QWorld: Bombings Kill 51 in Iraq; Reviving Afghan Peace Process

QWorld: Catch the headlines from across the world.

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 US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, left, and Pakistani army chief Gen. Raheel Sharif seen here after a meeting in Rawalpindi in 2013. (Photo: AP)

1. Iran Fills Heavy Water Nuclear Reactor Core with Cement: Fars

Iran has removed the core of its Arak heavy water nuclear reactor and filled it with cement, as required under a nuclear deal signed with world powers last year, the semi-official Fars news agency said on Monday, citing an informed Iranian source. Any such move, reducing the plant’s ability to produce plutonium, might signal imminent implementation of the nuclear deal and clear the way for Tehran to receive relief from economic sanctions.

2. At Least 51 Killed in Attacks in Iraqi Capital, Eastern Town

Gunmen detonated suicide vests inside a shopping complex in Baghdad on Monday and a car bomb exploded nearby, in an attack claimed by ISIS that killed at least 18 people and wounded 40 others. Two bombs later went off in the eastern town of Muqdadiya, killing at least 23 people and wounding another 51, security and medical sources said. Another blast in a southeastern Baghdad suburb killed seven more.

3. Talks to Revive Afghan Peace Process Held in Pak

Delegates from Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US held talks to try to resurrect efforts to end nearly 15 years of bloodshed in Afghanistan. The efforts are aimed at reviving the dialogue that collapsed last year, but come even as fighting with Taliban insurgents has intensified.

4. Mexico Says Sean Penn Meeting Was ‘Essential’ to Finding El Chapo

A secret meeting between Hollywood star Sean Penn and the world’s most-wanted drug boss, Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman, in pursuit of a magazine article was essential to finding the fugitive, Mexico’s Attorney General said on Monday. Guzman, the infamous head of the Sinaloa drug cartel, was captured on Friday following a months-long manhunt after he tunneled out of a Mexican maximum security prison in July.

5. Merkel Under Pressure as Cologne Police Detail Assaults

German Chancellor Angela Merkel faced growing pressure to harden her line on refugees on Monday as the first extensive police report on the New Year’s Eve violence in Cologne documented rampant sexual assaults on women by gangs of young migrant men. Cologne police said at least 11 foreigners, including Pakistanis, Guineans and Syrians, had been injured on Sunday evening in attacks by hooligans bent on revenge for the assaults in the western city.

6. Aid Convoy Reaches Starving Syrian Town of Madaya

An aid convoy entered a besieged Syrian town on Monday where thousands have been trapped without supplies for months and people are reported to have died of starvation. Trucks carrying food and medical supplies reached Madaya near the Lebanese border and began to distribute aid as part of an agreement between warring sides, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

7. US Aircraft Bombs ISIS Cash Pile in Iraq: US Military

A US aircraft bombed an ISIS (ISIL) cash distribution site in Iraq on Monday, as part of efforts by the American-led coalition to disrupt the militant group’s financing of its activities, the US military said. “The bulk cash distribution site was used by ISIL to distribute money to fund terrorist activities,” Lieutenant Commander Ben Tisdale, a US Central Command spokesman, said in a statement, using an acronym for the militant group.

8. Venezuela Supreme Court Declares Congress Decisions Void

Venezuela’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that the new National Assembly’s decisions are void until three banned opposition lawmakers are removed from office, deepening a power struggle over the opposition’s new legislative majority. The Supreme Court in December blocked four lawmakers – three from the opposition and one allied with the government – from taking office after the Socialist Party alleged irregularities during last month’s vote for a new congress.

9. Myanmar’s Suu Kyi, Ethnic Armed Groups to Hold Peace Talks

Myanmar’s democracy champion Aung San Suu Kyi is set to address hundreds of representatives of the country’s ethnic armed groups, the military and lawmakers on Tuesday, as they gather for talks over a ceasefire ending decades of civil war.

(The Quint is available on Telegram. For handpicked stories every day, subscribe to us on Telegram)

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