M23 rebels announce cease-fire in east

Rebels entrenched in the hills above Goma, one of eastern Congo’s largest cities, declared a cease-fire Friday and began retreating from the front line, the first indication that a joint U.N.-Congolese offensive might be gaining the upper hand in the conflict.

But in a sign that the fighting could spill over the border, a large convoy of military vehicles loaded with troops, tanks, artillery cannons and heavy weaponry was seen leaving the capital of Rwanda, Congo’s neighbor to the east, which is accused of funneling arms and troops to the M23 rebels.

Rwandan leaders said they were acting to defend their border after shells and rockets allegedly fired from Congo landed in Rwandan territory, killing a woman and seriously wounding her baby.

The fighting, which began Aug. 21, has claimed the lives of one U.N. peacekeeper as well as at least 10 Congolese soldiers and 14 civilians who died from the shelling on both sides of the Congolese-Rwandan border.

— Associated Press

Farmer protests end; troops patrol Bogota

President Juan Manuel Santos ordered troops onto the Colombian capital’s streets Friday after rioting in which at least two people died, and small farmers said they were lifting road blockades elsewhere after 11 days of protests.

Bogota was peaceful, with no disturbances reported as Santos ordered troops to reinforce police on the streets. No major military mobilization was noted, however.

The violence broke out Thursday afternoon after about 30,000 people, many of them university students, marched in support of the farmers, who have been blocking highways and staging protests over a variety of issues.

Santos opened talks with the farmers Tuesday and has promised to address their grievances, including erasing import tariffs on fertilizer. The farmers say cheap imports of potatoes, onions and milk are impoverishing them.

— Associated Press

Rocket launch site reportedly expanding

New satellite imagery shows North Korea is conducting major new construction to expand facilities at a launch site where it fired a rocket into orbit in December, a U.S. research institute said Friday.

The work at the west coast site of Sohae, near the northern border with China, includes what could be a new launchpad for testing mobile ballistic missiles.

The U.S.-Korea Institute at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies stressed that the report is a preliminary analysis, based on scrutiny of commercial satellite imagery, the latest taken Sunday.

— Associated Press

Al-Qaeda claims attacks amid new violence: The Iraqi branch of al-Qaeda asserted responsibility for a lethal wave of coordinated bombings in the Baghdad area this week, as new attacks killed 14 more people in the latest outbreak of violence to hit the country. Friday’s deadliest attack occurred after nightfall in a Kurdish neighborhood in the ethnically mixed town of Tuz Khormatu, where police said insurgents set off a nonlethal stun bomb apparently designed to attract a crowd before detonating a real bomb that killed 12.

China’s ‘Brother Watch’ goes on trial: A Chinese work-safety official nicknamed “Brother Watch” for his collection of luxury timepieces has gone on trial on corruption charges. Yang Dacai’s downfall came after he was photographed smiling at the scene of a highway accident last summer in which 36 people died. Irked Chinese netizens scrutinized the wristwatches Yang was shown wearing in several news photos, came up with his nickname and demanded explanations that led that to an official probe.

S. African gold miners set to strike: A spokesman for South Africa’s National Union of Mineworkers says gold miners will go on strike next week after wage-raise talks with South Africa’s Chamber of Mines collapsed Friday. The looming strike, which will affect top gold producers including AngloGold Ashanti and Gold Fields, threatens to escalate labor unrest in the country, where thousands of workers in the aviation, construction and auto sectors are already striking over pay.

Suriname leader’s son arrested on U.S. drug, arms charges: The son of the president of the South American country of Suriname has been arrested on U.S. drug and weapon charges, U.S. federal prosecutors said. Dino Bouterse, head of Suriname’s anti-terrorism unit, was arrested in Panama on Thursday; his arrest comes as his father, Desiré Delano Bouterse, himself convicted of drug offenses, hosts an annual regional summit.

— From news services