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French Military To Leave Central African Republic

France is ending its military mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), three years after it intervened to stop mass killing after a rebellion ousted former president Francois Bozize.

The withdrawal of the 2,000 French troops comes as a fresh wave of killings has rocked CAR.

France says Sangaris succeeded in its mission to stop fighting in CAR.

Some 350 French soldiers will remain in the country to provide back up to Minusca, the UN mission in the country.

Air Strikes Kill Dozens In Yemeni Prison Complex

Dozens of people have been killed at a Yemeni prison complex in air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, reports say.

Strikes hit a building used as a prison in the al-Zaydiya security headquarters in the western port of Hudaydah, security and medical officials say.

The city is under the control of Houthi rebels, who have been battling the government since 2014. Rebels and inmates were among the 60 dead, officials said. Dozens more are believed to have been wounded.

The prison was holding 84 inmates when it was hit three times late on Saturday, reports said. Pictures from the scene showed badly wounded people being rushed to hospital.

The coalition, which backs Yemen’s exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, has been criticised for the number of civilians killed in its air strikes. But a coalition statement quoted by Reuters news agency suggested that the building was a legitimate target and said “targeting protocols and procedures were followed fully”. “This building is used by Houthi militia and the forces of the deposed president as a command and control centre for their military operations,” the statement said, referring to former head of state Ali Abdullah Saleh who is backing the rebels.

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Geert Wilders Dutch Politician To Face Trial Inciting Hatred

Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders is due to go on trial accused of racial discrimination and inciting hatred.

The charges were brought after he led a chant for fewer Moroccans in the Netherlands at a rally 18 months ago.

Mr Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party (PVV), says that he will not attend Monday’s trial in Schiphol, calling it “a travesty”. If convicted, he faces a fine and a year in prison. Mr Wilders has repeatedly criticised Islam, calling for the Koran to be banned and for the closure of all mosques in the Netherlands.

But prosecutors say he crossed the line at a 2014 rally of his PVV party when he asked supporters if they wanted “fewer or more Moroccans” in the Netherlands. After supporters chanted back “fewer”, he replied: “We’ll organise that.”

Mr Wilders has denounced the trial as an attempt to suppress freedom of speech. “This trial is a political trial, in which I refuse to co-operate,” he said in a statement.

In 2011, Mr Wilders was acquitted of incitement after being accused of encouraging hatred towards Muslims. The latest trial comes as opinion polls show the PVV doing well, ahead of parliamentary elections in March. The party is now almost neck-and-neck with Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s liberal VVD, with each predicted to win between 25 to 29 seats in the 150-seat parliament.

Nato Secretary General Does Not Want Another ‘Cold War’

Nato is not seeking confrontation with Russia and does not want another Cold War, Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said.

The planned deployment of 4,000 extra troops to eastern Europe aims to prevent, not provoke conflict, he said. Despite current tensions, the military alliance does not see Russia as a threat, he added.

Relations between the west and Russia are at their lowest point since the Cold War. The US and European Union imposed sanctions on Russia following its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula in 2014.

The war in Syria has also been a flashpoint for tensions, with key Western powers accusing Russia of war crimes in its bombardment of opposition-held areas in support of the Syrian government.

Russia is in many ways a weak country. Its leadership has a strong sense of encirclement – a view that the West is only eager to do it down – and, rightly or wrongly, this is driving Mr Putin’s more assertive approach. That is what is making Nato allies like the three Baltic Republics and Poland so worried. That is why countries like Romania and Bulgaria worry about Russia’s behaviour in the Black Sea region. And that is why Nato has sought to provide visible and highly symbolic reinforcements to its northern and south-eastern flanks.

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Rebel Group ELN Begin To Release Hostages In Colombia

Colombia’s second-biggest rebel group has begun the process of releasing a hostage, a key condition for the start of peace talks with the government, officials say.

Former congressman Odin Sanchez has been held by the National Liberation Army (ELN) since he volunteered to swap places with his ill brother in April.

The peace talks were due to begin on Thursday in Ecuador. But President Juan Manuel Santos said Mr Sanchez had to be released first. The government remained committed to “advancing with this process”, he added.

The guerrilla group was founded in 1964 to fight Colombia’s unequal distribution of land and riches, inspired by the Cuban revolution of 1959. Over the decades, the group has attacked large landholders and multinational companies, and repeatedly blown up oil pipelines. To finance itself it has resorted to extortion, kidnappings and drug trafficking. It has been strongest in rural areas.

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