Kidnappers say 49 dead in air strikes at Algerian gas complex


At least 34 hostages and 15 Islamist militant captors have been killed in Algerian army air strikes on a remote gas treatment plant where a mass abduction took place, a Mauritanian news agency reported, citing one of the kidnappers.

"We're going to hold the rest of the hostages and we'll kill them if the Algerian army approaches," the spokesman for the kidnappers told the private ANI news agency, adding that the group's chief of command, identified as Abu al-Baraa, was among the dead.

Abu al-Baraa had earlier been the militant group's spokesman.

The new spokesman, who was not identified, said the kidnappers had been trying to transport some of the hostages to a safer place when Algerian military planes bombarded the convoy.

The nationality of the hostages allegedly killed remains unclear.

The spokesman made no mention of reports by Algerian officials that 30 Algerian captives had escaped.




8 Die in Mexico plane crash


Eight people, three of them children, were killed when a small plane crashed just seconds after it took off from an airport in the southern Mexican state of Chiapas, authorities told Efe.

The aircraft, a Piper Navajo, plunged to the ground and burst into flames at Angel Albino Corzo Airport near Tuxtla Gutierrez, the state capital.

The plane was carrying six passengers and a crew of two, state emergency services chief Luis Manuel Garcia Moreno said, citing preliminary reports.




Chavez is calm, fully aware, Venezuelan V.P. says


Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is calm and has remained fully aware throughout the complications that followed his Dec. 11 cancer surgery, his vice president said in an exclusive interview with Efe.

"In general terms, I see him very calm, very serene, very conscious of all the phases through which he has passed in the post-operative phase," Nicolas Maduro said.

Chavez, a 58-year-old leftist who won another six-year term in the Oct. 7 election, has undergone four operations as well as chemotherapy and radiation since being diagnosed with cancer in June 2011.

The president is progressing favorably, the Venezuelan government said in the latest bulletin, but continues to battle a respiratory insufficiency caused by a post-operative infection.

Venezuela's Supreme Court ruled last week that Chavez could delay his swearing-in, set for Jan. 10, without creating a constitutional vacuum, and that Maduro may remain in charge during the president's absence.




Hackers target Mexican military Web sites


The Anonymous group of activist hackers took responsibility for attacks on the Web sites of Mexico's defense and navy departments.

Hackers gained access to all of the information in the defense department's computers, Anonymous said on Twitter.

The site's normal public content was also replaced by a statement on the disturbances surrounding the Dec. 1 inauguration of President Enrique Peña Nieto and an early manifesto from the Zapatista rebels, who staged a brief armed uprising in the southern state of Chiapas nearly 20 years ago.




Floods in Indonesian capital leave 9 dead


Nine people are dead and some 10,000 others have been forced to leave their homes amid extensive flooding in the Indonesia capital, authorities said.

Officials declared a 10-day state of emergency in Jakarta and prepared plans for the evacuation of as many as 350,000 additional residents if the situation worsens.

About 10,000 people are in makeshift shelters at mosques, hospitals and government buildings, Indonesia's disaster-management agency said.




Illinois congressman hires undocumented man for district office


Rep. Luis Gutierrez (D-Ill.) hired the first Illinois DREAMer to receive his papers under the federal Deferred Action program, Mexican immigrant Jose Quintero, for his district office in Chicago.

"It was a surprise and I'm very happy," Quintero, 25, told Efe after he started this month as a full-time employee with a salary and medical benefits in the congressman's office.

"The congressman asked me to help in his office," Quintero said, referring to the tasks he performs, including helping other undocumented immigrants fill out requests for Deferred Action to avoid deportation.

"I am challenging my colleagues to put their money where their mouths are and hire young people who have come forward, applied and received work authorization," Gutierrez said in a statement.




Agencia EFE ranked in Communication Top-10


Agencia Efe, Spain's international news agency, was recognized by the European Association of Professionals of Culture with the Communication Top-10 award.

Managing director Jose Ignacio Sanz Cerezuela accepted the honor on the agency's behalf in a ceremony at Efe's Madrid headquarters.

The Top-10 designation reflects the views of 1,500 Spanish and foreign communications professionals surveyed by Ibecom, who praised Efe for its "relevant, positive and appropriate" performance in 2012.




LeBron James becomes youngest NBA player to score 20,000 points


Miami Heat superstar LeBron James became the youngest NBA player to reach the 20,000-point milestone during his team's 92-75 victory over the Golden State Warriors.

James, who achieved that mark at 28 years and 17 days, also coincidentally dished out his 5,000th assist during Wednesday night's game at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California.

The athletic forward, known for his all-around play on both ends of the floor, become just the 38th player in league history to get to 20,000 points when he connected on a 12-foot jumper with 2:45 remaining in the second quarter.

James finished the game with a typically stellar stat line of 25 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds.