World Briefs

Mali military enters fabled town of Timbuktu

SEVARE, Mali – Backed by French helicopters and paratroopers, Malian soldiers entered the fabled city of Timbuktu on Monday after al-Qaida-linked militants who ruled the outpost by fear for nearly 10 months fled into the desert, setting fire to a library that held thousands of manuscripts dating to the Middle Ages.

French Col. Thierry Burkhard, chief military spokesman in Paris, said that there had been no combat with the Islamists but that the French and Malian forces did not yet control the town.

Still, there was celebration among the thousands of Timbuktu residents who fled the city rather than live under strict and pitiless Islamic rule and the dire poverty that worsened after the tourist industry was destroyed.

Timbuktu, a city of mud-walled buildings and 50,000 people, was for centuries a seat of Islamic learning and a major trading center along the North African caravan routes that carried slaves, gold and salt. In Europe, legend had it that it was a city of gold. Today, its name is synonymous to many with the ends of the earth.

Masked ‘Black Bloc’ a mystery in Egypt unrest

CAIRO – An unpredictable new element has entered Egypt’s wave of political unrest: a mysterious group of masked young men called the Black Bloc who present themselves as the defenders of protesters opposed to the Islamist president’s rule.

They boast that they’re willing to use force to fight back against Islamists who have attacked protesters in the past – or against police who crack down on demonstrations. The youths with faces hidden under black masks have appeared among stone-throwing protesters in clashes with police around Egypt the past five days in the wave of political violence that has shaken the country.

Iran says it sent monkey into space and back

TEHRAN, Iran – Iran said Monday it has successfully sent a monkey into space, describing the launch as another step toward Tehran’s goal of a manned space flight.

According to a brief report on state TV, the rocket dubbed Pishgam, or Pioneer in Farsi, reached a height of 72 miles. The report gave no other details about the timing or location of the launch, but said the monkey safely returned to Earth.

Still images broadcast on state TV showed a small, gray-tufted monkey presumably being prepared for the flight, including wearing a type of body protection and being strapped tightly into a pod that resembled an infant’s car seat.

Associated Press