1. Philippines: bombs at cathedral during mass kill 20 people
Two explosions at a Roman Catholic cathedral killed 20 people and injured dozens more on the southern island of Jolo in the Philippines. The attack came nearly a week after minority Muslims in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation endorsed a new autonomous region in the south. Voters in Sulu province, where Jolo is located, rejected it.
Related: Filipino Muslims approve new autonomous region in referendum
Muslims in the southern Philippines overwhelmingly approved in a referendum the creation of a new autonomous region in hopes of ending nearly half a century of unrest, election officials said.
The Commission on Elections announced late Friday that the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao is deemed ratified following a referendum on Monday. It says 1.5 million people voted in favor.
Bangsamoro replaces an existing poverty-wracked autonomous region with a larger, better-funded and more powerful entity.
It is the result of a tumultuous peace effort by the government in Manila and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, the main Muslim rebel group, to seal a deal that was signed in 2014 but languished in the Philippine Congress until it was finally approved last year. Bloodshed including the siege of Marawi city by Islamic State-linked militants and other bombings and attacks in the south threatened to derail it.
2. Duterte: Communism is a “rotten ideology” leading to “mass insanity”
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte condemned the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) as violent, hopeless, and insane during a speech Thursday, and urged members of the U.S.-designated terrorist organization to turn away from their “rotten ideology.”
Since becoming president in 2016, Duterte has repeatedly attempted to reach a peace deal with the CPP, issuing several ceasefires intended as a gesture of goodwill. The communists have rejected his advances, leading to an announcement last year that he would instead create a special police unit appointed to find, disarm, and kill violent communist terrorists.
While attacking the communist ideology at home, Duterte has struggled to convince Filipinos to accept an alliance with the world’s largest communist country, China. During his speech Tuesday, he claimed that China had rejected communism, despite being ruled by an official Communist Party whose radical atheist leaders have placed tens of thousands of people in internment camps for their faith.
3. Venezuela's Maduro orders US diplomats gone within 72 hours
Venezuela's president breaks diplomatic relations with the U.S. over President Trump's decision to recognize opposition leader Juan Guaido as interim president. Maduro has given US personnel just 72 hours to leave Venezuela.
4. Exchange of fire at tense Israel-Syria Border overnight (January 23)
Israeli troops say they identified shots fired from across the Syrian border towards them. They fired back, and there were no injuries among IDF forces. In light of the tension on the northern and southern fronts, the Iron Dome — Israel's missile interception system was deployed in the center of the country. Prime Minister Benjamin Netnayhau said that Israel is prepared for any military scenario.
5. Russia jails 11 Daesh members
The Moscow District Military Court has sentenced 11 Central Asian members of the Daesh militant group to prison terms ranging from six to 18 years.
The Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) told TASS news agency that “the specified persons in two terrorist cells were simultaneously detained by FSB employees on November 12 2016, in Moscow and St. Petersburg.”
FSB explained that “the terrorists, one of whom came from Syria, planned to carry out terror attacks, as well as mass murders of citizens in crowded places. They were going to capture all attacks on video for further release on Internet.
6. Nigeria tells gay citizens: “Leave the country or face prosecution”
A spokeswoman for the federal Nigeria Police Force (NPS) recently urged gay people in the country to flee or face prosecution under the Same-Sex Prohibition Act, warning that it will not condone any violation of that law 'no matter how small,' several Nigerian news outlets reported on Wednesday. [...]
“If you are homosexually inclined, Nigeria is not a place for you. There is a law [Same-Sex Prohibition Act] here that criminalizes homosexual clubs, associations, and organizations with penalties of up to 15 years in jail.
“So, if you are a homosexual in nature, leave the country or face prosecution. But before you say, ‘does this matter?’ Kindly note that anything against the law of the land is criminal and all crimes will be punished accordingly no matter how small you think it is.”
[...] Citing Amnesty International, the Associated Press (AP) reported in 2014 that Nigeria is one of 38 countries (70 percent of the continent) with laws criminalizing homosexuality.
“Africans largely regard homosexuality as a deviation from their cultural, traditional and religious inclinations,” Pulse noted.
7. Italian politician blames migrant drownings on those who favour illegal immigration
In an appearance on TV show, Non è l'arena, Brothers of Italy leader, Giorgia Meloni, explains why she does not accept the narrative that the blame for drowned migrants goes to those who want to stop illegal immigration.
8. Kremlin-linked contractors help guard Venezuela's Maduro
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Private military contractors who do secret missions for Russia flew into Venezuela in the past few days to beef up security for President Nicolas Maduro in the face of U.S.-backed opposition protests, according to two people close to them.
A third source close to the Russian contractors also told Reuters there was a contingent of them in Venezuela, but could not say when they arrived or what their role was.
Russia, which has backed Maduro’s socialist government to the tune of billions of dollars, this week promised to stand by him after opposition leader Juan Guaido declared himself president with Washington’s endorsement.
It was the latest international crisis to split the global superpowers, with the United States and Europe backing Guaido, and Russia and China urging non-interference.
Yevgeny Shabayev, leader of a local chapter of a paramilitary group of Cossacks with ties to Russian military contractors, said he had heard the number of Russian contractors in Venezuela may be about 400.
9. Keeping ISIS fanatics at bay: How 30ft UK watch towers on Lebanon's border are part of a £62 million drive to repel a terrorist invasion
They are strategically located along the border – 39 watch towers protecting Lebanon from an Islamic State invasion.
The 30ft towers, including seven used by the Army in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, are part of a £62million drive to repel IS forces based in Syria.
Lebanese soldiers, mentored by British veterans including former paras and marines, are using the positions to catch or kill hundreds of fighters a month.
A total of 11,000 Lebanese troops have been trained by a UK team, including 40 veterans, in how to use the towers to spot approaching terrorists since the project began in 2012. Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt yesterday insisted they had helped to stop an IS invasion.
10. CBC Power & Politics panel discuss Kingston youth charged with terror-related offence