World briefs: Eritrea coup called failure

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GARSEN, Kenya -- Eritrea, a sliver of a nation in the Horn of Africa that is one of the most secretive and repressive countries in the world, was cast into confusion Monday after mutinous soldiers stormed the Ministry of Information and took over the state-run television service, apparently in a coup attempt.

According to several people with close contacts inside Eritrea, the coup attempt failed, with government troops quelling the would-be rebellion and no one rising up in the streets.

But many analysts said it was only a matter of time before President Isaias Afewerki, Eritrea's brash and steely leader for the past 20 years, is overthrown -- and most likely from within.

The rebel soldiers, believed to number around 100, made it as far as the director's office in the Information Ministry, forcing him to read a statement on air calling for the release of political prisoners. Then the broadcast abruptly cut out.

Forces retake Mali town

DIABALY, Mali -- French troops rolled through the streets of Diabaly on Monday, winning praise from residents of this besieged town after Malian forces retook control of it with French help a week after radical Islamists invaded.

The Islamists also have deserted the town of Douentza, which they had held since September, according to a local official who said French and Malian forces arrived there Monday as well.

The militants' occupation of Diabaly marked their deepest encroachment into government-held territory, and Monday's retaking of the town is a significant victory for the French-led intervention.

Diabaly, located about 320 miles north of Bamako, the capital, fell into rebel hands Jan. 14.

New leader of euro group

BRUSSELS -- The Dutch finance minister, Jeroen Dijsselbloem, was elected Monday as the new president of the group of euro area finance ministers.

Mr. Dijsselbloem, who has been the Netherlands' finance minister only since November, will face one of the world's most daunting financial tasks -- helping to lead the group of 17 European Union countries that use the euro back to financial stability.

The 46-year-old replaces Jean-Claude Juncker, prime minister of Luxembourg, who held the job for eight years.

Beijing battles pollution

BEIJING -- The city has proposed rules that would increase fines for vehicle emissions and force more factory shutdowns when smog reaches dangerous levels, as officials stepped up efforts to fight pollution.

Drivers could face 3,000 yuan ($482) in fines if vehicles exceed emissions limits, while the construction of new cement and steel plants would be outlawed. Street vendors would be fined 5,000 yuan for barbecuing food on the side of the road on smoggy days.

The stricter anti-smog efforts appeared a week after pollution levels in the city hit a level that was almost 40 times recommended World Health Organization limits.

Also in the world ...

Ugandan troops in the Central African Republic have killed the chief bodyguard of Joseph Kong, the fugitive head of the Lord's Resistance Army, a Ugandan army official said Monday. The commander known only as Binani was among a small group of rebels when he was killed in a firefight 175 miles north of Djema, a base in the Central African Republic where Uganda-led African Union troops are being advised by U.S. special forces. ... Five men accused of raping and murdering a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in India appeared before a trial judge, who set a hearing for Thursday, when defense attorneys and prosecutors are expected to begin arguments over precisely which criminal charges the accused will face. All five plan to plead not guilty.

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