World Briefs

Syrian President Assad to give speech today

BEIRUT – Syrian President Bashar Assad will deliver a speech today in a rare address to the nation, state media said, as rebels fighting to topple his embattled regime pressed ahead with an offensive on the capital.

The speech would be the first by the leader since June, and comes amid intense fighting between government troops and rebels on the outskirts of Damascus.

The official SANA news agency also said Syrian journalist Suheil al-Ali, who worked for the Dunya pro-government television station, died Friday of wounds sustained in a shooting attack in the suburbs of Damascus four days ago. SANA blamed a “terrorist,” the term the government uses for those trying to topple Assad.

Missoni scion on plane missing in Venezuela

ROME – Rescue crews used boats and aircraft Saturday to search for a small plane that disappeared in Venezuela carrying the CEO of Italy’s iconic Missoni fashion house and five other people.

But 24 hours after the BN-2 Islander aircraft disappeared from radar screens on its short flight from Venzuela’s coastal resort island of Los Roques, no sign of the plane had been found, officials said.

‘’We have no other news” about the plane carrying Vittorio Missoni, the head of the company; his wife, Maurizia Castiglioni; two of their Italian friends; and two Venezuelan crew members, said Paolo Marchetti, a Missoni SpA official.

Central African Republic rebels seize town

BANGUI, Central African Republic – Rebels in Central African Republic seized control of another town Saturday, just days before they are to begin negotiations with the government in nearby Gabon.

Alindao town, about 75 miles from Bambari, the nation’s third-largest city, was taken by rebels of the Seleka alliance, according to residents of a nearby community.

The insurgents have taken 11 towns and cities within a month. They previously said they would halt their advances pending talks with President Francois Bozize’s government, which are set to begin in Gabon on Tuesday.

The new move by rebels on Saturday casts doubt on the possible success of the talks. Already the rebels said they are seeking Bozize’s departure, but the president said he does not intend to leave office before his term ends in 2016.

Italy: 6 Russians die in snowmobile crash

ROME – Six Russians were killed and two seriously injured when the snowmobile and sled they were riding veered off an Italian Alpine ski slope at night, slammed into a barrier and flew through the air into a ravine.

The accident occurred Friday, and when rescuers arrived at the scene six of the victims were found dead on the slope of Mount Cermis, in the Trentino-Alto Adige region of northeast Italy, said Cavalese Fire Department Cmdr. Roberto Marchi.

Brazil: Cat used in prison smuggling try

SAO PAULO – Guards thought there was something suspicious about a little white cat slipping through a prison gate in northeastern Brazil. A prison official says that when they caught the animal, they found a cellphone, drills, small saws and other contraband taped to its body.

Alagoas state prisons spokeswoman Cinthya Moreno says the cat was caught New Year’s Eve at the medium-security prison in the city of Arapiraca.

The O Estado de S. Paulo newspaper reported Saturday that all of the prison’s 263 inmates are suspects in the smuggling attempt, though a prison spokesman said, “It will be hard to discover who is responsible since the cat does not speak.”

Associated Press