World briefs – September 20

Thousands of protesters backed by military defectors seized a base of the elite Republican Guards on Monday, weakening the control of Yemen’s embattled president over this poor, fractured Arab nation.

Protesters seize Yemen military base

SANAA, Yemen — Thousands of protesters backed by military defectors seized a base of the elite Republican Guards on Monday, weakening the control of Yemen’s embattled president over this poor, fractured Arab nation.

His forces fired on unarmed demonstrators elsewhere in the capital, killing scores, wounding hundreds and sparking international condemnation.

The protesters, joined by soldiers from the renegade 1st Armored Division, stormed the base without firing a single shot, according to witnesses and security officials. Some carried sticks and rocks. They used sandbags to erect barricades to protect their comrades from the possibility of weapons fire from inside the base, but none came and the Republican Guards eventually fled, leaving their weapons behind.

Although the base was not particularly large — the Republican Guards have bigger ones in the capital and elsewhere in Yemen — its capture buoyed the protesters’ spirits and signalled what could be the start of the collapse of President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s 33-year-old regime.

“It was unbelievable,” said protester Ameen Ali Saleh of storming the base on the west side of the major al-Zubairy road, which runs through the heart of Sanaa. “We acted like it was us who had the weapons, not the soldiers.”

“Now the remainder of the regime will finally crumble,” said another demonstrator, Mohammed al-Wasaby.

“Our will is more effective than weapons. The soldiers loyal to Saleh just ran away.”

As clashes continued into the night, several loud explosions rocked Sanaa, and a mortar hit the Islamic University of Al-Iman, killing one and injuring two others. The cause of the explosions was not known.

Saleh went to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment after a June attack on his Sanaa compound and has not returned to Yemen, but has resisted calls to resign.


Murdoch company says settlement close with family of hacking victim

LONDON — Rupert Murdoch’s company said Monday that it is in advanced compensation talks with the family of a murdered teenager whose phone was hacked by the now-defunct News of the World tabloid.

News International, Murdoch’s British newspaper division, said it hoped to reach agreement soon with the family of 13-year-old Milly Dowler, whose voicemail messages were accessed by scoop-seeking journalists after she disappeared in 2002. She was later found murdered.

In a statement, News International said it was “in advanced negotiations with the Dowler family regarding their compensation settlement.”

“No final agreement has yet been reached, but we hope to conclude the discussions as quickly as possible,” it said.

The company would not disclose details, but the BBC and Sky News reported that it has offered to pay the family $2 million pounds ($3.2 million), and to donate 1 million pounds ($1.6 million) to charity.

Dowler family lawyer Mark Lewis did not immediately return calls and emails seeking comment.

The revelation by The Guardian newspaper in July that the News of the World had hacked into Dowler’s voicemail horrified Britain and triggered a widening scandal that forced resignations of senior police officers and executives of Murdoch’s global media empire.

The newspaper is accused of listening to the girl’s voicemail and deleting several messages, giving her parents false hope that she was alive and potentially damaging the police effort to find her.


UN rights office says at least 100

killed by Syrian forces in past week

GENEVA — The U.N. human rights office says security forces have killed at least 100 people in Syria during the past week.

U.N. Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kang Kyung-wha said Monday that the latest figures bring the death toll during months of unrest in Syria to more than 2,700 people, including at least 100 children.

Kang told the U.N. Human Rights Council that a team she led to investigate the crackdown on opposition protesters found “widespread or systematic human rights violations” including murder.

She says “the scale and nature of these acts may amount to crimes against humanity.”

Since mid-March, Bashar Assad’s regime in Syria has cracked down on protesters leading movements similar to those that have ousted other Arab autocrats this year.