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(CNN) -- An unusual standoff is unfolding on the island of Borneo where about 100 men from the southern Philippines have come ashore demanding to be recognized as representatives of a sultanate that has historical claims on the area, Malaysian authorities said.
Malaysian police and armed forces are negotiating with the men, who arrived by boat Tuesday in the remote, eastern district of Lahad Datu, in the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo.
The men claim to be the "Royal Army of the Sultanate of Sulu" and say they don't want their people to be sent away from the area, Tan Sri Ismail Omar, the Inspector General of the Royal Malaysian Police, said Thursday, according to the country's national news agency Bernama.
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Damascus, Syria (CNN) -- As both sides in Syria's bloody civil war claimed advances, one high-ranking member of President Bashar al-Assad's regime expressed confidence in ultimate victory.
Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister Faisal al-Maqdad, in an interview Wednesday, said the battle is going very well for the regime.
"We are winning. We have already won," al-Maqdad told CNN's Frederik Pleitgen. "You are in Damascus, you are aware of what is happening around Damascus. (The rebels) threatened to have Damascus more than one year ago, and they are not there. We are still here."
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Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- An insurgent who took part in a series of sustained assaults in Kabul and across eastern parts of Afghanistan said he was working for the Haqqani network, a ruthless, well-trained organization linked to al Qaeda, the country's interior minister said Monday.

The nearly 18-hour assault left four civilians and eight members of the Afghan security forces dead, Interior Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said. About 65 people were wounded, he said.
Afghan security forces staged two raids Monday, clearing insurgents from two buildings in central Kabul, a NATO spokesman said.

Afghan forces also captured a suicide bomber Monday in Kabul before he was able to reach his target, NATO spokesman Lt. L.M. Rago said. Two other would-be bombers were captured on Sunday, according to Rago.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai told CNN's Christiane Amanpour that four insurgents were in custody. He praised the performance of Afghan forces, who took the lead in responding to the attacks.
"As brazen as it looked, it was a failure from our perspective, because our security forces responded immediately and quite efficiently," Karzai said Monday.

NATO provided modest helicopter support and had quick reaction forces on standby, but they were not needed, Rago said.
The coordinated attacks were the most dramatic and widespread assault in the Afghan capital since an attack in September on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters.

That attack was also believed to be the work of Haqqani fighters, who are blamed for killing more than 1,000 coalition and Afghan forces.

Karzai said better intelligence would have help thwart the attacks.
"I'm not blaming NATO for this," he said. "I'm simply asking a question as to the efficiency of our intelligence gathering systems."
Insurgents launched the wave of audacious attacks in Kabul and three other areas of the country Sunday. Government forces said they had repelled the offensives, but some of the violence in the streets of the capital spilled into Monday.

Explosions rocked central Kabul early Monday after periodic bursts of gunfire that lasted well into Sunday night in the district that houses government offices and allied embassies.

"In Kabul, our problem was that we were very cautious not to cause any civilian casualty therefore it took us longer to act," Mohammadi said Monday.

He said that more than 30 people had been trapped by fighting around the Afghan parliament and that it had taken until Monday morning to rescue them.

Thirty-five of the insurgents died in the violence, most of them killed by government forces, Mohammadi said. Only a few succeeded in detonating explosives attached to their bodies, he said.

Eight members of the Afghan security forces were killed, and 40 were wounded, according to Mohammadi. He said the violence had left four civilians dead and about 25 wounded.

The assaults in Kabul were a rare occurrence in a heavily guarded part of the city, but Gen. John Allen, the U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said Sunday that the Afghans beat back the insurgents without allied assistance.

"They were on scene immediately, well-led and well-coordinated," Allen said. "They integrated their efforts, helped protect their fellow citizens and largely kept the insurgents contained." He said the attacks were meant to signal "that legitimate governance and Afghan sovereignty are in peril," but the Afghan response "is proof enough of that folly."

The majority of the attackers used women's clothing -- with burqas covering their faces -- in order to reach their intended positions, Mohammadi said.

They even "had bunches of flowers in their car in Kabul order to show off that they were women and they were going to a wedding party or something like that," he said.

The Taliban militia that once ruled most of Afghanistan claimed responsibility for the attacks, saying it launched fighters into battle with suicide vests, RPGs and hand grenades in Kabul and the provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia and Logar.

