News A displaced family camp under a tree providing partial shade from the midday sun

Mediators said it was now unclear if South Sudanese rebels would start face-to-face peace talks with the government on Saturday, dampening hopes of a swift end to weeks of ethnic fighting in the world's youngest state.

Saharan dust clouds likely to bring ghoulish weather phenomenon to the UK

Will it rain blood on Halloween? Saharan dust clouds likely to bring ghoulish weather phenomenon to the UK

Warm fronts expected to carry large amounts of red Saharan sand which, as the warm spell turns to rain and possibly even snow at the end of the week, will fall in liquid droplets that look like blood.

Cold Sea Stories, Paweł Huelle, trans. Antonia Lloyd-Jones

These short stories are dizzying, beautiful – and occasionally verge on the ridiculous
Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is seen by the West as an ally against al-Qa’ida’s increasing presence in the Sahara, has ruled over a north-west African country that has been largely stable since he seized power in 2008

President on the mend after 'accidental' shooting

The Mauritanian President appeared on television to call for calm yesterday, hours after being shot by soldiers in what he said was an accident.

Our team is a model for other generations,’ say Dominique
(left) and Jean

Tutsis and Hutus unite to bury memory of Rwanda’s civil war

Dominique and Jean bear the scars of a brutal conflict. Then they were enemies. Now they find themselves in the same volleyball team – and a friendship has blossomed

Album: Alhousseini Anivolla, Anewal/The Walking Man (Riverboat Records)

The Tuareg desert rock (not blues, as some have it) of Tinariwen and Etran Finatawa becomes a retrospective affair on this debut by the latter's guitarist.

Daniel Howden: In Nairobi, business is booming in the gleaming new branches of KFC

The city's new plazas are full of South African fast-food outlets copying those in the US

Islamist rebels from Ansar Dine fighting near Timbuktu

Timbuktu begs: save us from al-Qa’ida

Mayor of historic city calls for foreign intervention to help fight militants

Leading article: Ms Gates throws down the gauntlet

The phrase "family planning" has the whiff of a more euphemistic age: in the affluent West, it has become a fact of life both as familiar as brushing one's teeth, and as basic to the health of society. It is hard to imagine how a country like Britain could have coped with the complex challenges of the modern world if families had continued to grow in size, as they did in the 19th century.

Western living 'fuels cancer rates'

Unhealthy Western ways of living are likely to fuel a massive surge in cancer rates around the world, experts have claimed.

After 8,000 miles, Martin the cuckoo is almost home

It's nearly here, the best-loved sound of spring, the double note of the cuckoo: in fact, it's in southern Spain, on the last leg of a 4,000-mile journey from Central Africa.

British Embassy staff quit Mali after coup

Staff are being withdrawn from the British Embassy in Mali in the wake of the military coup.

Britons warned to leave Mali after attempted coup

British citizens have been warned to leave the African state of Mali unless they have "urgent business".

Bear Grylls was recently introduced to David Cameron

Bear Grylls leaves Discovery Channel

Intrepid TV adventurer and Chief Scout Bear Grylls has left the Discovery Channel after a row over "new programming", his publicist said today.

Jerome Taylor: Al-Qa'ida or not, this spread of terror could be disastrous

Violent Islamists have started to use increasingly bold tactics in the north

Jerome Taylor: Largely unnoticed, violent Islamist groups have been looking across the Sahara

Boko Haram's goals are still inherently local, but there are fears that more internationalist groups may seek to link up

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Independent Travel
Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – Five-star MS Swiss Corona 7 nights from £999pp
Lake Como St Moritz & the Bernina Express 7 nights from £809pp
Vietnam
Lake Maggiore, Orta & the Matterhorn 7 nights from £939pp
South Africa
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Prices correct as of 19 December 2014
A Christmas without hope: Fears grow in Gaza that the conflict with Israel will soon reignite

Christmas without hope

Gaza fears grow that conflict with Israel will soon reignite
After 150 years, you can finally visit the grisliest museum in the country

The 'Black Museum'

After 150 years, you can finally visit Britain's grisliest museum
No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

No ho-ho-hos with Nick Frost's badass Santa

Doctor Who Christmas Special TV review
Chilly Christmas: Swimmers take festive dip for charity

Chilly Christmas

Swimmers dive into freezing British waters for charity
Veterans' hostel 'overwhelmed by kindness' for festive dinner

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all