Hopi masks sold off despite U.S. protests

In a chaotic auction repeatedly interrupted by protests, dozens of Native American tribal masks were sold Friday for a total tally of $1.2 million after a French court ignored the objections of the Hopi tribe and the U.S. government.

Of the 70 masks up for sale, one was bought by an association to give back to the Hopis, the Drouot auction house said.

Advocates for the Hopi tribe had argued in court that the masks have special status and are not art — they represent their dead ancestors’ spirits.

But the auctioneer said any move to block the sale could have repercussions for the art market in general and potentially force French museums to empty their collections of indigenous works.

The Katsinam, or “friends,” masks date to the late 19th and early 20th centuries and are thought to have been taken from a reservation in northern Arizona in the 1930s and ’40s.

— Associated Press

Taliban attack kills 13 Afghan soldiers

Taliban militants attacked an army outpost near the eastern border with Pakistan on Friday, killing 13 soldiers, the Defense Ministry said.

The attack occurred in Konar, a volatile province that serves as a major gateway for insurgents coming from Pakistan.

The fighting, in Konar’s Nari district, began at dawn and lasted about five hours, the ministry said. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack and said the insurgents captured the base, seizing ammunition and weapons. He put the death toll at 15 Afghan soldiers and said the militants suffered no casualties.

This year’s fighting season is being closely watched as a test of Afghan forces to take over security responsibilities from the international military coalition.

— Associated Press

New details on attack that killed Americans

Fresh information emerged Friday about last week’s terrorist bombing in Afghanistan that killed 25-year-old diplomat Anne Smedinghoff and four other Americans who were delivering textbooks to a school in the country’s south.

A senior State Department official familiar with the still-preliminary FBI investigation into the attack said the group was walking, not driving, from a military base to the nearby school in Zabol province at the time. Initial reports that the group members were in vehicles, as well as some that said they were lost, were incorrect, the official said.

The official said the group took the shortest and most direct route from the base to the school but was told on arrival that the entrance they wanted to use no longer provided access.

— Associated Press

Anti-Thatcher song has BBC squirming

Opponents of the late Margaret Thatcher are taking musical revenge on the former prime minister, pushing the song “Ding Dong! The Witch is Dead” up the British charts in a posthumous protest over her polarizing policies.

By Friday, the online campaign had propelled the “Wizard of Oz” song to No. 1 on British iTunes and into the top five of the music chart used by the BBC to compile its weekly radio countdown.

The campaign has caused a headache for the BBC, which faced the prospect of having to air the words “The Wicked Witch is Dead!” on its Sunday countdown show just days before Thatcher’s funeral, scheduled for Wednesday.

Some lawmakers from Thatcher’s Conservative Party called for the publicly funded broadcaster to drop the song, but others said that would be censoring dissent. The BBC later said it would air only part of the song, along with an explanatory news item.

— Associated Press

Sudan, S. Sudan reach accord on some points: South Sudan’s president, Salva Kiir Mayardit, said he and Sudan’s President Omar Hassan al-Bashir have agreed to a resumption of oil exports, as well as cross-border trade and travel, and will continue discussions on the contested region of Abyei, long a sticking point. Bashir traveled to South Sudan on Friday for the first time since Sudan’s south broke away in 2011.

Ex-German president charged with corruption: Prosecutors filed corruption charges against former German president Christian Wulff over alleged favors from a German film producer when he was governor of Lower Saxony. Wulff, who resigned over the matter last year, had rejected an offer to settle his case for a fine, saying he would rather fight to clear his name in court.

— From news services