However, one of the attackers was arrested in Nangarhar on Sunday and said during questioning that he was part of the Haqqani network, supporting the view of several observers who doubted the Taliban had the capacity to mount such offensives alone.

The Haqqani network has operated for more than 20 years and played a significant role among the mujahedeen groups that fought Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. It is currently led by Sirajuddin Haqqani and is regarded by U.S. military commanders in the region as one of the most effective and dangerous arms of the insurgency.
A recent paper by the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War described the Haqqani network as "Afghanistan's most capable and potent insurgent group."

According to the report, the Haqqanis "continue to maintain close operational and strategic ties" with al Qaeda and its affiliates.
The paper's authors said the network had "expanded its reach" toward the Taliban's traditional strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the areas surrounding Kabul and the north of the country.

Senior U.S. officials have persistently accused elements in Pakistan's military intelligence service of aiding the Haqqanis as a way of ensuring Pakistani influence in Afghanistan.
The officials says that both the Taliban and the Haqqani network have safe havens in Pakistan that they use to launch cross-border attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Apparently supporting that point, the insurgent arrested Sunday in Nangarhar said he had been trained and equipped "on the other side of the border," Mohammadi said.
U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker said he thought the attacks Sunday may be the work of the Haqqani network rather than the Taliban.
"The Taliban are very good at issuing statements, less good at fighting," Crocker said. No Americans were hurt during the fighting, he said.

NATO's International Security Assistance Force said that as many as seven locations in Kabul were attacked, including the parliament building and the American, German and Russian embassies.
Sediq Seddiqi, a spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, said Sunday that the insurgents had taken up positions in empty buildings in three Kabul districts to carry out the attacks. The Kabul police said they found and detonated a van full of explosives.

Meanwhile, an airbase used by U.S. troops in the eastern city of Jalalabad, in Naranghar Province, also came under attack, NATO command in Kabul reported. Four suicide bombers wearing women's burqas tried to attack the Jalalabad airfield where U.S. troops are based, airfield commander Jahangir Azimi said.
At least three of the attackers were killed, ISAF said in a statement.

Separately, a group of suicide bombers attacked the police training center in the city of Gardez, in Paktia Province. At least eight civilians were wounded, said a police official at the center, who was not authorized to speak to the media and asked not to be identified.

And 15 would-be attackers were arrested in Kunduz Province plotting similar strikes, said Lal Mohammad Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the chief of police for north and northeast Afghanistan.

The Taliban, the Islamist militia that once ruled most of Afghanistan, said the attacks were in retaliation for the killing of 17 Afghan civilians in Kandahar province last month. A U.S. Army staff sergeant, Robert Bales, has been charged with those killings.
But Jeff Dressler, an expert on the Haqqani network at the Washington-based Institute for the Study of War, said that the coordination seen in the Kabul attacks indicates a Haqqani-led network was behind them and that planned but disrupted attacks in the north may also be Haqqani-linked.

"This is likely their unofficial announcement marking the start of the spring fighting season," Dressler said. Though the attacks didn't succeed, he said, "The target selection was likely intended to send a message to the U.S., U.K., Russia and the Afghans that this will in fact be a bloody year for all forces in Afghanistan, particularly the east of the country."

U.S. Embassy spokesman Gavin Sundwall said he could not confirm that the embassy itself was the target of the attacks but said gunfire had been heard in the vicinity. In a statement from London, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the British Embassy was one of the targets, but "every member of Embassy staff is safe."

"The Afghan National Security Forces responded to the attacks bravely, promptly and effectively, once again illustrating the significant progress that has been made in ensuring that Afghans can look after their own security," Hague said. The embassy premises sustained "limited damage," he said, and its staff "dealt with this dangerous situation extremely professionally."

Several rocket-propelled grenades landed in the compound of the Japanese Embassy, a spokesman for the Japanese Ministry of Foreign affairs said. Embassy staff members were moved to the compound's underground air-raid shelter, and none of them was wounded, the spokesman said.
India also said it had no reports of its citizens being wounded.
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STOP pushing religious war into my country !!! This is not violence between Buddhists and Muslims, this is just between Myanmar and Bangali. Please correct your words and don't start another issue for Buddhists and Muslim. Many Muslims living inside the country, no problem with them. The main problem is The Bangali who came and across over from Bangladesh. you can view following link http://goo.gl/LEH13 goo.gl/wRJn7
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Oslo, Norway (CNN) -- The man accused of killing 77 people in a bomb-and-gun rampage in Norway last summer claimed as he went on trial for terrorism and murder Monday that self-defense justified his actions.

