2 Americans seized from ship near coast

Pirates kidnapped two Americans working on a U.S-flagged commercial ship near the coast of Nigeria, U.S. officials said Thursday, and the Nigerian navy ordered its forces to mount a rescue operation.

“We are seeking additional information so we can contribute to the safe resolution of the situation,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said. “Our principal concern now is the safe return of two American citizens.”

The captain and an engineer were taken from the offshore supply vessel during an attack Wednesday in international waters off the Gulf of Guinea, said a U.S. defense official speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The vessel and 11 other crew members were released, and the hostages were believed taken to shore in Nigeria, the official said.

State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said the United States has been concerned about “a disturbing increase” in maritime crime, including piracy, in the area.

— Associated Press

Court throws out Bo Xilai’s appeal

A court on Friday dismissed ousted Chinese politician Bo Xilai’s appeal against his conviction and life sentence for corruption and abuse of power in one of the country’s most politically charged trials in decades.

The ruling by the Shandong Provincial Higher People’s Court came as no surprise, with many political analysts saying such an outcome was predetermined by Communist Party leaders keen to put Bo away long enough to prevent him from making a comeback.

Bo was found guilty of embezzlement, bribery and abuse of power by a lower court in the same province late last month and sentenced to life in prison. He put up a robust defense during his five-day trial, denying the charges and recanting earlier confessions.

Authorities in the city of Jinan imposed a heavy security presence around the courthouse early Friday ahead of the ruling, closing buildings and streets in the vicinity.

— Associated Press

7 killed this week in new clashes in north

Clashes between gunmen of rival Lebanese sects in the northern city of Tripoli have killed
seven people since fighting flared up early this week, security officials said Thursday.

The round of fighting that began four days ago in Lebanon’s second-largest city has also left 50 people injured, officials said. The clashes have involved gunmen from two impoverished Tripoli neighborhoods, areas that are home to opponents and supporters of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

The Bab Tabbaneh district is largely Sunni Muslim, like Syria’s rebels. The other neighborhood, Jabal Mohsen, mostly has residents of Assad’s Alawite sect, an offshoot of Shiite Islam.

— Associated Press

President rules out running for 2nd term

Burmese President Thein
Sein, who has steered a wave of reforms since the end of military rule, will not seek a second term at the next election in 2015, the leader of his party said Thursday.

Thein Sein has been lauded internationally for his economic policies, prisoner amnesties and peace deals with ethnic minority rebels, but last year he said a second term would depend on whether the people wanted him to stay and whether he was physically able to do the job.

“President U Thein Sein has told me he will not run for the president,” said Shwe Mann, the speaker of parliament and leader of the ruling Union Solidarity and Development Party, using the Burmese honorific U. “I think he meant what he said.”

The president, 68, is thought to have had a pacemaker fitted.

— Reuters

Dozens of women released from Syrian jails: Sixty-one female detainees were quietly freed by Syrian authorities Wednesday, activists said Thursday, the latest development in a three-way prisoner exchange brokered by Qatar and the Palestinian Authority.
Simultaneously, a Syrian court ordered the release of Tal al-
Mallohi, a prominent young Syrian blogger who was convicted of spying for a foreign country, her Damascus-based lawyer said.

Woman questioned about girl found with Roma in Greece: A Roma woman in Bulgaria has undergone DNA testing and
faces preliminary charges of child selling as authorities investigate whether she is the mother of a young girl found living with an unrelated couple in Greece, authorities said. Though the tests have yet to prove that
Sasha Ruseva, 35, is the biological mother of the girl, the woman said in a TV appearance that she once left a baby behind in Greece.

— From news services