MONTERREY, Mexico

Soldiers, agents raid casinos after arson attack kills 52

Hundreds of soldiers and federal agents are raiding casinos in this northern city, authorities said Saturday, two days after an arson attack on a gambling house killed 52 people.

Security forces had so far confiscated about 1,500 slot machines at 11 casinos in Monterrey and its surroundings and arrested three people, Mexico’s tax agency said. It said the continuing operation was meant to verify whether casinos had paid taxes or introduced slot machines illegally.

Thursday’s arson attack was a macabre milestone in a conflict that the government says has claimed more than 35,000 lives since President Felipe Calderon launched an offensive against drug cartels in late 2006.

The torching of the Casino Royale has raised questions over Mexico’s regulatory controls for fast-spreading gambling houses.

Authorities have not been able to reach the owners of two companies pointed out as titleholders of the casino. Jorge Domene, security spokesman for Nuevo Leon state, said an order to appear before state police has been issued for owners of the two companies, CYMSA Corp. and Vallarta Attractions and Emotions.

Casino Royale’s legal representative, Juan Gomez, said that the shareholders of the business were Jorge Alberto and Raul Rocha Cantu. They will meet with police when authorities set the time, Gomez said.

BEIRUT

Iran urges Syria’s Assad to heed ‘legitimate demands’

Syria’s closest ally, Iran, warned Saturday that a power vacuum in Damascus could spark an unprecedented regional crisis while urging President Bashar Assad to listen to some of his people’s “legitimate demands.” Thousands of protesters, meanwhile, insisted they will defy tanks and bullets until Assad goes.

The five-month-old uprising in Syria has left Assad with few international allies — with the vital exception of Iran, which the U.S. and other nations say is helping drive the deadly crackdown on dissent.

Saturday’s comments by Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi were a subtle shift in tone toward comprise by Tehran, which encouraged the Assad regime to answer to its people while reiterating its support for its key ally. Most previous comments focused on a “foreign conspiracy” driving the unrest.

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo.

Rangers unsure if man died before or after grizzly attack

Rangers investigated Saturday whether a Michigan man was the victim of a grizzly attack in Yellowstone National Park or if the bear had come upon the hiker’s body after he died.

The man was found Friday morning by two hikers on the Mary Mountain Trail, which runs northeast of the park’s iconic Old Faithful geyser. Investigators found grizzly bear tracks and scat near the man, but were not immediately sure whether the grizzly caused the man’s death or disturbed his body after he died.

Authorities said the victim likely died Wednesday or Thursday. Park officials did not plan to name the hiker — a man in his 60s from the Upper Peninsula of Michigan — until today, pending family notification.

An autopsy is planned.

Mary Mountain is a 21-mile-long backcountry trail in the central area of the park. It’s closed from March to June because park managers list it as “high-density grizzly bear habitat.”

The trail was closed after the man was discovered.

The victim was not carrying bear pepper spray, which is advised for hikers in the area.

— From news service reports