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In brief: Rebel group’s leader dies in attack

Bogota, Colombia – The top leader of Colombia’s main rebel group, the bookish ideologue Alfonso Cano, was killed Friday in a military bombing attack in the country’s southwest, authorities said.

“The fingerprints matched,” said one senior security official who confirmed the death, adding that Cano was killed in “a standard military operation” in Cauca state.

Cano, the 53-year-old head of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, had been the top target of Colombian authorities since September 2010, when they killed the insurgency’s military chief, Mono Jojoy, also in a bombing raid.

A $5 million reward had been out for Cano, a Bogota intellectual who took command of Latin America’s last remaining rebel army after the 2008 death of its co-founder, Manuel Marulanda.

Syrian forces kill 15, peace plan

Beirut – A Syrian peace plan brokered by the Arab League unraveled Friday as security forces killed 15 people, opening fire on thousands of protesters who denounced President Bashar Assad and said he never intended to hold up his end of the deal to end the violence.

The bloodshed, only two days after Syria agreed to the deal, suggests Damascus is unwilling – or unable – to put a swift end to a crackdown that already has killed 3,000 people since the uprising began in March.

“This regime is not serious about ending its brutal crackdown,” said Mustafa Osso, a Syria-based human rights lawyer.

“Today was a real test for the intentions of the regime and the answer is clear to everyone who wants to see.”

The crisis in Syria has burned for nearly eight months despite widespread condemnation and international sanctions aimed at chipping away at the ailing economy and isolating Assad and his tight circle of relatives and advisers. The protesters have grown increasingly frustrated with the limits of their peaceful movement, and there are signs of a growing armed rebellion in some areas.

Officers, soldiers sentenced in deaths

Mexico City – In a rare punishment of military personnel, 14 Mexican soldiers and army officers were sentenced to long prison terms in the shooting deaths of five women and children at a checkpoint in the state of Sinaloa four years ago, authorities said.

The number of human rights atrocities blamed on the military – including killings, torture and the forced disappearance of civilians – has soared since the start of President Felipe Calderon’s war against drug cartels five years ago. But few cases have been prosecuted.

In the Sinaloa case, the family of Adan Abel Esparza was traveling to a funeral in a pickup truck in the summer of 2007 when they apparently failed to stop at a military checkpoint. Soldiers opened fire on the vehicle, killing three children aged 2, 4 and 7, and two women.

A military tribunal sentenced the officer in charge that day to 40 years in prison for homicide and related crimes; another officer received a 38-year term, while 12 soldiers were sentenced to 16 years in prison.


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Trump administration pulls U.S. out of UN human rights council

UPDATED: 7:23 p.m.

The United States announced Tuesday it was leaving the United Nations’ Human Rights Council, with Ambassador Nikki Haley calling it “an organization that is not worthy of its name.” It was the latest withdrawal by the Trump administration from an international institution.