Relels hold hundreds hostage after fighting

About 200 Muslim rebels were holding nearly 300 people hostage Monday after clashing with government troops and rampaging through coastal communities in the southern Philippines, leaving at least eight people dead, officials said.

The fighting occurred after troops backed by tanks blocked the Moro National Liberation Front guerrillas — armed with assault rifles and grenade launchers — from marching into Zamboanga city, a major port city, to raise their flag at city hall, military spokesman Lt. Col. Ramon Zagala said.

He said the rebels were boxed into a Muslim coastal slum called Rio Hondo and were refusing to negotiate with security forces.

Zamboanga Mayor Maria Isabelle Climaco said sporadic gun battles killed a navy special forces member, a policeman and four civilians and that 24 civilians, rebels and soldiers were wounded. The military said at least two guerrillas were killed.

The military and police initially reported that 20 residents were being held hostage by the rebels, but Zagala said later Monday that up to 290 people were being held captive in three villages near Rio Hondo based on reports by government forces.

— Associated Press

Hindu-Muslim violence spreads

Security forces have been ordered to shoot rioters on sight, as sectarian violence spread in northern India on Monday despite an army-enforced curfew imposed after deadly weekend clashes broke out between Hindus and Muslims.

Gunfire and street battles that erupted Saturday in villages around Muzaffarnagar in Uttar Pradesh state have killed at least 28 people and left many more missing, police said. Soldiers deployed to the region have been given orders to shoot rioters on sight, state government official Kamal Saxena said.

By Monday morning police had arrested 90 people. Still, the violence spread to the neighboring districts of Shamli and Meerut overnight.

Hundreds of people, some packed into bullock carts, tried to flee areas where their community represents a minority. One family trying to leave Kuttba village was beaten with metal rods and wooden sticks when caught between fighting factions.

— Associated Press

Opposition poised to win Norway election: Norway’s center-right opposition, promising tax cuts and smaller government, was set to win Monday’s election, but it faced tough talks on forming a coalition with a populist party that wants to spend more of the nation’s vast oil wealth. The Conservatives, led by likely future Prime Minister Erna Solberg and three potential allies, were on course to collect 96 seats in parliament, 11 more than needed for a majority, leaving Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg’s Labor and its allies with just 73 seats, government projections showed.

China cracks down on Internet ‘rumors’: China on Monday unveiled tough measures to stop the spread of what the government calls irresponsible rumors, threatening three years in jail if untrue posts online are widely reposted, drawing an angry response from Chinese Internet users. China is in the middle of yet another crackdown on what it terms “online rumors,” as the government tries to rein in social media, increasingly used by Chinese people to discuss politics, despite stringent censorship.

Bus accident in Guatemala kills scores: A bus plunged into a deep river canyon in northwest Guatemala on Monday and at least 34 people were killed, a rescue worker said. Another 45 injured people were taken to hospitals. About 80 people were aboard the bus, which had been headed for Guatemala City. The dead included at least three babies.

Egyptian troops press offensive in Sinai: Egyptian troops and tanks backed by helicopter gunships swept through villages in the northern Sinai Peninsula near the border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip on Monday, the third day of a major offensive against Islamic extremists, a military official said. So far, some 20 suspected militants have been killed and 20 captured in the operation, he added. A day earlier, an al-Qaida-inspired militant group based in the area claimed responsibility for last week’s failed assassination attempt on Egypt’s interior minister, describing the Cairo attack as a “suicide” car bomb.

German bishop faces Vatican scrutiny: The Vatican launched a rare review of a German Catholic diocese on Monday following accusations that its bishop spent lavishly on a new residence, putting him out of step with the new “church of the poor” promoted by Pope Francis. The inquiry is officially called a “fraternal visit” to Limburg diocese by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the former Vatican nuncio (ambassador) in Berlin, and Bishop Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst said in a statement that he was looking forward to it.

— From news services