February 11, 2013

Clashes between Malian forces and Islamist rebels. North Korean doctors murdered in Nigeria. I'm Christopher Cruise.

French and Malian soldiers clashed with Islamist fighters in the northern town of Gao on Sunday. The militants were defying a security lock-down that had been ordered after two suicide bomb attacks in two days.

Heavy gunfire and explosions were heard throughout the Saharan town, the largest in northern Mali, as French and Malian soldiers fought the militants. The militants are calling their group the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa.

It was the first time the Islamist fighters had entered Gao since French-led forces regained control of the town from the rebels two weeks ago.

Armed men in northeastern Nigeria have killed three North Korean doctors. Health care workers have been attacked often the country recently by members of a radical Islamist group.

Nigerian officials say at least two of the doctors had their throats cut by attackers who entered their apartment overnight Saturday into Sunday in the town of Potiskum in Yobe state.

The Associated Press reports a third doctor was beheaded in the raid.

There has been no claim of responsibility for the attack.

The non-religious party of Tunisia's president says it will withdraw from the country's Islamist-led coalition government. Party officials are angry about the way the government reacted after last week's assassination of an opposition leader.

The killing was Tunisia's first political assassination in decades. It has thrown the government and the country into turmoil.

The NATO-led military mission in Afghanistan has a new leader and American Marine general took command Sunday. Ayaz Gul was there.

The change of command ceremony took place at the Kabul headquarters of NATO's International Security Assistance Force.

General Joseph Dunford assured outgoing commander General John Allen that the coalition will remain focused on accomplishing its Afghan mission.

"I will endeavor to continue the momentum of the campaign and support the people of Afghanistan as they seize the opportunity for a brighter future."

General Dunford will oversee the withdrawal of most foreign troops from the country by December of 2014.

General Allen, in his speech, expressed optimism that the achievements Afghanistan has made in the past decade have put the nation on a road to progress.

"Afghan forces defending Afghan people and enabling the government of this country to serve its citizens, this is victory."

Ayaz Gul for VOA news, Islamabad.

A Syrian activist group says rebels are using captured government tanks to attack troops loyal to President Bashar al-Assad in the east of the country. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says rebels used the tanks Sunday to attack an army unit and a military airport near the city of Deir Ezzor.

Indian officials say at least ten people died and dozens were hurt in a stampede Sunday as pilgrims left a festival that attracted millions of people in the northern city of Allahabad.

The stampede began after a bridge at the city's train station collapsed under the weight of pilgrims.

More than 30 million people gathered to enter the waters where the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers come together.

Sunday was the most popular day of a Hindu festival which is held every 12 years. People believe entering the rivers cleanses them of sin and frees them of the cycle of birth and rebirth.

It is the biggest night of the year for the music industry. The Grammy Awards are happening in Los Angeles.

Among those up for awards are rhythm and blues singer Frank Ocean, the British folk band Mumford & Sons, and the indie-pop group Fun. Each are nominated for six awards.

Fun is led by singer Janelle Monae. The group had one of the biggest hits of the year "We Are Young." It is one of six songs nominated for Record of the Year.

And people in Brazil and Colombia are celebrating carnival. Tens of thousands of people gathered on the streets of the countries Saturday and Sunday. One person there called it the best party in the world.

I'm Christopher Cruise, VOA news. More on the Internet at voanews.com.