In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, freed Iranian hostages who were captured by the Syrian rebels since August, hold roses as they gather at a hotel, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday Jan. 9, 2013. Rebels freed 48 Iranians on Wednesday in exchange for more than 2,000 prisoners, including women and children, held by Syrian authorities � a deal struck after rare negotiations involving regional powers Turkey, Qatar and Iran. (AP Photo/SANA)
BEIRUT (AP) -- An aide to Iran's supreme leader is warning that any attack on Syria would be deemed an attack on Iran, a sign that Tehran will do all it can to protect embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Iran's semiofficial Mehr news agency quotes the aide (Ali Akbar Velayati) to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying the U.S. and Arab states in the Gulf have attacked what he called the "golden ring of resistance" by backing the rebels trying to oust the Syrian leader. He says Syria plays a key role in supporting the "resistance front," a reference to the militant groups, Hamas and Hezbollah, and Iran and Syria, which are all anti-American. And he says an attack on Syria is considered an attack on Iran and its allies.
The comments came as Syrian troops conducting raids against rebels discovered a trio of tunnels near the capital being used to smuggle weapons in the fight to topple Assad.
WASHINGTON (AP) -- Ever since the tragic shootings at an elementary school in Connecticut last month, the issue of gun violence in America has taken center stage in the nation's capital.
Thousands of people marched on Washington on Saturday in support of stricter gun control laws.
Speakers called on Congress to pass a ban on military-style assault weapons and high-capacity ammunition magazines.
Education Secretary Arne Duncan told the crowd gathered at the Washington Monument that it's not about taking away Second Amendment rights, but about gun safety and saving lives.
Participants held signs reading "Ban Assault Weapons Now" and "Gun Control Now." Other signs carried names of victims of gun violence.
The rally was organized in response to the massacre of 20 first-graders and six teachers in Newtown, Conn., in December
About 100 residents of Newtown came to the march.
Kara Baekey of Norwalk, Conn., says she immediately thought of her two young children when she heard about the shooting. She said she decided she must take action, and that's why she joined the march.
CHICAGO (AP) -- Authorities are investigating the shooting deaths of five people in a single day of bloodshed in Chicago.
Police Officer Daniel O'Brien says Saturday's first killing occurred at around 2:15 a.m. on the city's west side when a gunman opened fire on two men who were sitting in a parked car, killing one and wounding the other.
Investigators say a few hours later, someone opened fire on three men near a South Side eatery, killing two of them and wounding the third.
Detectives were called to the scene of another shooting Saturday afternoon in which a man in his 30s and a teenager were shot to death. There had been no arrests.
Chicago's homicide count eclipsed 500 last year for the first time since 2008.
SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea's state news agency says leader Kim Jong Un has vowed at a meeting of top security and foreign officials to take "substantial and high-profile important state measures."
Analysts say the pledge is a sign that North Korea plans to conduct a nuclear test on Kim's orders.
North Korea's powerful National Defense Commission declared last week that the country would carry out a nuclear test and launch more rockets in defiance of the U.N. Security Council. The U.N. punished North Korea for a long-range rocket test in December with more sanctions, calling it a violation of a ban on nuclear and missile activity.
The official Korean Central News Agency reported Sunday that Kim convened top security officials and diplomats in Pyongyang to pledge to take action.
SEVARE, Mali (AP) -- More French and African troops and equipment are being sent to an Islamist stronghold in northern Mali in an effort to drive the al-Qaida-linked extremists from power.
French forces took control of the airport and a key bridge in Gao on Saturday.
Since France began its military operation two weeks ago with a barrage of airstrikes followed by a land assault, the Islamists have retreated from three cities in central Mali.
Meanwhile, the United States has decided to provide additional support to the French military by conducting aerial refueling missions. The Pentagon says U.S. Africa Command will run the operation.
U.S. aerial refueling planes would be a boost to air support for French ground forces as they enter areas of Mali that are controlled by al-Qaida-linked extremists.
The U.S. has already been helping France by transporting French troops and equipment to the West African nation.
