Sources: U.S. trains fighters for battling Assad in Syria

The United States is training secular Syrian fighters in Jordan in a bid to bolster forces battling President Bashar Assad’s regime and stem the influence of Islamist radicals among the country’s persistently splintered opposition, American and foreign officials said.

The training has been conducted for several months now in an unspecified location, concentrating largely on Sunnis and tribal Bedouins who formerly served as members of the Syrian army, officials told The Associated Press.

The forces aren’t members of the leading rebel group, the Free Syrian Army, which Washington and others fear may be increasingly coming under the sway of extremist militia groups, including some linked to al-Qaida, they said.

The operation is being run by U.S. intelligence and is ongoing, officials said, but those in Washington stressed that the U.S. is providing only nonlethal aid at this point.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly.


Court delays announcement on third trial for U.S. student

U.S. student Amanda Knox and her former Italian boyfriend have to wait another day to learn if they must stand trial in Italy yet again in the 2007 murder of her roommate.

Italy’s top Court of Cassation put off until Tuesday its announcement of its decision on whether to definitively confirm their 2011 acquittals or throw out those verdicts and order what would be the their third trial.

Neither of the two came to court in Rome on Monday to follow the latest stage in their case. Knox was waiting for the decision in her home state of Washington, while her co-defendant and former boyfriend, Raffaele Sollecito, stayed in northern Italy to continue his studies.

Italian prosecutors have asked the high court to throw out the acquittals in the murder of 21-year-old British student Meredith Kercher and order a new trial.


‘Argo’-like film scam ends with prison for five people

Five people were sentenced to prison Monday in Britain for pretending to make a Hollywood movie in a scam to defraud tax authorities of millions of pounds.

The fraudsters were convicted earlier this month of attempting to bilk the government of $4.2 million in a plot reminiscent of the Academy Award-winning hit “Argo” — but without that movie’s heroic hostage rescue.

Bashar Al-Issa, described as the leader of the fraud, received a 6.5-year sentence. The four others were sentenced to about four years each.

When the scam was detected, the gang hastily made a film called “A Landscape Of Lies” on a shoestring budget in a bid to cover it up. The movie was released straight to DVD in Britain in 2011. But that did not deter tax authorities.


President flees, rebels win in Central African Republic

The president of the Central African Republic fled the country for Cameroon after rebels overran the capital of the impoverished nation long wracked by rebellions.

Ousted President Francois Bozize sought “temporary” refuge on its territory, the Cameroonian government confirmed Monday.

Central African Republic’s new leadership appeared fragmented, with a split emerging in the rebel coalition that seized the capital.

The African Union on Monday imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on seven leaders of the rebel coalition, known as Seleka, and said their advance had undermined prospects for a lasting solution to the crisis in the landlocked country. It urged African states to deny sanctuary to the rebel chiefs.

South Africa said Monday that 13 of its soldiers were killed in fighting with rebels, prompting criticism about why its forces had intervened in such a volatile conflict.

— From news service reports