"I acknowledge the acts but do not plead guilty, and I claim I was doing it in self-defense," Anders Behring Breivik told a court in Oslo. The court recorded a plea of not guilty for him.

Prosecutors played a recording of a terrified girl phoning for help during the shooting spree that left 69 people dead, many of them teens and young adults. The audio was punctuated by constant firing in the background.

They also showed security camera video of the central Oslo bomb blast that killed eight people, images that participants in the trial watched with ashen faces.

Breivik was charged last month with committing acts of terror and voluntary homicide.

The trial is expected to last up to 10 weeks.
His defense will try to prove he was sane at the time of the killings, his lawyer, Geir Lippestad, said Monday.

It is important to Breivik that he be considered sane, Lippestad told reporters after Monday's hearing concluded, saying the defendant had his reasons. He did not say what the reasons were.

Experts have given different opinions about Breivik's sanity, which will be a factor in determining what punishment he receives if he is convicted. Options include imprisonment or confining him to a mental facility. Norway does not have the death penalty.

Authorities have described him as a right-wing Christian extremist. A 1,500-page manifesto attributed to him and posted on the Internet is critical of Muslim immigration and European liberalism, including Norway's Labour Party.

As the trial opened, he raised a clenched fist and said he did not recognize the authority of the court.

He called the trial political and objected to the judge's friendship with a former justice minister.

"I do not recognize the Norwegian court. You've gotten your mandate from political parties that support multiculturalism," he said.

"OK, we will make a note of that general objection," Judge Wenche Elizabeth Arntzen said curtly.

Breivik later clarified that he was not raising a formal objection.
He listened impassively as prosecutor Inga Bejer Engh read the charges against him, describing how dozens of teenagers and young people were shot to death.

Breivik, in a black suit and jawline beard, read the indictment as the prosecutor spoke, showing no reaction as she listed the injuries the victims suffered on Utoya Island.

He was not physically restrained in court.

Prosecutors outlined his life before the killings, showing a photo of the messy room where he lived at his mother's house, listing his six failed businesses and referring to his many hours playing the online game "World of Warcraft."

Prosecutors said he had "no job, no salary, no money from the government" and was "living off his savings."

He smiled briefly when his "Warcraft" character was shown, one of the few times he showed emotion on Monday.

He also appeared to be overcome with emotion, fighting back tears, when part of his video manifesto "Knights Templar 2083" was played in court.

Lippestad declined to say why Breivik wept, citing attorney-client privilege.

Lawyers for the victims said: "No one thought he was crying for the victims."

A survivor of Utoya Island, Tore Sinding Bekkedal, said during a break in the proceedings that he was surprised to experience "a strange feeling of relief" when prosecutors switched from listing the names of the dead to those of the wounded.

"It was an intense gratitude. It took me by surprise that I felt it, that these wonderful people are still among us, that we managed to save these ones at least," he said.

Breivik is due to begin testifying Tuesday, and asked Monday for his testimony to be broadcast, claiming it as a human right.

Most of the relatives of the victims do not want that to happen, according to lawyers who represent the families of victims and survivors.

The trial was adjourned Monday afternoon after about six hours of legal proceedings.

"It's going to be 10 weeks of hell ... to hear this man, to hear his explanation of why he did it and how he did it," said Trond Henry Blattmann, whose son was killed on Utoya Island.

In November, prosecutors said psychiatrists had determined that Breivik was paranoid and schizophrenic at the time of the attacks and during 13 interviews experts conducted with him afterward.
However, the court sought a second opinion because of the importance of the question of sanity to Breivik's trial.

In a report released this month, two court-appointed psychiatric experts said Breivik was sane at the time of the alleged crimes.
The victims on Utoya Island were among 700 mostly young people attending a Labour Party camp.

It was the same camp Norwegian Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg said he had attended every summer since 1974.

