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21:27, 28 May 2017 Sunday
17:38, 17 September 2012 Monday

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Spain's Aguirre, influential Spanish politician, resigns

Aguirre has been a huge vote-getter for the PP in populous Madrid, and was the first woman politician in Spain to be seen as a possible future president.

World Bulletin / News Desk 

Madrid regional president Esperanza Aguirre, an influential Spanish politician and a leader of the conservative wing of the ruling centre-right People's Party (PP), resigned on Monday in a surprise announcement.

Aguirre has been a huge vote-getter for the PP in populous Madrid, and was the first woman politician in Spain to be seen as a possible future president.

She has also clashed publicly with Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy, who has moved the party in a more moderate direction.

Aguirre announced in 2011 that she had breast cancer but on Monday said her health was only part of a decision to end her three-decade political career.

"I want to spend more time with my grandchildren," said Aguirre, who has been president of the Community of Madrid, the region that includes the country's capital, since 2003.

She was Spain's first female head of the Senate, its first female regional president and also served as education minister.

She brought bilingual English-Spanish teaching to Madrid schools and opened many hospitals in the region.

Aguirre denied her resignation was linked to her recent public disagreement with Rajoy over the early release of terminal cancer patient Jesus Maria Uribetxeberria Bolinaga, a convicted kidnapper from violent Basque separatist group ETA.

Rajoy had said he had to follow the law on the release, but Aguirre and other hardliners had said a way should have been found to keep him in prison.

In recent months Aguirre has championed Madrid as the site for a Las Vegas Sands casino.

The capital beat rival Barcelona in a charm offensive, which saw the project, expected to be worth up to 17 billion euros ($22 billion) in investment, awarded to Madrid earlier this month.

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Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution
Libya extremist group Ansar al-Sharia announces dissolution

The Libyan jihadist group Ansar al-Sharia, which is linked to Al-Qaeda and deemed a terrorist organisation by the UN and United States, announced its "dissolution" in a communique published online on Saturday. Washington accuses the group of being behind the September 11, 2012 attack on the US consulate in the eastern city of Benghazi in which ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans were killed. Ansar al-Sharia is one of the jihadist groups that sprung up in Benghazi, Libya's second largest city, in the chaos following the death of dictator Moamer Kadhafi in 2011. They overran the city in 2014. East Libyan military strongman Khalifa Haftar earlier this month launched an offensive to oust jihadist fighters from their two remaining strongholds in Benghazi. In its communique Ansar al-Sharia said it had been "weakened" by the fighting. The group lost its leader, Mohammed Azahawi, in clashes with Haftar's forces in Benghazi at the end of 2014. Most of its members then defected to the so-called Islamic State group. Ansar al-Sharia later joined the Revolutionary Shura Council of Benghazi, a local alliance of Islamist militias. At its zenith, Ansar al-Sharia was present in Benghazi and Derna in eastern Syria, with offshoots in Sirte and Sabratha, western Libya. The organisation took over barracks and other sites abandoned by the ousted Kadhafi forces and transformed them into training grounds for hundreds of jihadists seeking to head to Iraq or Syria.