Australia, Papua New Guinea sign pact
CANBERRA, Australia -- The Australian government signed a security pact with its nearest neighbor Papua New Guinea on Thursday that strengthens Australia's place as the preferred security partner in a region where China's influence is growing.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his Papuan counterpart James Marape signed the agreement in Australia's Parliament House six months later than initially planned.
The June date was abandoned after a security deal struck between the United States and Marape's government sparked protests in the South Pacific nation in May over concerns that it undermined Papua New Guinea's sovereignty.
Marape said the agreement with Australia respects both nations' sovereignty and was initiated by his government.
He said the security agreements with Australia and the United States did not mean he was siding with those nations in their strategic competition against China.
"Our major foreign policy as friends to all, enemies to none remains. And it's never picking sides," Marape told reporters.
Albanese said both Australia and Papua New Guinea's negotiators achieved what they wanted in the agreement.
Russian school shooting leaves 2 dead
MOSCOW -- A Russian girl shot several classmates at school Thursday, killing one person and wounding five others before killing herself, state news agencies and authorities said.
The shooting happened at a school in Bryansk, a city in a region of the same name that borders Ukraine, Russia's Investigative Committee said.
One of the people wounded was in serious condition, Russian state news agency RIA Novosti said.
A fellow student told RIA Novosti that the girl took the gun to the school in a tube for carrying papers. She told the state news agency that when the shooting began, two girls, including the twin sister of the 14-year-old shooter, came running into their classroom.
A preliminary investigation found that the armed girl fired a pump-action shotgun at her classmates, Russia's Investigative Committee said.
Video shared by RIA Novosti showed children cowered in a classroom behind a door barricaded with upended desks and chairs.
The shooter's father was taken for questioning as a witness, RIA Novosti said. Investigators wanted to ask him how his daughter came into possession of the gun, the Telegram channel Shot reported.
The school's director was also being questioned about how the girl managed to bring the weapon into the school and about the state of the school's security systems, state news agency Tass reported.
Court leaves Niger's sanctions in place
ABUJA, Nigeria -- West Africa's top court on Thursday rejected a request by Niger's junta for lifting of coup-related sanctions imposed by its neighbors, ruling that the junta is unconstitutional and therefore lacks the authority to make such a request.
Ater the July coup that toppled Niger's President Mohamed Bazoum, the West African regional bloc ECOWAS imposed sanctions including shutting borders with the member country, suspending financial transactions and freezing Niger's assets. Neighboring Nigeria cut off power that supplied 70% of Niger's electricity.
Niger challenged the sanctions at the ECOWAS Court of Justice in the Nigerian capital Abuja arguing they were causing severe hardship for Niger's citizens, including by curtailing supplies of food and medicine. Niger's coup leaders asked for a provisional halt to the sanctions pending a final judgement on the issue.
Delivering the ruling Thursday, Justice Dupe Atoki called Niger's junta the result of "an unconstitutional change of government" and said that it is not recognized as a member state of the regional bloc.
Sierra Leone to question ex-president
FREETOWN, Sierra Leone -- A former president of Sierra Leone has been called in for questioning by police over recent attacks that officials say was a failed coup, an official said Thursday.
The police summoned ex-President Ernest Bai Koroma to its headquarters "for questioning on the failed attempted coup" toward the end of last month, Information Minister Cherno Bah said in a statement. Koroma's summons follows the earlier arrest of his former security aide.
Dozens of gunmen launched an attack on Nov. 26 in the West African nation's capital of Freetown during which they broke into Sierra Leone's key armory and into a prison where the majority of the more than 2,000 inmates were freed.
At least 18 members of the security forces were killed during the clashes, while more than 50 suspects -- including military officers -- have been arrested so far.
Among those arrested was Amadu Koita, who worked as a security guard for Koroma until 2018 when the former president left office. Police on Wednesday released an image that they say shows Koita with a gun in a surveillance photo captured when the prison was attacked. A bodyguard of the former president was also killed during the attack.
Koroma said that he would honor the police summons and asked his supporters to be calm, according to a statement issued by his office.