"I think that one of the main messages from Norway after the tragedy ... was that we were going to protect our democracy. And part of our democracy is the divisions of responsibilities between the government and the courts. It's up to the courts to decide whether this man is going to be sentenced or not, whether he is insane or not. It's not a question which is going to be decided by politicians. That's part of our democratic society," Stoltenberg said.
Breivik insists that nobody could believe that he was insane and describes questions about his mental condition as ridiculous, his attorney has said.

Breivik claims the shooting rampage was meant to save Norway from being taken over by multicultural forces and to prevent ethnic cleansing of Norwegians, Lippestad said.

Tore Bjorgo, a terror expert and professor at Norwegian Police University College, said Breivik appears to be overly concerned about his self-image and sees himself in the role of a "fantastic, great person who will save Europe."

"It's we who should decide what kind of a society we want; it's not the terrorists," he said. "And the logic of terrorism is to try to provoke responses to get people to act in ways the terrorists want, and it was important that we didn't do that. We didn't go down that road, and that was, I think, a big victory."
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(CNN) -- Belgium observed a minute's silence Friday as the country holds a national day of mourning for 28 people, most of them children, killed in a horrific bus crash in Switzerland.

Somber crowds gathered in the towns of Heverlee and Lommel, where the children attended two schools, to remember the victims. Many left flowers and lit candles.

Church bells across the country tolled after the silence, and flags flew at half-staff, Belgian public broadcaster RTBF reported.
Twenty-two children and six adults died when the bus slammed into the wall of a tunnel in Sierre in the Swiss canton of Valais as it returned to Belgium from a ski trip.

An additional 24 children -- ages 11 and 12 -- were injured in the crash late Tuesday.

Repatriation of the bodies has started, said Jan Eyckmans, a spokesman for the Belgian Ministry of Health.

Two C-130 military aircraft left from Sion airport in Switzerland and have arrived at Melsbroek airport in Belgium. A third aircraft brought back the luggage, he said.

Three medical planes are bringing back 14 of the injured Friday for treatment at a hospital in Leuven, Eyckmans said. Six children were flown back Thursday night.

Four children remain in the hospital in Switzerland -- one in Bern and three in Lausanne. It's "still too early, medically speaking," to move them, the spokesman said. Their parents are staying nearby.
The Ministry of Health has a crisis team in Brussels and one at each school in Lommel and Heverlee, he said. There are also people on the ground in Switzerland working on bringing everybody back, he added.

A spokeswoman for the mayor of Lommel, Greet Poets, said the town plans to hold a memorial service Wednesday, which the Belgian royal family is expected to attend.

Eyckmans said Belgians came together to pay their respects at 11 a.m. local time.

"All private companies, the government, institutions, radio, TV -- the whole country had a minute of silence, which was quite impressive," he said.

Twenty-two of the victims were Belgian, some of whom have dual nationality, he said.

Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo earlier this week said there were 10 people of Dutch nationality among the victims as well as one of German and one of Polish origin.

Investigators are working to determine why the bus hit the curb on the right side of the tunnel, then crashed headlong into the wall of an emergency stopping point.

Prosecutor Olivier Elsig said the cause of the crash is under investigation.

Initial inquiries indicated the bus, which was new, was not speeding and road conditions were good.

The speed limit in the tunnel is 100 kilometers per hour (62 mph), police said.

Experts are studying CCTV images and speaking to witnesses and passengers who were not badly injured to find out what happened, Elsig said, adding that no other vehicle was involved in the crash.
An autopsy will be carried out on the bus driver, who is among the dead.

Investigators are focusing on three potential causes for the accident, Elsig said -- a technical issue with the bus, a health problem with the driver or human error.

Rescuers reported that the children were wearing their seat belts, he said, but the impact of the crash was so great that the belts did not save the lives of many.
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(CNN) -- The U.N. point man to Syria is sending a mission to Damascus next week to discuss a plan for international monitors to end the daily violence engulfing the country.
A spokesman for Kofi Annan, the U.N.-Arab League envoy to Syria, made the announcement before Annan briefed the U.N. Security Council on Friday.

Annan met last weekend with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in Damascus and the Syrian opposition in Turkey in an effort to end the year of violence in which Syrian security forces have cracked down on protesters.