CAIRO (AP) -- Egyptian troops are deployed in the Mediterranean city of Port Said (sy-EED') to quell a deadly riot.
Security officials say a total of 27 people have been killed and some 400 wounded, many by gunfire, throughout the city.
Relatives and angry young men rampaged through Port Said on Saturday after a judge sentenced 21 people to death in connection with a melee last year at a soccer match that killed 74 fans of a Cairo-based team.
Victims were killed when police fired tear gas, bird shot and other live ammunition at the mob.
Saturday's riot stems from animosity between police and die-hard soccer fans know as Ultras, who also were part of the mass uprising against deposed President Hosni Mubarak in 2011, and were at the forefront of protests against the military rulers who assumed temporary power after his ouster.
It also reflects tensions after the uprising that reached into all sectors of Egyptian life, even sports.
Unrest surrounding the second anniversary of Egypt's revolution also broke out in Cairo and other cities for a third day, with protesters clashing for hours with riot police in the capital's downtown.
NATO missile defense battery in Turkey operational
BRUSSELS (AP) -- NATO says the first of six Patriot missile defense batteries deployed to southern Turkey to intercept possible rocket fired from Syria is operational.
The alliance's supreme commander Adm. James Stavridis (stav-REE'-dihs) says the deployment represents "a clear demonstration of the agility and flexibility of NATO forces" and NATO's willingness to defend allies.
The United States, Germany and the Netherlands are providing two batteries each of the latest U.S.-made Patriots, optimized for intercepting incoming rockets.
NATO says the first battery to become operational was a Dutch unit. It will help to protect the city of Adana. The rest of the units are expected to become fully operational in the next few days.
Syria has not fired any of its surface-to-surface missiles at Turkey during its nearly two-year civil war. Its government has described the NATO deployment as a provocation.
La. trooper: 1 officer fatally shot, 2 wounded
NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- A man suspected of fatally shooting a police officer and critically wounding two sheriff's deputies in southern Louisiana is being questioned by investigators.
Authorities say 48-year- old Wilbert Thibodeaux is also accused of setting a deadly fire at a mobile home near a casino.
Louisiana State Police Trooper Stephen Hammons says a Chitimacha tribal officer was pronounced dead at the scene of the shootings in Charenton, while two St. Mary Parish sheriff's deputies were critically wounded and taken to local hospitals.
Hammons says investigators found the burned remains of an elderly man after extinguishing a fire at a mobile home that Thibodeaux is suspecting of setting before the officers confronted him.
Hammons says the officers were responding to a report of an armed man walking down a road near the Cypress Bayou Casino when Thibodeaux allegedly shot them.
The suspect was treated for a gunshot wound that wasn't considered life-threatening and released, according to Hammons, who says investigators are questioning him. Charges against him are pending.
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Casey Anthony has filed for bankruptcy in Florida, claiming about $1,100 in assets and $792,000 in liabilities.
Court records show that Anthony, who was acquitted of killing her two-year-old daughter in 2011, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy on Friday in federal court in Tampa.
Her listed debts include $500,000 for attorney fees and costs for her criminal defense lawyer during the trial, Jose Baez; $145,660 for the Orange County Sheriff's office for a judgment covering investigative fees and costs; $68,540 to the Internal Revenue Service for taxes, interest and penalties; and $61,505 to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement for court costs.
The filing lists her as unemployed.
An attorney for Anthony, David Schrader, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Associated Press.
Friar accused of abuse in 2 states kills self
PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Police say a Franciscan friar accused of sexual abusing students at schools in two states killed himself at a western Pennsylvania monastery.
Blair Township police Chief Roger White tells the Associated Press an autopsy by the county coroner confirmed that 62-year-old Brother Stephen Baker died of a self-inflicted knife wound.
White said officers were called to St. Bernardine Monastery in Hollidaysburg on Saturday morning after another resident had found Baker not breathing.
Baker was named last week in legal settlements with 11 men who alleged he sexually abused them at a northeast Ohio school three decades ago. A Pennsylvania school said it has also received molestation allegations involving Baker.
Youngstown Bishop George Murray called for prayers for abuse victims, Baker's family "and the repose of his soul."