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Somali Islamists Execute Kenyan Hostage, Threaten Five More

Somalia's Shebab insurgents claim to have executed a captured Kenyan soldier and repeated threats to kill five other hostages, the extremists said Friday.

"While the mujahedeen have executed the serving KDF (Kenya Defence Force) soldier, there is still a chance of securing the release of the remaining five prisoners," the Shebab said in a statement.

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Mass Rally in Pyongyang Celebrates Nuclear Test

More than 100,000 troops and civilians staged a mass rally in Pyongyang to celebrate North Korea's nuclear test and praise the "matchless" bravery of leader Kim Jong-Un, state media said Friday.

The rally in the capital's sprawling Kim Il-Sung square on Thursday was attended by top party and military officials, as well as police workers and students, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.

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9/11 Suspect Defies Judge over Guantanamo Cell Search

One of the alleged September 11 plotters protested angrily in court and defied a judge Thursday over searches of his cell at the Guantanamo Bay prison and the seizure of confidential files.

Walid bin Attash's outburst came on the last day of a round of pretrial hearings for five suspects who face the death penalty if convicted over the 2001 hijacked plane attacks on the United States. Nearly 3,000 people died.

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U.S., U.N. Urge Free Elections in Maldives

The United States and the United Nations called Thursday for free elections in the Maldives, after the Indian Ocean archipelago's former leader took refuge in the Indian embassy.

"We urge all sides to remain calm, reject the use of violence and avoid rhetoric that could increase tensions," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in a statement.

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Number of Journalists Imprisoned Worldwide Rises

A record number of journalists were imprisoned worldwide in 2012 in a "deteriorating environment for press freedom," a leading media advocacy group said Thursday.

The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists said in its annual "Attacks on the Press" report that 232 journalists were jailed last year in a "trend driven primarily by terrorism and other anti-state charges levied against critical reporters and editors." It said the number was the highest since it made its first survey in 1990.

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Erdogan Urges Extradition of Kurds Arrested in Europe

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called for the extradition of more than 20 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) arrested in multiple police raids in France and Spain.

"As long as these terrorists aren't handed over to us, the steps taken make no sense to us, because what we want is results," the premier said during a press conference in Ankara.

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U.S. Hails 'Successful' French Intervention in Mali

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry Thursday praised the "successful" intervention by France to root out Islamic rebels in northern Mali, and urged Malian leaders to organize elections.

Speaking ahead of talks with U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon, Kerry said Mali would be among issues discussed during their first meeting at the State Department.

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White House Raises Stakes in Hagel Showdown

The White House raised the stakes Thursday in its battle to appoint a new defense secretary, accusing Republican lawmakers blocking the appointment of sending a bad signal to U.S. war allies.

President Barack Obama's choice for the post, former senator Chuck Hagel, must be confirmed by the Senate and a senior Democrat told Agence France Presse he was not sure his side had the votes to overcome an almost unprecedented filibuster.

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Karzai Summons Top NATO Commander in Afghanistan

Afghan president Hamid Karzai has summoned the new commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan over an air strike that allegedly killed ten civilians, according to a statement issued Thursday.

General Joseph Dunford, who took over from General John Allen on Sunday, was called in "for explanations" to the Afghan presidential palace following the air strike in the insurgency-plagued Kunar province a day earlier.

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Ex-Generals Testify in Turkey Coup Trial

Six retired generals testified on Thursday in an Ankara court as part of an ongoing probe into the 1997 coup that ousted an Islamic-leaning government, local television reported.

They were summoned to testify a day after four ex-generals including a navy chief were detained pending trial for their alleged role in the coup, the latest development in a standoff between the military and Turkey's current Islamist-rooted government.

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