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AZERBAIJAN

Azerbaijan trains teens in espionage

BAKU | Azerbaijan on Wednesday launched free military intelligence courses for teenagers as young as 15 as the ex-Soviet state remains mired in an unresolved conflict with neighboring Armenia.

"Students will learn about skills necessary for an intelligence agent as well as camouflage methods, the use of weapons and hand-to-hand fighting," Maj. Gen. Novruzali Orujev told AFP.

Gen. Orujev said he began the training program in response to demand from young people who want to serve in military intelligence when they are conscripted into the armed forces.

He said 20 young people had been selected out of more than 70 who had applied to take part in the free, month-long courses. After completing the courses, male participants will be eligible to join military intelligence units when they do national service.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are at loggerheads over the breakaway Nagorny Karabakh region, where ethnic Armenian forces seized control from Baku during a war in the early 1990s that left about 30,000 people dead.

PERU

Van der Sloot pleads guilty to killing young woman

LIMA | Joran van der Sloot pleaded guilty on Wednesday to the 2010 murder of a 21-year-old Peruvian woman he met at a Lima casino who was killed five years to the day of the unsolved disappearance in Aruba of an American teen in which he remains the main suspect.

The three-judge panel said sentencing would be Friday.

Van der Sloot faces a possible 30 years in prison for the slaying of 21-year-old Stephany Flores, though the guilty verdict was aimed at winning a lighter sentence.

Van der Sloot's lawyer argued that the 24-year-old Dutch citizen killed Flores as a result of "extreme psychological trauma" he suffered from the fallout of the 2005 disappearance on the Caribbean island of Aruba of Natalee Holloway.

Prosecutors sought 30 years in prison on first-degree murder and theft charges. The defense claimed the killing was manslaughter, whose minimum sentence is five years.

Van der Sloot claimed in a confession shortly after the May 30, 2010, murder of Flores that he killed her in a fit of rage after she discovered on his laptop his connection to the disappearance of Holloway.

MEXICO

47,000 people killed in drug violence

MEXICO CITY | Two decapitated bodies were found at the entrance to one of Mexico's most luxurious shopping malls on Wednesday.

In addition, prosecutors announced that more than 47,000 people have been killed in drug violence in the five years since President Felipe Calderon launched a military crackdown against drug cartels.

The bodies were found before dawn inside a burning SUV just off a toll highway at the entrance to the shopping mall in the heart of the Santa Fe district that is a haven for international corporations, diplomats and the wealthy.

The heads and a threatening message were dumped nearby, Mexico City prosecutors said in a statement.

EGYPT

U.S. raises outreach to Muslim Brotherhood

CAIRO | The No. 2 diplomat in the U.S. State Department met Wednesday with leaders of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, the highest-level contact between Washington and the once-banned group poised to dominate the country's first parliament chosen after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with the head of the Brotherhood's political party, which has won more than 40 percent of the seats in elections that ended Wednesday.

The parliament is scheduled to convene on Jan. 23.

Its main task is to appoint a 100-member panel to write a new constitution. With its election victory, the Islamist group could have significant influence over its content.

KOSOVO

Official: U.S. bomb suspect met Kosovo radicals

PRISTINA | The man accused by U.S. authorities of plotting to bomb Florida nightclubs and a sheriff's office met with radical Islamists during visits to his native Kosovo, a senior official in the country said Wednesday.

International agencies had alerted Kosovo authorities that Sami Osmakac could be linked to Islamist extremists, the official told the Associated Press.

He said the 25-year-old, an ethnic Albanian and naturalized U.S. citizen, discussed "issues in support of radical elements" with the individuals he met.

U.S. authorities say Mr. Osmakac planned to use a car bomb and other weapons in an Islamist-inspired attack in the Tampa area of Florida.

He was arrested Saturday - the day officials said he was planning his attack - after he allegedly bought explosive devices and firearms from an undercover agent. The items were disabled before the sale.

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