Annan's moves occurred as shelling and arrests in the country intensified and peaceful marchers took to the streets Friday in nationwide protests calling for "immediate military action," the theme of the day's demonstrations.

Most reports from inside the country indicate the regime is slaughtering civilians to wipe out dissidents seeking al-Assad's ouster. The al-Assad family has ruled Syria for more than four decades.

But al-Assad's regime has said "armed terrorist groups" are behind the bloodshed in Syria and says it has popular support for its actions.

The Syrian government Friday underscored its position on terror in letters to top U.N. officials, including U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. The government said it is protecting its citizens from "terrorists" who are slaughtering and murdering "innocent citizens."
The government said that terrorist groups committed a "massacre" Monday in some neighborhoods of the city of Homs that claimed the lives of about 45 citizens. The letter said there had been "atrocities" in other cities as well, the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency said.

"Terrorists have slaughtered and murdered innocent citizens and photographed and sent it to the stations and satellite channels that contribute to the misinformation and straining the situation and their work is incompatible with the values of substantive information and distort the facts and support terrorism," the ministry said.

The government said Syria is working to find a political solution to the crisis and wants to cooperate with Annan. It argues it has initiated "democratic achievements" over the past year, citing the abolition of the state of emergency, the issuance of the law of multiparty politics and local election law, the issuance of the new constitution and other reforms.

Across Syria, opposition activists said gunfire or explosions could be heard early Friday in several suburban cities in the Damascus region.

Security forces were arresting people in the northeastern city of Deir Ezzor, activists said. Security forces gunned down one civilian, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
There was shelling in Homs for the seventh consecutive day, a resident said.

"Thousands have fled to other city districts and nearby villages and towns," said Abu Mousab of Homs. "What we fear the most is the sporadic shelling."

CNN cannot independently confirm reports of casualties or attacks in Syria because the government has severely restricted the access of international journalists.

Syria launched a tough crackdown last March against protesters peacefully airing their grievances, but the clampdown spiraled out of control and spurred a nationwide anti-government movement.
Political opposition groups, including the Syrian National Council, and fighters such as the Free Syrian Army, have emerged and become key players in the opposition movement. More than 8,000 people have died in the conflict, according to the United Nations, but opposition activists said the overall toll is more than 9,000, mostly civilians.

One of the pressing issues is the fate of civilians caught in the crossfire.

Officials from the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation plan to go on a mission led by the Syrian government to the provinces of Homs, Hama, Tartous, Latakia, Aleppo, Deir Ezzor, Rif Damashq and Daraa to assess humanitarian needs.
"There is no time to waste," said Valerie Amos, the U.N. humanitarian chief. "It is increasingly vital that humanitarian organizations have unhindered access to identify urgent needs and provide emergency care and basic supplies."

Many world powers have denounced the bloody crackdown and demanded that al-Assad leave office, and some politicians across the globe, including U.S. lawmakers, have raised the question of armed intervention.

Russia, which has been an obstacle for a tough U.N. resolution against the regime, said it is awaiting Annan's assessment but stressed that it will never support "military intervention against Syria while forging a decision in the U.N. Security Council."
Government news outlets reported thousands of Syrians gathering Thursday in city squares nationwide to show their "love" and loyalty" for their homeland.

