Journalist is rescued hours after abduction

MEXICO CITY — A kidnapped journalist was rescued by security forces in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz hours after he was taken by armed men outside his home, Mexican officials and the journalist said Thursday.

Police said in a statement that they intercepted a suspicious vehicle traveling down a dirt road late Wednesday and a shootout ensued between officers and three apparent captors, who escaped on foot. Reporter Marcos Miranda Cogco was discovered tied up in the back of the car.

In a Facebook video, Miranda Cogco said he ducked to the floor of the vehicle to avoid flying bullets.

The journalist was kidnapped Wednesday morning in the port city of Boca del Rio. He said he was taken to a room and stripped naked while his captors took photos of him and repeatedly hit him in the neck and head. He was treated for minor injuries.


Putin fires two officers who arrested journalist

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin on Thursday fired two senior police officers involved in the arrest of an investigative journalist on drug charges that were later dropped for lack of evidence, in a case that provoked national outrage.

The firings, which came a day after massive arrests at a protest rally in the Russian capital, reflect a careful balancing act by the Kremlin, which seeks to assuage public anger while maintaining a tight lid on dissent.

Last week’s arrest of Ivan Golunov on drug-dealing charges he rejected as sham drew an unprecedented show of solidarity, with three top national newspapers publishing front pages demanding his release.

The Kremlin announced Thursday the ouster of Moscow police’s anti-drugs chief, Yuri Devyatkin, and head of the police department for western Moscow, Andrei Puchkov.

Ice Age wolf head found in perfect condition

MOSCOW — Russian scientists have found the furry head of an Ice Age wolf perfectly preserved in the Siberian permafrost.

The head of a wolf, which died 40,000 years ago, was discovered in the Russian Arctic region of Yakutia.

Valery Plotnikov, a top researcher at the local branch of the Russian Academy of Sciences, said the animal belonged to an ancient subspecies of wolf that lived at the same time as the mammoths and became extinct alongside them. Scientists said it was an adult, about 25% bigger than today’s wolves but did not say whether it was male or female.

Plotnikov called the discovery unique because scientists previously only had found wolf skulls without tissues or fur, while this head has ears, a tongue and a perfectly preserved brain.


Boris Johnson takes strong lead in PM race

LONDON — The flamboyant, divisive Boris Johnson took a commanding lead Thursday in the contest to become Britain’s next prime minister, winning by far the largest share of support in the first round of voting by Conservative Party lawmakers.

Johnson, a former foreign secretary and leading Brexit campaigner, secured 114 of the 313 votes cast by Conservatives in the House of Commons, a ballot that reduced the field of candidates from 10 to seven. His successor as foreign secretary, Jeremy Hunt, trailed with 43 votes, followed by Environment Secretary Michael Gove with 37.

The winner will become both the new Conservative Party leader and Britain’s next prime minister.


Venezuelans rush over border before new rules

LIMA — Venezuelan citizens were rushing to enter Peru on Thursday less than two days before it imposes new entry requirements on migrants fleeing the crisis-wracked South American nation.

Gen. Raul Alfaro, the police chief for the Tumbes region, said 4,000 Venezuelans entered Peru’s northern border Wednesday, doubling the normal rate of daily entries.

Starting Saturday, Peru will demand passports and visas from Venezuelan migrants, who had previously been allowed to enter the country by presenting their national ID cards.

Wire reports