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News

  • A visit from the pros
     
  • Lotteries
  • Libya’s neighbors taking on its rebels
    Egypt and the United Arab Emirates secretly carried out airstrikes against Islamist militias inside Libya, the United States publicly acknowledged Tuesday, another sharp jolt to American-led attempts over the past three years to stabilize Libya
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Briefs

US terrorist aider gets 14 years

– A Chicago businessman was sentenced to 14 years in prison Thursday for providing material support to overseas terrorism, including a Pakistani group whose 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, left more than 160 people dead.

Jurors in 2011 convicted Tahawwur Rana of providing support for the Pakistani group, Lashkar-e-Taiba, and for supporting a never-carried-out plot to attack a Danish newspaper that printed cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad in 2005. The cartoons angered many Muslims because pictures of the prophet are prohibited in Islam.

But jurors cleared Rana of the third and most serious charge of involvement in the three-day rampage, which has often been called India’s 9/11.

Nation

Sex trafficking ring uncovered in South

Federal authorities said Thursday they have uncovered an illegal sex trafficking network that forced women into prostitution and traded them like slaves between cities in Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas.

Twelve people – eight men and four women – were indicted in U.S. District Court in Savannah. Prosecutors said they had acted since 2008 as a network of pimps who lured dozens of women to the United States from Mexico and Central America and forced them to work as prostitutes in homes, hotel rooms and mobile home parks.

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Director John Morton said the case should serve as a wakeup call as to how widespread sex trafficking has become in the United States. He noted his agents made 967 arrests related to such cases last year.

Army sergeant must face sanity review

An Army staff sergeant accused of massacring Afghan civilians must undergo an official sanity review before a mental health defense can be presented, the military judge overseeing the case said Thursday.

Staff Sgt. Robert Bales deferred entering a plea Thursday at Joint Base Lewis-McChord to 16 counts of premeditated murder and other charges related to a nighttime attack on two villages last March. The Army is seeking the death penalty.

US acknowledges Somalia’s leaders

The U.S. has recognized Somalia’s government for the first time in more than two decades.

Calling it a milestone in the country’s fight against Islamist extremists, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton made the announcement Thursday alongside Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud. President Obama later met privately with the Somali leader at the White House.

The U.S. hadn’t recognized a Somali government since warlords toppled dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991. American intervention failed two years later after militants shot down two U.S. helicopters and killed 18 American servicemen.

US to tutor Mexico in drug cartel fight

The Pentagon is stepping up aid for Mexico’s bloody drug war with a new U.S.-based special operations headquarters to teach Mexican security forces how to hunt drug cartels the same way special-operations teams hunt al-Qaida, according to documents and interviews with multiple U.S. officials.

Such assistance could help newly elected Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto establish a military force to focus on drug criminal networks that have terrorized Mexico’s northern states and threatened the U.S. Southwest border.

Mexican officials say warring drug gangs have killed at least 70,000 people between 2006 and 2012.

Nudity not political speech, judge says

A federal judge considering San Francisco’s public nudity ban rejected arguments Thursday that simply disrobing in public was protected political speech akin to flag burning.

U.S. District Judge Edward Chen made his comments during a 90-minute hearing held to consider the new law that is set to go into effect on Feb. 1.

A narrowly divided Board of Supervisors passed the law last month after residents and visitors to the city’s renowned Castro district complained about nudity in a plaza in the heart of the gay neighborhood.

Public nudity activists filed a federal lawsuit seeking to invalidate the law, arguing the government-ordered cover-up violates their 1st Amendment rights to express their political views.

World

Gunmen reportedly kill 100 in Syria town

Gunmen loyal to President Bashar Assad swept through a mainly Sunni farming village in central Syria this week, torching houses and killing more than 100 people, including women and children, opposition activists said Thursday.

The reported slayings fueled accusations that pro-government militiamen are trying to drive majority Sunnis out of areas near main routes to the coast, an effort to ensure control of an Alawite enclave as the country’s civil war increasingly takes on sectarian overtones.

Activists said the attackers were from nearby areas dominated by Shiite Muslims and allied Alawites. Assad and most of the top officials in his regime belong to the minority Alawite sect, a Shiite offshoot.

Gadhafi son in court on prison smuggling

The imprisoned son of slain dictator Moammar Gadhafi made his first appearance Thursday in a local court on charges of harming state security, attempting to escape prison and insulting the nation’s new flag, Libya’s official news agency said.

The charges against Seif al-Islam Gadhafi are linked to his June meeting with an International Criminal Court delegation accused of smuggling documents and a camera to him in his cell. The four-member team was detained by Zintan rebels but released after the ICC made an apology and pledged to investigate the incident.

Japan suicides fall below milestone

Police and government officials say the number of suicides in Japan last year fell below 30,000 for the first time in 15 years, with men accounting for about two-thirds of them.

The statistics released Thursday by the National Police Agency for 2012 say 27,766 people killed themselves – 19,216 men and 8,550 women.

Makoto Okada, an official with the Cabinet office in charge of suicide prevention, said economic pressures are a major cause of suicide and the statistics may reflect improvements in that area.

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