"The reverberating echoes of pro-Syria and pro-leadership chants were heard" in cities across the country, the state-run news agency said.
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Mobile, Alabama (CNN) -- Brianna Adkins stepped off the Carnival Triumph early Friday and into the arms of her anxious parents, bringing to an end the nightmarish journey aboard a crippled ship that was towed to port days after it was due.
It was a big, tight hug between 18-year-old Adkins and her mom and dad, the kind filled with the emotion that reflected the days of uncertainty after the cruise ship was left virtually dead in the water after a reported engine fire knocked out power.
"Just to be with them, just to let them know I'm safe," Adkins said, fighting back tears. "It means just so much to be with them ... you have no idea."
My celebration trup on the Carnival Triumph: From joy to misery
A near party-atmosphere abounded aboard the cruise ship as it docked late Thursday at the Alabama Cruise Terminal, where some passengers hung over balcony rails, while others danced and waved signs.
"I kissed the ground when I got off," said Adkins of Noblesville, Indiana, just north of Indianapolis.
The saga began unfolding early Sunday morning as the Carnival Triumph, originally carrying 3,143 passengers and 1,086 crew members, was making its way to Galveston, Texas, when a fire left the vessel listing to the side and drifting in the Gulf of Mexico.
The ship drifted nearly 90 miles before enough tugboats arrived to tow the massive cruise ship to Mobile.
Almost immediately, reports emerged on social media of deteriorating conditions aboard the ship.
Passengers reported sewage sloshing in the hallways and, in some cases, running down the walls of cabins. Still others said the power outage forced people, especially those in the lower decks or inside cabins, to drag their mattresses to outside decks because of stifling heat.
The power outage also made it impossible for passengers to call loved ones.
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(CNN) -- Five people were killed and five others wounded after an airplane dropped bombs Saturday on a town in South Sudan, a military spokesman in that fledgling country said -- though a Sudanese military spokesman denied any such attack.
Col. Philip Aguer, a spokesman for the Sudan People's Liberation Army of South Sudan, said that the aerial strike hit a market area in Rubkona, which is part of Unity state, at 1 p.m. Saturday (6 a.m. ET).

Abiemnom County in that state, as well as two counties in Warrap state, were also attacked Saturday, Aguer said.
But Al-Sawarmi Khalid, a spokesman for the Sudanese Armed Forces, said, "We have not carried out attacks into South Sudan."
Both military spokesmen referenced Heglig, a key oil installation in South Kordofan state that produces nearly half of Sudan's oil and was seized by South Sudan's military this week.

Aguer insisted Heglig is part of South Sudan.
Meanwhile, Khalid said that Sudanese military forces were "approaching Heglig from all sides."

Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations welcomed a U.N. Security Council statement this week demanding "a complete, immediate and unconditional end to all fighting and a withdrawal of the SPLA from Heglig and an end to aerial bombardments."
"We will observe closely the behavior and attitude of the reaction of the government of the South to this call and if they don't heed it, we will reserve our right to exercise the right of self-defense and we will chase them out, " Ambassador Daffa-Alla Elhag Ali Osman said.

The European Union's foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has called South Sudan's move to occupy Heglig "completely unacceptable" and urged forces to withdraw immediately. The African Union similarly has called on forces to pull out and for aerial bombardments to stop.

Yet South Sudan's ambassador to the United Nations blamed the Khartoum government for attacks on their forces at the border, which she said provoked their actions at Heglig.

"South Sudan had no choice. It had to defend itself to deter attacks on South Sudanese territory," Agnes Oswaha said. "South Sudan is prepared to withdraw troops as long as a mechanism is put in place that the area cannot be used to launch further attacks."
South Sudan gained independence from the north in July, the result of a referendum overwhelmingly approved by voters last year.
The referendum was part of a 2005 peace deal that ended decades of civil war between the two sides that killed about 2 million people.

Despite the split, several outstanding issues have yet to be negotiated, including citizenship, border demarcations and oil revenue sharing.

When they separated, South Sudan acquired three-quarters of Sudan's oil reserves. The two countries have been locked in negotiations over how much the landlocked South Sudan should pay to use a pipeline and processing facilities in the north.
In late July, South Sudan halted oil production after accusing Sudan of "stealing" $815 million worth of its crude. Sudan said it confiscated the oil to make up for unpaid fees.
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Cartagena, Colombia (CNN) -- President Barack Obama called Sunday for a "thorough" and "rigorous" investigation into allegations involving prostitutes and Secret Service agents in Colombia.

Some 11 Secret Service agents and officers are being investigated over preliminary findings that they allegedly brought back several prostitutes to a hotel in Cartagena, U.S. government sources familiar with the investigation have told CNN.

"What happened here in Colombia is being investigated by the director of the Secret Service," said Obama, who spoke in Cartagena, where he was in town for the Summit of the Americas event.
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(CNN) -- One of the founding members of Los Zetas, a ruthless Mexican drug cartel that began as a group of army deserters hired by a drug lord, has been sentenced to 35 years in prison.
Jaime Gonzalez Duran was in the upper echelons of the Zetas leadership and is one of the biggest captures authorities have made against that group.

A judge in Tamaulipas state convicted Gonzalez of organized crime and kidnapping and handed down the sentence, which includes a fine equivalent to 2,251 days of minimum wage.

