- - Tuesday, October 2, 2012

DAKAR, Senegal — Military action will be needed to push radical Islamists out of northern Mali, where they have carried out amputations and public whippings since seizing control of the region earlier this year, a top U.S. official said.

Johnnie Carson, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for African affairs, told reporters that Mali also must establish a “strong, credible government” so that its military is capable of leading the effort to liberate the north.

Al Qaeda-linked militants took advantage of a power vacuum in the distant capital back in March, when mutinous soldiers overthrew the democratically elected government. Over the past six months, the militants have begun imposing their form of strict Islamic law known as Shariah.

The United States has expressed growing concern about the situation in northern Mali. Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton called it “a powder keg that the international community cannot afford to ignore.”

Mr. Carson said Monday that other countries — such as Algeria, Mauritania and Chad — also need to be involved in finding a solution to the Malian crisis, along with the United States, the European Union and others.


Mexico-CIA attack could be drug cartel

MEXICO CITY — A senior U.S. official says there is strong circumstantial evidence that Mexican federal police who fired on a U.S. embassy vehicle, wounding two CIA agents, were working for organized crime on a targeted assassination attempt.

Meanwhile, a Mexican official with knowledge of the case on the Aug. 24 ambush confirmed Tuesday that prosecutors are investigating whether the Beltran Leyva Cartel was behind the attack.

The Mexican official said it is among several lines of investigation into the shooting up of an armored SUV clearly marked by diplomatic license plates on a rural road near Cuernavaca south of Mexico City.

Federal police, historically known for infiltration and corruption by drug cartels, have said the shooting was a case of mistaken identity as officers were looking into the kidnapping of a government employee in that area.


Libyan forces to sweep pro-Gadhafi town

TRIPOLI — Libyan militias operating alongside the defense ministry are readying their forces to advance on a city that remains a bastion of support for the ousted regime of Moammar Gadhafi.

Militia commander Faraj al-Swehli said dozens of families have fled Bani Walid in anticipation of an offensive. On Tuesday, three fighters from neighboring Misrata were wounded in clashes during a surveillance operation near Bani Walid.

Mr. al-Swehli has ordered his Tripoli-based militia, originally from Misrata, to join others who have surrounded parts of Bani Walid.

The government gave Bani Walid’s leaders until Friday to hand over suspects linked to the torture of Misrata resident Omran Shaaban.

Mr. Shaaban, hailed as the first rebel fighter to find Gadhafi last October, died of wounds he sustained at the hands of Bani Walid captors last week.


Smoked salmon blamed for salmonella outbreak

THE HAGUE — Smoked salmon tainted with salmonella bacteria has sickened hundreds of people in the Netherlands, sparking major recalls there and in the United States, Dutch health authorities said Tuesday.

U.S. health authorities say they also are investigating possible effects from the salmon from the country.

The Netherlands’ National Institute for Public Health and the Environment said the salmon has been traced to the Dutch company Foppen, which sells fish to many major Dutch supermarkets and to stores around the world, including the United States.

The institute said in a statement that about 200 people — and likely more — in the Netherlands and more than 100 people in the U.S. have been sickened by a strain of the bacteria called Salmonella Thompson.


Vandals strike Jerusalem church

JERUSALEM — Vandals scribbled anti-Christian graffiti on the outer walls of one of Jerusalem’s best-known churches early Tuesday, Israeli police said.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the vandals defaced a wall leading to the Church of the Dormition. The century-old structure is built on the site where tradition says the Virgin Mary died.

The graffiti, which read “Jesus, son of a whore, price tag,” had been removed by midmorning, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

He said police are searching for the assailants, though suspicion has fallen on a fringe group of pro-settler Jewish extremists who have carried out similar vandalism on churches, mosques and Israeli army property. They say the acts are in response to what they consider pro-Palestinian policies by the Israeli government, a form of retribution they call a “price tag.”

Tuesday’s graffiti is the latest in a wave of vandalism on Christian holy sites in Israel. Israel has about 155,000 Christian citizens, less than 2 percent of its 7.9 million people, but the repeated defacing of their sacred sites has shocked the country and drawn official condemnation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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