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In brief: Troops pulling back, officials say

Beirut – Syrian troops began pulling out Tuesday from some calm cities and headed back to their bases a week ahead of a deadline to implement an international cease-fire plan, a government official said.

The claim could not immediately be verified, and activists near the capital Damascus denied troops were leaving their area.

President Bashar Assad agreed just days ago to an April 10 deadline to implement international envoy Kofi Annan’s truce plan. It requires regime forces to withdraw from towns and cities and observe a cease-fire. Rebel fighters are to immediately follow by ceasing violence.

Quake warning app offered free

Mexico City – Mexico City’s government is offering a free app for BlackBerrys that will alert users when a major earthquake is approaching the capital.

Mayor Marcelo Ebrard said there are monitoring stations in remote areas of the country that detect earthquakes and send signals to Mexico City from 5 to 10 seconds before a tremor’s waves reach the capital.

Ebrard said the app began working Tuesday. He said even a few seconds warning will be valuable in helping people take action to protect their lives.

Yacht joins search for missing men

Melekeok, Palau – The U.S. Coast Guard and a mega-yacht owned by billionaire Paul Allen are searching the Pacific for an American pilot and two Republic of Palau police officers whose plane disappeared as they tried to track down a Chinese vessel that was allegedly fishing illegally.

The search follows a deadly confrontation between Palau officers and a smaller Chinese boat that was part of the same fishing operation. One fisherman was killed Saturday after police fired on the fishing vessel as it tried to ram the officers’ boat, Fermin Meriang, a spokesman for Palau’s president, told the Pacific Daily News.

The missing men had been aboard a Cessna that was dispatched to track a larger Chinese fishing boat.

The U.S. Coast Guard has been searching for the three since the pilot reported Sunday that they were running low on fuel.