It is the third sentence against Gonzalez. In 2010, two other courts sent him to prison for 21 and 16 years.

Federal police arrested Gonzalez in November 2008 in Reynosa, Tamaulipas. He had in his possession $150,000 and a military-grade weapon, the federal attorney general's office said.

Before his arrest, he was a bodyguard and hit man for the leader of the Gulf cartel, the office said. The Zetas have since split off from the Gulf cartel and operate as their own cartel.

Three others were sentenced alongside Gonzalez, prosecutors said Thursday.

Benito Pena Gutierrez and Anselmo Rivera Alonso, both former police officers in the town of Guadalupe in the state of Nuevo Leon, were sentenced to 25 years for the kidnappings of four federal agents in 2007.

Another cartel member, Javier Paez Arredondo, was sentenced to 10 years for participating in organized crime.
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Memphis, Tennessee (CNN) -- With just over three minutes left in the state championship, Coach Penny Hardaway called a timeout.

He didn't like what he was seeing. Down by 15 points, his middle schoolers were quitting. It stood against everything he had instilled in them:
Don't use the inner city as an excuse to fail.

You can overcome your circumstances.

Always dream big.

The former NBA All-Star and greatest basketball player in Memphis history huddled his team of 12 together. He looked them in the eyes. He could see his reflection from 25 years ago: young teens from the city's roughest projects longing for positive mentors.

"Just give me all you got," he told them.

He was thinking a fight to the finish would let the players walk out with their heads high, their pride intact, even if they lost.

But what happened next defies explanation, is beyond description. A boy playing for his ailing father did something extraordinary. A man who grew up without one, who'd come to serve as a surrogate dad to a dozen boys, watched in awe.

Hardaway, now 40, made more than $120 million in a pro basketball career that spanned 16 seasons. Yet one of his crowning achievements came not as a player but as coach to the seventh- and eighth-graders of Lester Middle School, the same school that gave him a shot in life.
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(CNN) -- A cache of e-mails leaked to CNN is giving extraordinary insight into the life of Syria's first family during the regime's move to crush a now-year-long civilian uprising.

The e-mails were obtained by CNN's "Anderson Cooper 360" from a source in the region after the e-mail accounts were hacked. They appear to shed light on a family often occupied with YouTube videos and shopping while the brutal crackdown continued, and they also apparently reveal some of Iran's influence over Syria's president.

Just before Bashar al-Assad delivered a speech January 10, an aide apparently e-mailed him, saying a political adviser to the Iranian ambassador was encouraging al-Assad to use "strong and violent" language.

In that speech, al-Assad then promised to strike the opposition with an "iron fist."

There are also e-mails from a man named Hosein Mortada, who -- according to his Facebook page -- is the Damascus bureau chief for two Iranian news networks. Mortada twice offers advice to the president's aide, who passes it on to al-Assad.

On Christmas Eve, Mortada apparently wrote to an al-Assad aide that al Qaeda should not be blamed for a recent attack.
"I even received calls from Iran and Hezbollah, being the director of several Iranian and Lebanese channels, and they advised me NOT to even mention al Qaeda being behind the incident ... because this would be a serious tactical media error," Mortada wrote, according to the e-mail.

December 24 was the day Syrian troops began their onslaught on the Baba Amr neighborhood in Homs, according to activists. The next day, an apparent e-mail from Mortada said his "friends" in the city reported armed people in front of every door were threatening residents and forcing them to protest.

The next day, with Arab League monitors on the ground in Syria, Mortada apparently e-mailed the same aide that Syrian supporters needed to make sure opposition members did not turn out in large numbers in public.

"We need to take control of public squares during this period," he wrote. "At the same time, groups affiliated with us will fill the squares ... so we don't leave them open for others, since the opposition is getting ready to move with the presence of the monitors. In this case, we will block their way and (prevent them) from reaching any square."

CNN has tried to reach Mortada to ask about the authenticity of the e-mails but so far has received no response.

The monitors stayed in Syria for several weeks, visiting various cities and towns as they tried to assess whether the government was upholding its commitment to end the crackdown.

Shortly after the monitors' arrival in late December, an apparently amused al-Assad sent one of his closest advisers a YouTube video that mocked a theory the regime had hidden tanks during the monitors' visit.

