Terror in North Africa — Chad’s military chief announced Saturday that his troops deployed in northern Mali had killed Moktar Belmoktar, the terrorist known as the “one-eyed" who orchestrated the attack on a natural gas plant in Algeria that left 36 foreigners dead. The French military, which is leading the offensive against al-Qaida-linked rebels in Mali, could not confirm the death.
Kerry: Stop bickering — Egypt’s bickering government and opposition need to overcome their differences to create “a sense of political and economic viability" if the country is to thrive as a democracy, Secretary of State John Kerry said Saturday. In meetings with Egypt’s foreign minister and opposition politicians, some of whom plan to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections, Kerry said an agreement on economic reforms to seal a $4.8 billion International Monetary Fund loan package was critical.
Syrian rebel aid — Iran and Syria condemned a U.S. plan to assist rebels fighting to topple President Bashar Assad on Saturday and signaled the Syrian leader intends to stay in power at least until 2014 presidential elections. The remarks came against the backdrop of a strategic victory for the regime as the military regained control over a string of villages along a key highway to open a potential supply route in Syria’s heavily contested north.
Russian adoptions — Russian officials remained suspicious Saturday about the death in Texas of an adopted 3-year-old despite an autopsy report that determined he died accidentally. Max Shatto, born in Russia, died Jan. 21 from a torn artery in the abdomen, officials said at a news conference Friday in Odessa, Texas. Two weeks ago, Russian officials informed the public about his death, saying Max had been abused and given psychiatric drugs. No evidence was presented, but that description quickly became an emotional element of anti-American rhetoric and colored the explosive question of adoptions.
Casino under scrutiny — Las Vegas Sands Corp. says in a regulatory filing it probably violated a federal law that prohibits bribing foreign officials. The casino company, controlled by billionaire Sheldon Adelson, said in a filing Friday that the Securities and Exchange Commission asked two years ago for records. The Wall Street Journal, citing an anonymous source, reported Saturday that the issue is related to business deals in mainland China led by executives no longer with the company. In recent years, Las Vegas Sands has expanded aggressively in Asia.
Arms seizure off Yemen — An Iranian dhow seized off the Yemeni coast was carrying sophisticated Chinese anti-aircraft missiles, a development that could signal an escalation of Iran’s support to its Middle Eastern proxies. Among the items aboard, according to a review of factory markings on weapons, were 10 Chinese heat-seeking anti-aircraft missiles, most of them manufactured in 2005.
Afghan deaths — Two preteen boys collecting firewood with their donkeys were killed by weapons fired from a NATO helicopter, Afghan and U.S. military officials announced Saturday. The new U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph Dunford Jr., promptly issued an apology and said the killings were an accident.
Philippine insurgency — President Benigno Aquino called Saturday for the surrender of an armed Muslim clan that took over a Malaysian village, making the plea a day after a violent clash with Malaysian police officers. The statements appeared to undercut assertions that Friday’s gunbattle, which left 12 Filipinos and two Malaysian police officers dead, had signaled the end of the group’s takeover of the village.