.

Idlib, Syria
Al Qaida gains: A Syrian offshoot of al Qaida, Al Nusra Front, defeated two U.S.-supported Syrian rebel groups in Syria’s Idlib province this week and captured their American-made weapons. Some reports said dozens of rebel fighters defected to the jihadists. The U.S. effort in Syria was already in turmoil: The Obama administration recently announced plans to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, but the rebels said their priority is to battle President Bashar al-Assad. Now Al Nusra Front says it will move in to neighboring Lebanon to attack Hezbollah, which has been fighting in Syria on Assad’s side. “The real war in Lebanon is yet to begin,” said an Al Nusra Front leader.

Hong Kong
Killer banker: A British banker turned himself in this week after murdering two Indonesian sex workers in his luxury Hong Kong apartment. Rurik Jutting, 29, quit his Bank of America job just days before the killings, leaving a chilling out-of-office reply that said, “Please contact someone who is not an insane psychopath.” He called police to his apartment, where they found the body of one woman on the floor and another, killed a few days earlier, stuffed in a suitcase. Acquaintances described Jutting as a bully who threw his money around and partied with prostitutes.

Nuke deal possible: Negotiators struggling to reach an agreement on Iran’s nuclear program before a deadline at the end of the month may have reached a breakthrough. Diplomats say Iran has tentatively agreed to ship part of its uranium stockpile to Russia to be converted into fuel rods that can be used only in a nuclear power plant. If the stockpile were reduced significantly, the U.S. and its negotiating partners could allow Iran to keep a larger number of centrifuges to enrich uranium, a key demand of Iran’s. Secretary of State John Kerry says he wants to ensure that Iran’s “breakout time”—the time it needs to enrich enough uranium to make a bomb should it fire up all centrifuges—is at least one year.

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