"Check out this video on YouTube," al-Assad wrote on December 29, according to the e-mail. The reply in English: "Hahahahahahaha, OMG!!! This is amazing!"
Some of the most interesting insights in the al-Assad e-mails are personal.

In November, as the Syrian military ramped up its attack on Homs, first lady Asma al-Assad seemed more concerned with the latest "Harry Potter" DVD, apparently asking a friend to bring the movie when she comes for a visit.

The first lady in the past year also seems to have spent much of her time online shopping for expensive jewelry, art, and furniture, and e-mailing boutiques in London and Paris.

In one e-mail exchange with an art dealer in London, Asma al-Assad, apparently using a false name, inquires about six artworks that all feature butterflies. The dealer responds that the works cost between £5,000 and £10,500 ($7,800 and $16,500).

The art inquiry was sent October 28, the same day Syrian protesters staged a massive demonstration in the city of Hama, in which they called for an end to al-Assad's rule.

On February 3 -- the same day opposition activists reported more than 200 killed in the "Homs massacre," and a day before the U.N. Security Council was scheduled to meet on Syria -- the first lady apparently e-mails a friend asking whether she should reserve Christian Louboutin shoes costing as much as $7,000 a pair.
"These are really iconic pieces for Spring and some fabulous styles," the e-mail says.

Two days later, mortars and rockets rained down on Homs after the Security Council failed to pass a resolution aimed at stemming the violence. That same day, President al-Assad apparently e-mailed his wife the lyrics and audio file to a song by U.S. country singer Blake Shelton with the words, "God gave me you for the ups and downs/God gave me you for the days of doubt."

One of al-Assad's advisers apparently sent an e-mail containing a picture of a woman wearing only a G-string and a bra.
Other e-mails contain suggestions for al-Assad's speeches and indicate further influence by Iran.

Al-Assad should use "emotional" language about pro-Syrian "martyrs," wrote a female aide named Hadeel, who said she consulted with a number of people, including a political adviser to the Iranian ambassador.

He should "send a huge invitation to the families of the martyrs so it seems like a celebration," the e-mail said, and "have one of the widows of the martyrs make a strong statement on behalf of the families."

In a December 1 e-mail, Hadeel urged al-Assad to use tough language in his speeches.

"Threaten Israel and show our power as a country and a people in case our security is threatened (standing in the face of anyone who wants evil for Syria -- pointing ... at our real enemy)," she writes.
"Just like you said in your first speech, if a war is imposed on us, we welcome it."

She said al-Assad looked good in a military uniform during a speech and signed off by saying, "I am going to the movies."
One e-mail claims to have duped CNN into reporting the words of a fake pro-Syrian commentator. The woman says she created a fake username on Facebook and wrote a commentary that she said later appeared on the air.

An e-mail sent by the president to himself contains talking points for an interview he gave to Barbara Walters on the U.S. TV network ABC in early December. He sent the e-mail Jan. 17; there is no information on who sent the original message or why he re-sent it weeks later.

Al-Assad was to briefly mention government reforms, the e-mail said, but not go into detail because "Americans are too stupid to understand details."

"It would be worth mentioning how ur personality has been attacked and praised in the last decade according to the media," goes the e-mail, written in English. "At one point u were viewed as a hero and in other times u were the 'bad guy.' Americans love these kinds of things and get convinced by it."
Whoever wrote the e-mail ended by saying, "Thank you. U are amazing!"

More fawning from his al-Assad's inner circle came in another e-mail, with the sender writing in English, "I never met an amazing person like u... i get so proud when people meet u and go tell the world how amazing ur. Miss u."

Amid the violence, it appears not even close friends could persuade al-Assad to step down.

"It seems like its getting worse rather than better -- is that the case, or is it the media? What is the long-term plan?" wrote the daughter of Qatar's emir to the first lady, according to an e-mail from August. "It seems like there needs to be an exit strategy."
She made a similar suggestion later that month.

"From what I see there's so many innocent lives being lost. There's still an opportunity for transfer of power, transition without risking a lot," she wrote, according to the e-mail. "It's a natural time to address the nation with the intention of stepping down. The lives lost cannot be retrieved, but there's still a chance to keep a positive image."

Months later, she suggested exile in Doha.
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