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Mali Islamists Destroy Tombs at Ancient Timbuktu Mosque

The Islamists controlling northern Mali on Tuesday destroyed two tombs at the ancient Djingareyber mud mosque in Timbuktu, an endangered world heritage site, witnesses told Agence France Presse.

"Currently the Islamists are busy destroying two tombs of Timbuktu's great Djingareyber mosque. They are shooting in the air to chase away the crowd, to scare them," one witness said.

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Eleven Killed in Mexico Gunbattle

Seven police officers and four gunmen were killed Monday in a shootout in Mexico's northwestern state of Sinaloa, a stronghold of one of the country's ruthless drug gangs, officials said.

The state police officers were ambushed, but returned fire "and managed to kill four of the aggressors," an official with the Sinaloa state attorney general's office said.

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NATO Seeks to Boost Number of Women Soldiers, Defense Chiefs

NATO countries should raise the number of women soldiers and improve promotion opportunities for its female security and defense chiefs, alliance officials agreed at a conference in Sofia Tuesday.

"Whether it is ending a conflict, managing a transition or rebuilding a country, the world can no longer afford to continue ignoring half of the population," U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Marie Yovanovitch said at the forum.

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Boko Haram Claims Weekend Funeral Carnage in Nigeria

Nigeria's Boko Haram Islamists on Tuesday claimed a weekend attack at a graveyard in central Plateau state that left at least 22 people dead, including two prominent politicians.

Police and officials have blamed nomadic herdsmen for the raid, but in a statement issued from purported spokesman Abul Qaqa, Boko Haram said it "wants to inform of its delight over the success of the attacks we launched... in Plateau state."

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Pakistan MPs Pass Bill Exempting PM from Contempt

Pakistani lawmakers have passed a bill that would exempt senior government ministers from contempt of court proceedings, a move seen as a bid to save the new prime minister from disqualification.

The Supreme Court has given Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf until Thursday to indicate whether he will obey an order to ask Swiss authorities to reopen multi-million dollar corruption cases against the president.

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ICC Sentences DR Congo Militia Boss to 14 Years

The International Criminal Court on Tuesday sentenced Congolese warlord Thomas Lubanga to 14 years in jail for using child soldiers in his rebel army, in the tribunal's first such order.

"Taking into account all the factors... the court sentences Mr. Lubanga to 14 years in prison," presiding Judge Adrian Fulford told The Hague-based court.

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French School Hostage Taking Ends, Parent Released

An armed man Tuesday took a parent hostage at a French school in a southeastern Paris suburb but released his captive after negotiations and was then arrested by police, a police source said.

The incident in Vitry-sur-Seine started at around 05:00 GMT when three children and five adults, including two parents, were in the school, which is being used as a leisure center during the holidays, police said.

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'Clash' in Contested Abyei as S. Sudanese Celebrate

A clash broke out on Monday in the disputed territory of Abyei when South Sudanese celebrated their first independence anniversary, a source familiar with the incident said.

There were no injuries but a shop was burned and United Nations peacekeepers had to intervene to stop the unrest in Abyei town between members of the Dinka and Misseriya communities, said the source, who requested anonymity.

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Mali to Form 1,200-Strong Elite Force to Protect Transition

Mali's transition government on Monday announced the creation of an elite force of 1,200 troops to protect the leaders of the country's embattled interim regime.

"Under the direct authority of the president, these special forces will assure the security of the head of state, the prime minister, the speaker of the national assembly and other state institutions," said a statement from the communications ministry.

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Clinton Promotes Democracy in Mongolia

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived in Mongolia Monday as part of an Asian tour aimed at promoting democracy, as local politicians were locked in dispute over recent elections.

Mongolian President Tsakhia Elbegdorj has called on all parties to agree on forming a ruling coalition, after official results showed the opposition Democratic Party won most seats, but not enough for a majority.

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