YOLA, Nigeria (AP) -- A team of French experts has arrived in Nigeria to help look for more than 270 schoolgirls being held by Islamist extremists. The French team joins British security experts who arrived yesterday to help Nigerian and American forces in the search.
Meanwhile, militants continue their violent attacks. Residents of a town in northeastern Nigeria say Islamist extremists killed an unknown number of people yesterday, abducted the wife and two children of a retired police officer, then blew up a bridge to prevent the military from pursuing them.
Islamic bloc chief: Nigeria kidnappings barbaric
JIDDAH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- The secretary-general of the world's largest bloc of Islamic countries says the kidnapping of more than 270 Nigerian schoolgirls is a "barbaric" and "inhumane" act.
The kidnapping by the extremist group Boko Haram in Nigeria has prompted worldwide condemnation. The group claims to use Islamic teachings as justification for threatening to sell the kidnapped girls into slavery.
"This is inhumane and barbaric," Iyad Madani told The Associated Press on Saturday from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation's headquarters in Saudi Arabia in his first interview with the media since officially taking office in January.
He said such extremist groups "not only disavow their Islam, but also their humanity."
Madani says sectarian violence is among the most important challenges facing the Muslim world. The OIC is comprised of 57 Muslim-majority member states.
HANOI, Vietnam (AP) -- Vietnamese protesters have gathered outside the Chinese Embassy in Hanoi to protest China's deployment of an oil rig that has triggered a tense naval standoff in contested South China Sea waters.
Scores of security officers are monitoring the demonstrators Sunday as they shout anti-Chinese slogans and hold up banners.
Vietnam's authoritarian leaders are highly nervous about public protest even as they have condemned China's decision to send the rig. Dissident movements opposed to their rule have also taken part in previous anti-China protests.
Hanoi dispatched a flotilla of ships to the oil rig soon after it was deployed on May 1, and say some were rammed by Chinese boats. The latest sea confrontation in the disputed waters is raising fears that tensions could escalate.
Quake shakes western Mexico, but little damage
MEXICO CITY (AP) -- A magnitude-6.0 earthquake has jolted people from their beds in western and central Mexico, but officials say they've received no reports of major damage or injuries from the early morning shake.
The U.S. Geological Survey says the quake hit at 2:36 a.m. (3:36 a.m. EDT; 0736 GMT) in the same region as Thursday's magnitude-6.4 quake, near the town of Tecpan de Galeana along Mexico's Pacific Coast.
In Mexico City, buildings and light posts swayed and some sleepy people fled into the streets in pajamas following the sound of an earthquake alarm.
Sanctions against Venezuela advance in House
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Legislation to punish Venezuela's government for human rights abuses is advancing in Congress over objections from the Obama administration.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee recommended on Friday passage of the bill, which now goes to the full chamber for consideration. Two Democrats voted against it.
The bill orders the Obama administration to ban visas and freeze the assets of Venezuelan officials who violated human rights during anti-government protests that have roiled the South American nation since February.
Similar legislation has been proposed in the Senate but has so far hasn't advanced out of committee. The State Department's top diplomat for Latin America told a Senate committee Thursday that now isn't the appropriate time for sanctions and urged waiting for the outcome of talks between the opposition and the government.
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) -- An Argentine neuroscientist who became one of the Monsanto Company's most difficult public relations problems has died.
Argentina's national science council announced Saturday that its past president Andres Carrasco has died. He was 67 and had been in declining health.
Carrasco was an expert in embryonic development whose 2010 study challenged regulators to re-examine glyphosate. Sold by Monsanto as Roundup, it's widely used around the world and has been labeled safe if applied properly. But relatively few countries enforce pesticide rules, and people are increasingly exposed.
Carrasco found that very small amounts can cause neurological damage in chicken and frog embryos that are similar to human birth defects found in farming communities.
Monsanto challenged Carrasco's embryo tests as unreliable and irrelevant for assessing risk to humans.
Bombings kill 14 people north of Iraq's capital, Baghdad, as shelling in Fallujah kills 11
BAGHDAD (AP) -- A series of bombings in Iraq has killed 14 people.
Police says the deadliest of today's attacks happened when a suicide bomber drove his explosive-laden car into the security checkpoint in the town of Dujail, killing six security force members and a civilian. Fifteen people were wounded. Dujail is 50 miles north of Baghdad.
