Newspaper headlines: Cult leader guilty, IS Afghan advance and Labour's Oldham poll win

The background to the case of a Maoist cult leader who sexually assaulted women under his control is explored in detail in Saturday's press following his conviction at a London court.

Aravindan Balakrishnan was found guilty by a jury at Southwark Crown Court of raping two of his followers and a string of indecent assaults - as well as keeping his daughter captive for more than 30 years.

The Sun says the 75-year-old, who will be sentenced in January, faces spending the rest of his life in jail.

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The Daily Telegraph is among several papers to highlight the south London coroner's decision to reopen the file on the 1997 death of one of the followers of so-called Comrade Bala. An open verdict was recorded at the inquest into the death of Sian Davies, who had a child with Balakrishnan, and died after falling from a window at the cult's base in Brixton.

Starting in the 1970s, Balakrishnan was said to have brainwashed women into believing he had god-like powers. The Times says it was "difficult to envisage" him as a charismatic cult leader. The unlikely Svengali ruled with fear, says its headline.

The Independent carries comments from his "deeply traumatised" daughter. Although years of beatings and mind control has left her unable to cope with every day society, she has forgiven her father, it notes.

The Daily Mirror highlights the daughter's assertion that she "felt like a caged bird". In a leading article, the Mirror says it was distressing Balakrishnan was able to get away with his "vile crimes" for so long.

Questions were being asked, says the Guardian, over why the cult had not been noticed by local authorities. Some of the properties Balakrishnan used were council houses and one of the members used a wheelchair and was visited regularly by carers from Lambeth social services, it reports.


Eye-catching headlines


'Going global'

As the UK extends its air strikes against Islamic State jihadists to Syria, the lead story in the Times focuses on the expansion by an affiliate of the group into areas of eastern Afghanistan.

Reporting from Abdel Khel, Anthony Loyd says up to 1,600 IS fighters are ruling much of four districts south of Jallalabad with the same ruthlessness that characterises the group's regime in Syria and Iraq.

The surge in mountain territory close to the border with Pakistan is said to have followed the withdrawal of Western combat forces and the splintering of the Taliban.

In its leader column, the Times turns its attention to the way IS and its sympathisers have "gone global". "The struggle in which British forces have expanded their role is as much ideological as military, and could last for decades", says the Times.

According to the Independent's defence correspondent Kim Sengupta, the international alliance carrying out air strikes against IS in Syria "has, in effect, become a purely Western enterprise" as regional partners slip away and more European states join the mission.

The Daily Mail and the Sun both reference the case Prime Minister David Cameron made to Parliament this week for action against IS.

The Mail wants future debate on Syria be conducted with "more honesty", saying many questions remain unanswered. "There is the question of whether British ground troops may eventually be deployed... And how long will the campaign last?"

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The Sun says Mr Cameron had some convincing arguments but his Commons victory "does not mask the fact there is little public appetite for further British involvement. That is why it is vital he does not gloss over the difficulties ahead".

Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph, reports the Queen and other members of the Royal family have had their security stepped up in the wake of the British strikes in Syria, while the Daily Express carries warnings from US security experts about the risk of an attack in the UK.

A suggestion that counter-terrorism officials have established one of the jihadists behind last month's Paris attacks visited two British cities earlier this year, features in the Guardian.


What the commentators say...

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Media captionThe Times columnist Matthew Syed and Melanie Eusebe, professor at the Hult Business School, join the BBC News Channel to review Saturday's front pages

Defiant Corbyn

Political commentators attempt to assess what Labour's victory in the Oldham West and Royton by-election means for the party's leader Jeremy Corbyn.

A defiant Mr Corbyn, says the Guardian, is to tell critics in his shadow cabinet that his leadership has been strengthened by the emphatic win - and by his success this week in securing a majority in the party for his opposition to air strikes in Syria.

In its leader column, the paper says the Labour leader can undoubtedly "breathe a sigh of relief" after a "torrid back end of the year".

But the Sun suggests the win in Oldham was "in spite of Jeremy Corbyn not because of him", pointing out that the new MP Jim McMahon was a popular local moderate who backed centrist Liz Kendall for the Labour leadership.

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The Daily Mirror says the by-election result in which Mr McMahon secured a 10,722-vote majority over UKIP's John Bickley, and a 62% vote share that was higher than at the general election, was a "stunning political surprise" after the party's national civil war.

The Mirror's Paul Routledge sees the victory as a "brilliant result". An unexpectedly large vote of confidence in Mr Corbyn will "rob the plotters of ammunition", he says.

"Far from disintegrating, Mr Corbyn looks entrenched," says Mary Riddell in the Daily Telegraph. He has emerged relatively unscathed this week from his first two major tests.

Matthew Parris in the Times writes the victory in Oldham has damaged the hopes of Labour moderates. However, he remains unconvinced about the appeal of party's "brand" to the wider electorate.


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