Intervention force authorized for Congo
The U.N. Security Council authorized a new "intervention brigade" for Congo on Thursday with an unprecedented mandate to take military action against rebel groups to help bring peace to the country's conflict-racked east.
The resolution, adopted unanimously, gives the brigade a mandate to carry out offensive operations alone or with Congolese troops.
The brigade is unprecedented in U.N. peacekeeping because of its offensive mandate. The resolution, however, states clearly that it would be established for one year "on an exceptional basis and without creating a precedent" to the principles of U.N. peacekeeping.
The resolution, sponsored by France, the United States and Togo, would give the brigade a mandate to operate "in a robust, highly mobile and versatile manner" to ensure that armed groups can't seriously threaten government authority or civilian security.
Russian space ship docks with station
MOSCOW - A Soyuz capsule carrying three astronauts successfully docked today with the International Space Station, bringing the size of the crew at the orbiting lab to six.
Chris Cassidy of the United States and Russians Pavel Vinogradov and Alexander Misurkin traveled six hours in the capsule before linking up with the space station's Russian Rassvet research module over the Pacific Ocean, just off Peru.
The incoming crew will spend five months in space before returning to Earth.
Their mission began with a late-night launch from the Russian-leased Baikonur launch pad in Kazakhstan.
It was the first time a space crew has taken such a direct route to the orbiting lab. Cassidy, Vinogradov and Misurkin are the first crew to reach the station after only four orbits instead of the standard 50-hour flight to reach the station.
Surprise exercise ordered in Black Sea
MOSCOW - The Kremlin says President Vladimir Putin has ordered a surprise military exercise in the Black Sea.
News agencies quoted his spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, as saying Putin dispatched the order to the defense minister at 4 a.m. on Thursday.
A Kremlin statement said the exercise will involve 36 vessels, an unspecified number of airplanes and up to 7,000 troops. Peskov said maneuvers involving fewer than 7,000 troops do not require approval from Russia's neighbors.
Peskov said ships taking part in the exercise have already left the Russia-leased Sevastopol port on Ukraine's Crimea Peninsula.
Russia's naval affairs are under scrutiny due to the civil war in ally Syria.
163 killed in clashes, military reports
JUBA - A battle between South Sudan soldiers and rebels allegedly backed by neighboring Sudan killed 163 people, most of them rebels, government officials said Thursday.
South Sudan's military spokesman, Col. Philip Aguer, said government forces also captured an airstrip in the town of Okello, which he said the rebels have been using to import most of their military supplies. Okello is in South Sudan's southeast Pibor County, where rebel leader David Yau Yau hails from.
"This airstrip has been used by Khartoum (Sudan) intelligence to transport and supply arms and ammunition to David Yau Yau. Some of the arms that were being dropped by Antonovs were captured - AK-47s. Some are broken; some are in good condition," Aguer said.
He said 143 rebels led by Yau Yau died in the battle Tuesday, and that 20 soldiers were killed and 70 wounded.
South Sudan peacefully broke away from Sudan in 2011 but is still dealing with violence inside its own borders.
Pistorius is permitted to compete overseas
PRETORIA - Oscar Pistorius could compete at this year's world championships after a South African judge eased his bail restrictions and ruled Thursday that the athlete, who faces a murder trial for the shooting death of his girlfriend, can travel overseas to run.
An international athletics body said that if Pistorius qualifies, it had no objections to his running - an event that could eclipse the stir last year when he became the first double amputee to compete at the Olympics. Pistorius' agent told The Associated Press soon after the ruling that the world championships in Moscow in August could be possible if the runner wanted to return to the track on his carbon-fiber blades.
Judge Bert Bam upheld Pistorius' appeal against some of his bail restrictions but said he must travel under certain conditions.
The athlete could face a life sentence if found guilty of murder for the Valentine's Day shooting death of Reeva Steenkamp.
Palestinian journalist jailed for Abbas photo
RAMALLAH - A West Bank appeals court on Thursday upheld a one-year prison term for a Palestinian journalist who had a photo on his Facebook page that authorities claimed portrayed President Mahmoud Abbas as a traitor, rights activists said.
Abbas' Palestinian Authority is facing mounting criticism for stifling dissent. In particular, Abbas' security forces have targeted supporters of the Islamic militant Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip from him in 2007.
The defendant in Thursday's case was Mamdouh Hamamreh, a reporter for the Hamas-linked Al-Quds TV.
The Associated Press