Earlier, police said a bomb blast at an outdoor market killed four people and wounded 17 in another town north of the capital.
A third bomb exploded near a patrol of Sunni anti-al-Qaida militiamen 90 miles north of Baghdad, killing three and wounding two.
Meanwhile, a doctor at a hospital in Fallujah says army shelling yesterday killed eight civilians and three gunmen. Militants took over parts of the Anbar provincial capital of Ramadi and nearby Fallujah in December. Army and police forces have battled them for months but failed to regain control.
Merkel presses Putin to help calm Ukraine
BERLIN (AP) -- German Chancellor Angela Merkel says Russian President Vladimir Putin must send more "signals of de-escalation" to help calm the situation in Ukraine and make presidential elections there possible on May 25.
Merkel spoke Saturday after meeting French President Francois Hollande in her constituency in northeastern Germany. The two leaders stressed their view that a sovereignty referendum planned Sunday by pro-Russian insurgents in two troubled eastern Ukrainian regions is illegitimate.
The rebels are going ahead with the referendum despite Putin's call on Wednesday to delay the vote.
Merkel said: "The Russian president must send more signals of de-escalation" so the presidential elections can go ahead.
Merkel said she would like to see a "national dialogue" in Ukraine start next week if possible, but didn't specify who should participate.
Merkel defends Germany's early retirement plans
BERLIN (AP) -- Chancellor Angela Merkel is defending plans to allow some Germans to retire on full pensions at 63 and insisting they won't stop her advocating painful reforms in other countries.
Germany is raising the retirement age gradually to 67 from 65 but the government plans, at the insistence of Merkel's new center-left coalition partners, to allow people who've paid into the pension system for 45 years to retire at 63 without taking a financial hit.
Some in Merkel's conservative bloc fear Germany is sending the wrong signal to struggling European countries.
Merkel said in her weekly video message Saturday that Germany remains on track to raise the retirement age for most people and even the early-retirement age will increase gradually to 65, "so I can continue to advocate structural reforms elsewhere."
Egypt to try 200 suspected of terrorist attacks
CAIRO (AP) -- Egypt's chief prosecutor's office says it has charged 200 suspected militants with carrying out terrorist attacks that killed 40 policeman and 15 civilians, and of conspiring with al-Qaida and the Palestinian militant group Hamas in one of the country's largest terrorism-related cases.
The Saturday statement said the defendants, 98 of whom remain on the run, belong to the al-Qaida-inspired Ansar Beit al-Maqdis group, or Champions of Jerusalem, which has claimed responsibility for a wave of attacks that picked up following the military overthrow of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi last summer. Officials accuse Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of orchestrating the violence, a charge the group denies.
The prosecutors accuse the defendants of carrying out 51 attacks, and receiving training with Hamas in Gaza, and in Syria.
Thousands of Syrians enter Homs after rebels leave
HOMS, Syria (AP) -- Thousands of Syrians have walked into war-battered parts of the central city of Homs for the first time in nearly two years, checking on their homes after rebels left as part of a deal allowing them to safely withdraw as government troops took the city.
Men and women fanned out through rubble-strewn streets Saturday, past partially flattened buildings. Many emerged carrying clothes and belongings. Some accused rebels of looting their homes. Smaller crowds made the journey Friday.
Government troops blockaded the rebels, alongside hundreds of civilians, in the area as the country's civil war raged around them. Hundreds of fighters surrendered their Homs stronghold this week in a deal that allowed them safe passage to other rebel-held areas.
Activists say the 3-year-old Syrian conflict has killed more than 150,000 people.
US: Syrian chemical facilities must be destroyed
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The State Department's top arms control official says that surrendering 100 percent of its chemical weapons will not bring Syria fully into compliance with the commitments it made to eliminate its arsenal.
Rose Gottemoeller (GOT'-muller), the State Department's undersecretary for arms control and international security, told reporters Friday that Syria must also destroy facilities, including hangars and tunnels, associated with its program.
She said Syria has moved about 92 percent of its chemical weapons stocks to port for shipment out of the country. She said the remainder are at a single site near Damascus.
The head of the United Nations mission charged with destroying Syria's chemical weapons said Thursday the last 16 containers of chemical agents are in a contested area that is currently inaccessible due to the fighting.