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EGYPT

El-Sisi has huge win in president election

CAIRO (Bloomberg News) – Former army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi Wednesday was set to win Egypt’s presidency by a crushing majority, according to initial counts after voting was extended into a third day amid signs of a low turnout.

El-Sisi had 93 percent of the vote with results in from more than 2,000 polling stations, his campaign said. The state-run Ahram Gate website gave him 97 percent with almost half a million ballots counted. His only rival in the contest, which is being boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies, is former lawmaker Hamdeen Sabahi. Egyptian authorities prolonged the vote, which ended Tuesday, amid reports from around the country suggesting a drop in participation compared with Mohamed Mursi’s election win in 2012. That threatens to undercut the mandate sought by El-Sisi, who toppled Mursi in July last year.

SYRIA

Chemical weapons experts are attacked

DAMASCUS, Syria – An attack on a convoy of chemical weapons experts in Syria on Tuesday was more extensive than was first reported, the international group that helped organize the experts’ mission said on Wednesday. The group, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said the experts were attacked twice, first by a roadside bomb that disabled their lead vehicle and forced them to abort their trip to a village in central Syria, and then in an ambush as the experts were retreating to a safer area in two other vehicles.

It was unclear who among the antagonists in the war was responsible for foiling the investigators, which included staff from both the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons and the United Nations, which have been jointly overseeing the elimination of the Syrian government’s chemical weapons arsenal. The experts were uninjured.

– New York Times

AFRICAN REPUBLIC

Rebels kill at least 30 at church compound

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) – Muslim rebels stormed a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic on Wednesday, killing as many as 30 people in a hail of gunfire and grenades, witnesses said.

The attack on the compound at the church, where thousands of civilians had sought refuge from the violence ravaging Bangui’s streets, is the largest blamed on Muslim fighters since their Seleka coalition was ousted from power nearly five months ago. Wednesday’s attack marked a rare attack on a house of worship, as Catholic churches have served as sanctuaries for both Christian and Muslim civilians since the country erupted into sectarian bloodshed in December.

UKRAINE

Chechen militants joining the rebellion

DONETSK, Ukraine (AP) – As separatists conceded that militants from Russia’s province of Chechnya had joined the rebellion, a Ukrainian government official cautioned Wednesday that its borders had become a “front line” in the crisis.

Ramzan Kadyrovm, Chechnya’s Moscow-backed strongman, brushed away allegations he had dispatched paramilitary forces under his command to Ukraine, saying he was powerless to stop fellow Chechens from joining the fight. While there is no immediate indication that the Kremlin is enabling or supporting combatants from Russia crossing into Ukraine, Moscow may have to dispel suspicions it is waging a proxy war if it is to avoid more Western sanctions.