CAIRO

Syria’s sectarian conflict causes Egypt to sever ties

Egypt’s Islamist president announced Saturday that he was cutting off diplomatic relations with Syria and closing Damascus’ embassy in Cairo, decisions made amid growing calls from hard-line Sunni clerics in Egypt and elsewhere to launch a “holy war” against Syria’s embattled regime.

Mohammed Morsi told thousands of supporters at a rally in Cairo that his government was also withdrawing the Egyptian charge d’affaires from Damascus.

He also called on Lebanon’s Hezbollah to leave Syria, where the Iranian-backed Shiite militant group has been fighting alongside troops loyal to embattled President Bashar Assad against the mostly Sunni rebels.

Morsi’s address, particularly his call on Hezbollah to leave Syria, and the fiery rhetoric used by well-known Muslim clerics this weekend point to the increasing perception of the Syrian conflict as sectarian.

TRIPOLI, Libya

Six soldiers killed in attack on new security forces

Rooftop snipers and knife-wielding assailants killed six soldiers in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi early Saturday, officials said, in the largest attack on the country’s new security forces to date.

The brazen overnight assault by hundreds of plain-clothed gunmen on security installations forced soldiers to withdraw from some of their bases. In one case, soldiers fled out the back door of the First Infantry Brigade’s headquarters in Benghazi as assailants stormed the main gate, torching the building and two military vehicles.

Security officials say 11 people were wounded.

It was the second deadly incident to strike the city this week. Thirty-one people, mostly civilians, were killed days earlier at an anti-militia protest.

TUCSON, Ariz.

Border agents rescue scores as desert temperatures soar

U.S. Border Patrol agents have saved 177 people during the last 30 days in the southern Arizona desert as temperatures have reached perilous levels, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials.

Officials said agents rescued 52 of the 177 just in the last week, when temperatures soared near 110 degrees.

Agents from the sector have performed 372 rescues during the current fiscal year. During the same period last year, there were 265 rescues, according to federal data.

Those rescued are suspected of crossing into the United States illegally. It’s physically impossible for the average person to carry enough water to survive such punishing heat, Border Patrol agents report.

Death rates among people trying to cross into the country illegally are at an all-time high in southern Arizona despite a lull in illegal border crossings, according to the Pima County Office of the Medical Examiner.

— From news service reports