Top news: French troops prepared to launch a ground assault against Islamist militants in Mali amid reports that the rebels have dispersed throughout the population, raising the possibility that French ground forces face a protacted ground operation against a hardened insurgency.
After five days of airstrikes, the French military has been unable to dislodge the rebels, who are reported to have stockpiled weapons and supplies in caves around the country. Initial reports from Mali indicated that the French forces were seeing a great deal of success against the enemy, striking large columns of forces moving south, inflicting large casualties, and fueling optimistic assessments that the rebels would be quickly routed. But the rebels have since scattered and remain in control of the town of Konna, the seizure of which provoked the French intervention.
French forces will now begin a ground assault to drive the rebels north and will likely target the town of Diabaly. The push north is likely to French forces in "direct combat" with the Mali rebels, according to Edouard Guillaurd, the chief of staff of the French army. France has committed about 1,700 troops to the mission, with about 800 deployed in the country. While France has said that it does not plan an extended military deployment in Mali, the African forces slated to take over responsibility for the French mission are not expected to be ready for weeks.
Syria: Following deadly explosions at university in Aleppo that killed over 80 people, the Syrian army launched an offensive against rebels in the city. It is unclear who was responsible for the blast, which occurred as students were taking exams, and both sides of the conflict have accused the other of carrying out the attack.
- The Somali militant group al-Shabab said that they plan kill captured French intelligence Denis Allex in response to a failed raid by French commandos to free the man.
- Islamist militants from Mali kidnapped at least eight foreigners at a BP facility in southern Algeria.
- Somali police arrested a journalist after she wrote a story about a woman who claimed she had been raped by government security forces.
- Pakistan's highest court ordered the arrest of the country's prime minister, Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, as a radical cleric gathered thousands in the capital for anti-government protests.
- Suicide bombers struck the headquarters of the Afghan intelligence service, setting off a powerful blast in one of Kabul's most heavily guarded districts.
- A Pakistani soldier was killed in the disputed border territory Kashmir, which has seen sporadic exchange of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops during the last 10 days.
- Three powerful car bombs in Kirkuk that targeted the political leadership of the Kurdish autonomous region in Iraq's north killed at least 19 people and wounded another 200.
- A secret State Department cable concluded that the Syrian government likely used chemical weapons in a deadly attack on Homs on Dec. 23.
- U.N. investigators began a new round of talks with Iranian officials aimed at restarting an investigation into whether Iran tested atomic bomb triggers.
- A helicopter crashed into a crane in central London and crashed onto the street amid the morning, killing two.
- The German economy contracted by .5 percent in the last quarter of 2012, according to figures released Tuesday.
- A member of the punk band Pussy Riot has asked a Russian court to defer her two-year sentence until her son is a teenager.
- In response to last year's deadly shooting at a Connecticut school, U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to unveil today a proposal to overhaul American gun laws.
- Venezuelan Vice President Nicolas Maduro stood in for ailing President Hugo Chavez and delivered the state-of-the-nation report to the national legislature.
- Cuba's health ministry acknowledged 51 new cases of cholera in the country's capital.