Iran uses drill to unveil largest warship
TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's navy began a short-range missile drill in the Gulf of Oman on Wednesday and inaugurated its largest military vessel, state TV reported, amid heightened tensions over Tehran's nuclear program and a U.S. pressure campaign against the Islamic Republic.
The two-day missile drill was being held in the gulf's southeastern waters and two new Iranian-made warships joined the exercise: The missile-launching Zereh, or "armor," and the country's largest military ship the Makran, a logistics vessel with a helicopter pad named for a coastal region in southern Iran.
President Donald Trump in 2018 unilaterally withdrew the U.S. from Iran's nuclear deal, in which Tehran had agreed to limit its uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump cited Iran's ballistic missile program among other issues in withdrawing from the accord.
When the U.S. then ramped up sanctions, Iran gradually and publicly abandoned the deal's limits on its nuclear development as a series of escalating incidents pushed the two countries to the brink of war.
TikTok stars' sentences tossed in Egypt
CAIRO -- An Egyptian court has overturned the sentences of two young women who were convicted and imprisoned last year on charges of "violating family values" and "inciting debauchery" after they gained fame on TikTok, according to state-run media.
The case drew widespread attention as Egyptian prosecutors waged a far-ranging legal battle last year against what they considered public immorality in social media.
The two women were among a handful of social media influencers, including a female pop star and a belly dancer, to come under scrutiny for their posts in recent years. As their social media followings and, in some cases, income earned through videos have grown, young female influencers have faced a conservative backlash in a country where activist lawyers and prosecutors take it upon themselves to enforce strict social norms for women.
The women, Haneen Hossam and Mawada el-Adham, were 20 and 22 when they were convicted and sentenced in July to two years in prison. They became stars on TikTok, Instagram and other social media platforms with playful videos they posted of themselves dancing, lip-syncing and singing.
Prosecutors accused the women of "indecent" activity, homing in on one clip Hossam posted on Instagram in which she encouraged female followers to try getting into the social media influencer game by posting videos of themselves to the app Likee, which pays creators based on the number of views they rack up.
Prosecutors accused Hossam of instigating young women to sell sex on the app and of human trafficking. The women denied the charges against them.
German spy chief fired over attack probe
BERLIN -- The domestic intelligence chief in Germany's northeastern state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania has been fired over his agency's failure to pass on information about a 2016 truck attack on a Christmas market in Berlin that killed 12 people.
German news agency dpa reported that Reinhard Mueller was removed from his post Wednesday.
Mueller had told lawmakers that his agency did not immediately transmit information about possible supporters of Islamist attacker Anis Amri to investigators who were probing the attack.
An informant reported in 2017 he had heard that a Berlin crime family helped Amri flee the capital after he drove a stolen truck into the crowded Christmas market.
This information was only passed on to investigators two years later, after the informant's handler reached out directly to federal authorities.
Twelve people were killed and dozens more were injured in the attack, which was later claimed by the Islamic State group.
Navalny to return home amid arrest threat
MOSCOW -- Top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny says he plans to go home to Russia despite the authorities' threats to put him once again behind bars.
Navalny, who has been convalescing in Germany from an August poisoning with a nerve agent that he has blamed on the Kremlin, said Russian President Vladimir Putin was now trying to deter him from coming home with new legal motions. The Kremlin has denied a role in the opposition leader's poisoning.
Navalny said he will fly home from Germany on Sunday.
At the end of December, the Federal Penitentiary Service warned Navalny that he faced a real prison term if he fails to immediately report to its office in line with the terms of a suspended sentence he received for a 2014 conviction on charges of embezzlement and money-laundering that he rejected as politically motivated. The European Court for Human Rights had ruled that his conviction was unlawful.