Top news: Islamist rebels are advancing into territory held by the Malian government and appear to have taken the central town of Konna, which previously represented the outer limit of the military's control. The Malian Army has now retreated to a nearby airbase. “We have taken the town of Konna. We control Konna, and the Malian Army has fled. We have pushed them back,” said a spokesman for Ansar Dine, the rebel group. Gen. Carter Ham, commander of the U.S. Africa Command, described it as a "significant change in the situation."
The U.N. Security Council held an emergency session last night, convened by France, to discuss the deteriorating situation in Mali. The U.N. approved the deployment of an African force to Mali in December, but troops are not expected to be on the group until next September. Mali's interim president, Dioncounda Traore, sent a request for more immediate assistance to French President Francois Hollande and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.
Speaking this morning, Hollande vowed that France would intervene to stop any further advance by rebels in its former colony. "We are faced with a blatant aggression that is threatening Mali's very existence. France cannot accept this," he said. "We will be ready to stop the terrorists' offensive if it continues." French officials declined to comment on unconfirmed reports that aircraft carrying western soldiers landed at the airbase near Konna on Thursday night.
Venezuela: Though Hugo Chavez is still being treated in Cuba and was unable to attend his inauguration yesterday, thousands of his supporters turned out for a rally in his support.
- Dozens were killed in a bombing claimed by a Baluch separatist group in Quetta, Pakistan.
- Japan's government approved $116 billion in economic stimulus.
- China has reportedly sent troops to its border with Myanmar.
- The U.N.'s top envoy in Syria met with U.S. and Russian diplomats in Geneva.
- Rebels are reportedly about to overrun an airbase in Northern Syria.
- A Treasury Department point detailed ways that Iran is evading international sanctions.
- The European Central Bank said the eurozone shows signs of stabilizing after keeping a key rate unchanged.
- Russia says a new law banning U.S. adoptions won't go into effect for another year.
- Turkey's prime minister blamed the deaths of three Kurdish activists killed in Paris this week on an internal feud.
- Rebels in the Central African Republic have agreed to a one-week truce.
- The Somali pirate known as "Big Mouth" has announced his retirement.
- Kenyan legislators voted themselves a large pay raise.
- Mexico's new ambassador to the United States said he hopes Washington will impose new gun control laws.
- U.S. lawmakers have released documents showing bribery by Wal-Mart in Mexico.
- Cuba's new loosened travel laws will go into effect on Monday.