Car bomb kills 8 in Syria
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates -- At least eight members of Syrian military intelligence were killed by a car bomb near an army building in the southern town of Sa'sa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The attack late Thursday was carried out by the Al-Nusra Front, an Islamist group that has fought as part of the rebel movement seeking to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad, the British-based Observatory, which supports the opposition, said in a email Friday.
Al-Nusra, classified as a terrorist group by the United States, also killed and injured several Syrian military personnel in a separate car-bomb attack near a military checkpoint in the same area, the Observatory said.
Crocodiles flee farm
JOHANNESBURG -- About 15,000 crocodiles escaped from a South African reptile farm, a newspaper reported Thursday.
Driving rains forced the Limpopo River over its banks Sunday near the Rakwena Crocodile Farm. The owners, fearing the raging floodwaters would crush the walls of their house, opened the gates, springing the crocodiles.
About half of the reptiles have been captured. One was found on a school's rugby field nearly 75 miles away.
Apology for grounding
MANILA, Philippines -- The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Harry K. Thomas Jr., apologized Friday for the grounding of a U.S. naval ship on a reef in a marine sanctuary.
The area struck by the USS Guardian Jan. 17 is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is described as "a pristine coral reef" that is home to more than 350 species of coral and almost 500 types of fish.
The minesweeper crashed after a refueling stop at Subic Bay on its way to Indonesia, the Navy said.
Sex extortion ring
BEIJING -- China's state media Friday reported details of a sex extortion ring that operated "honey traps" in the southwest metropolis of Chongqing.
The scandal has led to the dismissals of at least 11 officials of the Communist Party, government or state-owned companies for having sex with women and then being blackmailed by the men who had set up the snares.
Xi Jinping, China's new top leader, has vowed to root out official corruption.
MOSCOW -- Russian lawmakers have approved a measure aimed at cracking down on smoking.
State Duma members voted 442 to 1 in favor of a weakened version of the bill, which keeps a ban on smoking in public places, while dropping restrictions on cigarette sales. The government will retain the right to set minimum cigarette prices, the only proposed concession that wasn't approved by the lawmakers.
Russia is the second-biggest tobacco market after China.
SYDNEY -- Australian Deputy Prime Minister Wayne Swan called for renewed debate on his nation's allegiance to the British monarch.
A referendum to create an Australian head of state and break ties to the British crown failed in 1999 amid divisions over how a president would be selected and affinity for the reigning queen. While the ruling Labor Party supports a move to a republic, it maintains the issue isn't a priority and is unlikely to be addressed while Queen Elizabeth II, 86, remains on the throne.
"I, as a lifelong republican, don't believe in inherited privileges," Mr. Swan said Friday on Australian Broadcasting Corp. radio in Brisbane.