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34 Syrians seized by militia found dead: report

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Thirty-four Syrians abducted by pro-regime “shabiha” militiamen on Monday were found dead in the flashpoint central city of Homs, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported.

The Britain-based watchdog said an activist on the ground reported seeing “the bodies of 34 civilians, in a square in the pro-regime neighbourhood of Al-Zahra, who had been abducted by the shabiha on Monday.”

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The civilians, it said, had been seized from several “anti-regime neighbourhoods” in Homs, which has been targeted by a brutal crackdown on almost nine months of anti-regime dissent.

The Observatory also reported the so-called “shabiha” abducted on Monday a bus driver and his 13 passengers in Homs province.

Forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad have laid siege to Homs for the past two months.

Seven people were reported killed in the city and province on Monday by gunfire from the security forces, the Observatory said, after a bloody weekend that saw 63 people dead, at least half of them in Homs.

Elsewhere on Monday, mutinous soldiers killed four members of the security forces, including an officer, at the southern protest hub of Dael in Daraa province, the Observatory said.

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A regime truck was also set ablaze during Monday’s attack, the Observatory said, adding hundreds of Syrian forces deployed in Dael, where raids and arrests were underway.

Daraa is the cradle of the protests which erupted in mid-March in Syria, one of the most autocratic Arab nations. UN estimates say more than 4,000 people have been killed across the country in the government crackdown.

The Observatory also accused security forces of arresting 18 students on Monday, eight of them for insulting the president.

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The students in Jabla, in western Syria, were “accused of insulting President Assad,” it said, adding the allegations were made by “informants” at the school.

The other 10 were arrested near Damascus for joining an anti-regime protest in the district of Harasta, the Observatory said.

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Meanwhile the Syrian Centre for Media and Free Expression said the authorities arrested blogger Razan Ghazzawi at the border with Jordan as she headed to Amman on Sunday to represent them at a workshop on press freedom.

Also on Monday, the Observatory reported that pro-regime students and security forces harassed university students in the coastal city of Latakia.

The watchdog also said 30 students from Daraa studying at Latakia’s Tishrin University were detained, and another 60 were expelled.

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It did not say when the arrests occurred but stressed “that these students were threatened by their peers, subjected to pressure, abuse and insults over sectarian loyalties.”

The latest reports of bloodshed and arrests come as the foreign ministry said it has “responded positively” to a request by the Arab League to allow in observers as part of a peace plan to end the unrest.


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Suspect swallows poison after verdict in French murder case

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The suspect for the rape and murder of a young woman in northern France almost two decades ago was under guard in hospital Saturday after he swallowed pesticide in an apparent suicide bid following his conviction.

Willy Bardon, on trial over the murder of Elodie Kulik in 2002 in a case that has attracted strong interest in France for years, ingested the substance at the courthouse in the northern city of Amiens late on Friday.

Bardon had been sentenced to 30 years jail for kidnapping and holding a person against their will followed by death. He was however acquitted of murder.

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Fossil fuel groups ‘destroying’ climate talks: NGOs

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Oil and gas groups were accused Saturday of seeking to influence climate talks in Madrid by paying millions in sponsorship and sending dozens of lobbyists to delay what scientists say is a necessary and rapid cut in fossil fuel use.

A day after tens of thousands marched in the Spanish capital demanding climate action, seven environmental groups raised concerns to AFP over the role of fossil fuel representatives at the COP25 summit.

Under the 2015 Paris Agreement, nations agreed to limit global warming to "well below" two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) and as close to 1.5C as possible.

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Elon Musk cleared of defamation over ‘pedo guy’ tweet

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Tesla co-founder Elon Musk was cleared of defamation on Friday by a jury in Los Angeles over a tweet in which he labeled a British caver "pedo guy."

The jury deliberated less than an hour before ruling in favor of Musk and clearing him of any liability in the high-profile case that pitted him against Vernon Unsworth.

Unsworth had sought $190 million in damages from the tech billionaire, arguing that his reputation had been damaged by the tweet.

Musk hugged his lawyer on hearing the verdict, telling reporters afterwards: "My faith in humanity has been restored."

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