El Salvador draws ire of U.S. with judges move

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador — The vote by El Salvador’s new congress to remove the magistrates of the Supreme Court’s constitutional chamber and the attorney general on the newly elected legislative body’s very first day drew concern and condemnation from multinational groups and the United States.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele on Sunday about the previous day’s vote, saying “that an independent judiciary is essential to democratic governance,” the State Department said.

Bukele’s New Ideas party won 56 out of the 84 seats in the Legislative Assembly in February elections that pushed aside the country’s traditional parties, already weakened by corruption scandals.

The dominant electoral performance raised concerns that Bukele would seek to change the court, which along with the previous congress, had been the only obstacles that the very popular leader faced. The vote Saturday to remove the five magistrates was 64 lawmakers in favor, 19 opposed and one abstention.

Scrutiny increases on Israeli officials

JERUSALEM — Officials came under growing scrutiny Sunday for ignoring warnings about safety lapses at one of Israel’s most visited holy sites, as the country mourned 45 ultra-Orthodox Jews killed in a stampede at a festival there.

The disaster at Mount Meron also heated up the debate over the role of the ultra-Orthodox minority in Israel and the refusal of some of its leaders to acknowledge the authority of the state. The festival had drawn some 100,000 people.

On Sunday, a group of retired police commissioners called on the prime minister to launch an independent commission with wide-ranging powers to investigate.

Islamic leader among 19 killed in Congo

BENI, Congo — An Islamic leader in Congo’s eastern town of Beni was killed during evening prayers by unidentified gunmen after days of violent attacks by rebels left at least 19 people dead, officials said.

Unidentified gunmen came into Beni’s central mosque Saturday, shooting dead Sheikh Ali Amin Uthman, the representative of the Islamic community of Beni, according to the head of the mosque, Sheikh Moustapha Matsongani.

The identity of the attackers was not yet known. Matsongani told The Associated Press that Amin had been receiving threats from the Allied Democratic Forces for more than a year, and had been questioned by security services days earlier about those threats.

“We asked him to leave Beni if possible to flee the death threats,” said the governor of the North Kivu province, Nzanzu Carly Kasivita. “Investigations are underway.”

Amin had often gone on the radio to denounce extremism.

His attack came on the heels of attacks in villages for days that left 19 dead, according to civil society groups.

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