Wary France creates National Guard
PARIS — France’s government has approved a decree creating a National Guard to bolster security against extremist attacks across the country.
The Cabinet adopted the measure during its weekly meeting Wednesday.
The Guard, which is expected to grow to 84,000 people by 2018, is a new, enhanced version of the existing reserve forces. After the Nov. 13 attacks in Paris last year, President Francois Hollande proposed creating the force to include citizens willing to get involved in serving their country.
Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said creation of the Guard “is a response to the need for an adaptation of our security and defense strategy.”
“It is also a response to the patriotic spirit that was expressed after the attacks,” he told reporters after the Cabinet meeting.
Authorities want to be able to deploy more than 9,000 Guard members each day on the ground in 2018, through a rotation system.
Syrian seized by 3 dead in German cell
BERLIN — A 22-year-old Syrian man arrested in Germany for a suspected Islamic extremist bomb plot killed himself Wednesday in a prison cell in Leipzig, Saxony state’s Justice Ministry said late Wednesday.
Justice Ministry spokesman Joerg Herold said Jaber Albakr killed himself sometime in the evening but that the death was still being investigated. Authorities did not say how the death came about.
Police had Albakr under surveillance by German domestic intelligence since last month and were preparing to raid his apartment in the city of Chemnitz when he escaped on Saturday.
Albakr was observed exiting the apartment building Saturday, and authorities fired a warning shot. He was able to elude police on the scene and flee the city. Inside the apartment they found highly volatile explosives and a homemade bomb vest.
Albakr, who had been granted asylum after coming to Germany last year, was arrested Monday in Leipzig after three fellow Syrians tied him up and alerted police.
German authorities have said they believe he had links to the Islamic State and was thought to be planning to attack a Berlin airport.
Earlier Wednesday, Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere said that Albakr had undergone a security check last year but it did not turn up anything suspicious.
Russians test-fire 3 ballistic missiles
MOSCOW — The Russian military test-fired three ballistic missiles Wednesday, drills that come amid a U.S.-Russian rift over Syria.
The Defense Ministry said a nuclear submarine of the Russian Pacific Fleet launched an intercontinental ballistic missile from the Sea of Okhotsk off Russia’s far east at a military firing range in the northwest.
A Northern Fleet nuclear submarine later fired a missile in the opposite direction from the Barents Sea, in the far northwest.
Separately, a ground-based Topol intercontinental ballistic missile was fired from the Plesetsk launchpad in northern Russia at the Kamchatka range in eastern Russia.
The launches come as U.S.-Russian relations have hit their lowest point in years after the collapse of a truce in Syria, where Russian warplanes are backing the Syrian army.
Bermuda starts to feel Hurricane Nicole
HAMILTON, Bermuda — Heavy wind and rain began battering Bermuda late Wednesday as the British territory braced for Hurricane Nicole, which became a Category 4 storm as it tracked toward the tiny island.
The U.S. National Hurricane Center in Miami said the storm is expected to pass near or over Bermuda this morning. Nicole was about 180 miles south-southwest of Bermuda late Wednesday night. It had maximum sustained winds of 130 mph and was moving north-northeast at 12 mph.
The Hurricane Center urged islanders to rush hurricane preparations to completion.
While Bermuda has sturdy infrastructure and is accustomed to storms, government officials urged people to prepare for the hurricane and remain indoors Wednesday and today.