VOA NEWS IN SPECIAL ENGLISH

January 20, 2013

Algeria's Interior Ministry says the country's hostage crisis has ended. But 23 hostages and 32 militants were killed. The Interior Ministry said Saturday that security forces were able to free 107 foreign hostages and 685 Algerians during the four-day crisis. Earlier, Britain's Defense Secretary Philip Hammond said terrorists are, in his words, solely responsible for the deaths of some of the hostages. On Wednesday, Islamist militants attacked a natural gas center in the Algerian desert and seized hundreds of hostages.

Gunmen in Nigeria have attacked a group of cars transporting one of the country's most powerful Muslim leaders. At least three people were killed. Officials say Ado Bayero, the emir of the city of Kano, was not hurt in the attack on Saturday. No one has claimed responsibility for the attack. Kano is the largest city in northern Nigeria. The killings come one day before the first anniversary of deadly bombings and shootings that killed 184 people in Kano. The attack was blamed on the Islamist group Boko Haram.

The French foreign minister says it is time for African forces to take over the fight to remove Islamist militants from the northern part of Mali. Laurent Fabius spoke at an emergency meeting of West African leaders Saturday in Abidjan, the business capital of Ivory Coast. The leaders were meeting to decide whether to send more troops to Mali to help French soldiers fighting there. Countries near Mali are expected to send in at least 3,000 troops. They would support French troops who entered the country about a week ago. Mali is a former French colony. About 1,800 French troops are now in Mali. About 700 more are to arrive in the next few days. France says its troops will stay in the country until the situation is under control.

A Pakistani official says his country will release more Afghan Taliban detainees to try to help move the peace process in Afghanistan forward. Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani said the remaining detainees will be released "subsequently" but he did not say exactly when. Mr Jilani spoke during a visit to the United Arab Emirates. In the past two months, Pakistan has freed 17 Afghan Taliban prisoners. However, Pakistan is still holding one of the group's former leaders, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar. He was captured in Pakistan in 2010.

Delegates from about 140 countries have agreed to accept a treaty limiting the use of a dangerous heavy metal. The world's first legal treaty on mercury was agreed to on Saturday after a week of talks in Geneva, Switzerland. The goal of the treaty is to reduce world pollution levels of mercury. That metal can cause physical and mental development problems in children. In a new report, the United Nations Environment Program found that human activities release nearly 2,000 tons of mercury every year. Much of the dangerous element lands on plants in the soil and in lakes and oceans. And a UN official said a great deal of mercury is passed to humans through polluted fish.

The United States Transportation Security Administration says it has decided to remove full-body airport security devices. These scanners had produced what appear to be naked images of a traveler's body. The agency has canceled an agreement with Rapiscan, the company that makes the scanner. The TSA has 174 of the scanners at around 30 airports. Rapiscan failed to meet a congressional deadline to provide software to protect the privacy of passengers. A spokesman for TSA said the scanners will largely be replaced with other devices made by a company called L-3 Communications. That company's scanners are already in use at some airports. They produce a lined image of passengers' bodies instead what appear to be naked images.

And finally at this hour, President Obama says his government is taking steps to protect America's children and communities from gun violence. He spoke during his weekly Saturday address. He said immediate actions include strengthening the background check system. People with a criminal history will not be permitted to buy guns. The government will also help schools employ more police officers if they want them. And the administration has directed the Centers for Disease Control to study the best ways to reduce gun violence. But President Obama said "a real and lasting difference" also requires Congress to act soon. He called on lawmakers to ban military-style weapons and limit how much ammunition a gun can hold.