Government forces capture 14 villages

Government forces captured 14 villages Monday as they advanced on the largest rebel-held enclave in northern Syria amid a wave of airstrikes.

Syrian troops and their allies have been on the offensive since late October in Hama and Idlib provinces, capturing nearly 100 villages from insurgent groups.

The main aim of the troops is to reach the rebel-held Abu Zuhour air base and secure the road linking the capital, Damascus, with the northern city of Aleppo.

The government-controlled Syrian Central Military Media said the newly captured villages bring the troops closer to the air base.

Russia's Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said its air base and naval station in western Syria have been targeted at least 13 times by armed drones since Saturday. The ministry said seven of the drones were shot down, three landed outside the base and others detonated when they crashed. The ministry said there was no damage to the bases.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights attributed the attempted attacks to an Islamist rebel faction that operates in Latakia province and had targeted the air base several times since Dec. 31.

Clashes also erupted Monday near the Damascus suburb of Harasta, after government forces reached troops trapped for more than a week in a military base surrounded by insurgents.

— Associated Press

U.S. helicopter makes emergency landing

A U.S. attack helicopter made an emergency landing on the grounds of a hotel on Japan's Okinawa island Monday, the latest in a string of mishaps involving American military aircraft that has fueled opposition to the U.S. presence there.

The helicopter crew landed the aircraft because a warning light had come on, according to the Japanese public broadcaster NHK. No injuries were reported.

Resentment has simmered among Okinawa residents over what they see as an unfair burden in supporting the U.S. military presence in Japan.

Among recent incidents, a U.S. military transport helicopter made an emergency landing on an Okinawa beach on Saturday because of a faulty rotor. Earlier, a window fell from a military aircraft onto a school playground.

Such accidents, as well as occasional incidents of crime committed by American service personnel, have fueled opposition to the U.S. presence on the island.

Okinawa hosts about 30,000 U.S. military personnel.

— Reuters

India's top court to review law criminalizing gay sex: India's top court said it will reexamine its 2013 decision not to strike down a colonial-era law that makes homosexual acts punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Three judges, including the chief justice, said a larger group of justices would reconsider the law in response to
a petition filed by five people who say they are living in fear of being prosecuted. However, no date was fixed for hearings in the case. The Supreme Court had said in 2013 that amending or repealing the law should be left to Parliament. Parliament is yet to act in the matter.

Bail hearing delayed for former Canadian hostage: A Canadian court has adjourned until Monday a bail hearing for former Taliban hostage Joshua Boyle, who was arrested late last month on criminal charges that include assault, sexual assault and forcible confinement. Prosecutors said the crimes occurred in Canada after Boyle and his family returned to the country in October. Boyle and his wife were kidnapped in October 2012 while backpacking in Afghanistan. Their children were born in captivity.

Turkey seeks to extend state of emergency: Turkey's government intends to extend by three months the state of emergency declared after a 2016 coup attempt. Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag said the national security council would discuss the matter before seeking approval in parliament. The declaration is set to expire Jan. 19. The emergency powers have allowed the government to crack down on suspected foes.

Britain convicts couple of bomb plot: A man and a woman who met on a Muslim dating website were convicted of plotting a bombing in Britain. Prosecutors say Munir Mohammed, an asylum seeker from Sudan, and London pharmacist Rowaida el-Hassan bonded over their extremist views. Prosecutors said Mohammed volunteered to carry out an attack during Facebook exchanges with a man he thought was an Islamic State commander. Police said they found bombmaking instructions and components for an explosive at Mohammed's home when he was arrested in late 2016. Prosecutors say he drew on Hassan's knowledge of chemicals during his preparations.

Pakistan releases 147 Indians jailed for illegal fishing: A Pakistani official said 147 Indians detained for fishing illegally have been released from prison and handed over to Indian authorities. The South Asian rivals often arrest fishermen suspected of trespassing in their territorial waters and then periodically release large numbers of them in what is billed as goodwill gestures. Pakistan released 145 Indian fishermen last month and 220 the previous year. India reciprocated after the 2016 release but freed a smaller number of Pakistani fishermen.

Madagascar cyclone kills 6, displaces thousands: Authorities in Madagascar said six people have been killed in a cyclone. The government said Cyclone Ava also displaced more than 13,000 people on the Indian Ocean island over the weekend. The island nation was hit hard by a cyclone in March that left at least 50 people dead and damaged the Sava region in the northeast, which produces about half of the world's vanilla.

— From news services