In brief: Italian premier faces new probe

SATURDAY, JAN. 15, 2011

Rome – Prosecutors are investigating whether Premier Silvio Berlusconi paid for sex with an underage girl from Morocco and then abused his power in trying to cover up the encounters, officials said Friday.

Berlusconi dismissed the case as “absurd” and said the prosecutors were just jealous they weren’t invited to his home for dinner too; the teenager has said she dined at the premier’s Milan estate but didn’t have sex with him.

“At least my lawyers are happy,” Berlusconi quipped in an audio message to his supporters late Friday. “They’re sure that with me they’ll never be out of work.”

The investigation escalated a long history of accusations of sexual and financial impropriety aimed at the billionaire businessman.

Deadly stampede mars festival end

Kochi, India – A stampede of pilgrims returning from one of India’s most popular Hindu festivals killed at least 102 people and injured 44 others, police said Saturday.

The stampede was set off Friday night when a group of pilgrims in a jeep drove into a crowd of worshippers walking along a narrow forest path as they returned from offering prayers at the hilltop Sabarimala shrine in the state of Kerala in southern India.

The annual two-month festival attracts millions of worshippers to the remote temple to the Hindu deity Ayyappan. The ceremony Friday marked the end of the festival, and an estimated 150,000 devotees were thought to have taken the narrow path out of the densely forested hills where the stampede took place, the Press Trust of India reported.

Soldiers, gunmen in long gunbattle

Mexico City – Mexican soldiers clashed with gunmen for hours in the capital of the coastal state of Veracruz, leaving at least 12 suspects and two soldiers dead, authorities said Friday.

The shooting ended early Friday and spanned at least two neighborhoods in the normally quiet city of Xalapa, Mexican news reports said.

Mexican army officials said gunmen opened fire when infantry soldiers arrived at a home around 6 p.m. Thursday. The army did not immediately specify the purpose of the raid.

Veracruz Gov. Javier Duarte described the action as part of a wider crackdown by federal and state authorities against organized crime groups across the state.

Veracruz, which sits on the Gulf of Mexico and boasts Mexico’s principal seaport, has become a key base of operations for the feared Zetas drug-trafficking gang, which once served as the armed wing of the Gulf cartel. The Zetas have since broken from the Gulf organization and broadened into an assortment of criminal activities.


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