Thousands of Muslims flee violence in Central African Republic; ICC opens war crimes probe

BANGUI, Central African Republic (AP) -- Thousands of Muslims climbed aboard trucks protected by heavily armed Chadian soldiers in a mass exodus Friday from the capital of Central African Republic. Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on anyone perceived as supporting a now-defunct Muslim rebel government blamed for scores of atrocities during its rule of this predominantly Christian country.

In The Hague, Netherlands, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes or crimes against humanity in Central African Republic, saying the crisis has "gone from bad to worse" since September.

Along the streets of Bangui, crowds of Christians gathered to cheer the convoy’s departure for the neighboring country of Chad, which is mostly Muslim. It was an acrid farewell to their Muslim neighbors who had in some cases lived alongside Christians for generations here and have few ties to Chad.

The dangers for those who stayed behind were clear: One man who tumbled from the precariously overloaded trucks was brutally slain, witnesses said.

"He didn’t even have the time to fall -- he landed into the hands of the angry mob who then lynched him at the scene," said Armando Yanguendji, a resident of the Gobongo district who witnessed the horror.

The hackers who hit Target may have used Pa. refrigeration business as a back door

NEW YORK (AP) -- The hackers who stole millions of customers’ credit and debit card numbers from Target may have used a Pittsburgh-area heating and refrigeration business as the back door to get in.

If that was, in fact, how they pulled it off -- and investigators appear to be looking at that theory -- it illustrates just how vulnerable big corporations have become as they expand and connect their computer networks to other companies to increase convenience and productivity.

Fazio Mechanical Services Inc., a contractor that does business with Target, said in a statement Thursday that it was the victim of a "sophisticated cyberattack operation," just as Target was. It said it is cooperating with the Secret Service and Target to figure out what happened.

The statement came days after Internet security bloggers identified the Sharpsburg, Pa., company as the third-party vendor through which hackers penetrated Target’s computer systems.

Target has said it believes hackers broke into its vast network by first infiltrating the computers of one of its vendors. Then the hackers installed malicious software in Target’s checkout system for its estimated 1,800 U.S. stores.

Man suspected of trying to hijack plane to Sochi detained in Turkey as passengers evacuated

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were kicking off Friday, but the pilot tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead, where he was stealthily detained after a four-hour stand-off on a plane full of passengers, an official said.

The hijacking drama came as the Winter Olympics opened in the Russian resort city, with thousands of athletes from around the world pouring into the tightly secured stadium amid warnings the games could be a terrorism target.

A Turkish F-16 fighter was scrambled as soon as the pilot on the Pegasus Airlines flight from Kharkiv, Ukraine, with 110 passengers aboard signaled there was a hijacking attempt, according to NTV television. It escorted the plane safely to its original destination at Sabiha Gokcen airport in Istanbul.

Officials credited the pilot and crew for convincing the 45-year-old-man, who claimed he had a bomb, that they were following his wishes.

"Through a very successful implementation by our pilot and crew, the plane was landed in Istanbul instead of Sochi," Istanbul governor Huseyin Avni Mutlu told reporters at the airport. "He thought it was going to Sochi but after a while he realized that (the plane) was in Istanbul."

Violent anti-gov’t protests spread across Bosnia; protesters set buildings, cars ablaze

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) -- Anti-government protesters stormed into the Bosnian presidency and another government building in Sarajevo and set them ablaze Friday as riot police fired tear gas in a desperate attempt to stop them.

Smoke was rising from several Bosnian cities as thousands vented their fury over the Balkan nation’s almost 40 percent unemployment and its rampant corruption. It was the worst social unrest the country has seen since the 1992-95 war that killed over 100,000 people following Yugoslavia’s dissolution.

As night was falling Friday, downtown Sarajevo was in chaos, with buildings and cars burning and riot police in full gear chasing protesters and pounding batons against their shields to get the crowd to disperse.

Nearly 200 people were injured throughout the country in clashes with police, medical workers reported.

Bosnians have many reasons to be unhappy as general elections approach in October. The privatization that followed the war decimated the middle class and sent the working class into poverty as a few tycoons flourished. Corruption is widespread and high taxes for the country’s bloated public sector eat away at residents’ paychecks.

Children, women, elderly evacuated from besieged Syrian city in rare cease-fire deal

BEIRUT (AP) -- Dozens of children and women along with elderly people in wheelchairs were evacuated Friday from besieged neighborhoods of Syria’s battleground city of Homs under a deal between the warring sides that included a three-day cease-fire.

The rare truce in Homs, which will also allow the entrance of aid convoys, may help build some confidence ahead of a second round of peace talks between the opposition and the government of President Bashar Assad, scheduled to begin in Geneva next week.

By nightfall, about 80 civilians were brought out of the city, many of them appearing frail and exhausted. Residents have endured a crushing blockade and severe food shortages for more than a year.

U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi had pushed for aid for the estimated 2,500 civilians trapped in the ancient, rebel-held quarters known as Old Homs as a confidence-building measure during the first face-to-face meetings in Geneva last month.

The talks were adjourned until Feb. 10 with no tangible progress, as the Syrian government accused the opposition of capitalizing on human suffering in Homs to score points with the international community.

Hoffman’s NYC funeral attracts Hollywood stars

NEW YORK (AP) -- Meryl Streep, Cate Blanchett, Ethan Hawke, Brian Dennehey, Amy Adams and Ellen Burstyn were among the stars who paid their respects Friday at a private funeral for Philip Seymour Hoffman that combined sadness and humor to honor an actor widely considered among the best of his generation.

The coffin holding Hoffman’s body was brought out of the Church of St. Ignatius Loyola by pallbearers and put in a hearse as family and guests began to stream out Friday afternoon. Streep hugged Diane Sawyer as they left.

"He left an enormous amount of love behind. It’s a terrible loss," said Jose Rivera, a playwright whose work has been produced by Hoffman’s LAByrinth Theatre Company.

He said the service was loving and simple, with people sharing their memories of Hoffman and laughing. "It was quite beautiful and heartfelt and sincere, and everybody had a lot to remember, in terms of Phil," Rivera said.

The list of mourners also included Michelle Williams, Julianne Moore, Joaquin Phoenix, Louis C.K., Mary Louise Parker, John Slattery, Laura Linney, Jerry Stiller, Chris Rock, Marisa Tomei, Spike Lee and Sawyer’s husband, the director Mike Nichols. Playwright David Bar Katz, who found Hoffman’s body, was visibly upset as he arrived.

Prosecutors charge Denver woman with kidnapping, say she took newborn from Wisconsin to Iowa

TOWN OF BELOIT, Wis. (AP) -- Federal prosecutors charged a Denver woman on Friday with kidnapping her half-sister’s newborn boy from a Wisconsin home hours after police discovered the infant in a storage crate outside an Iowa gas station, alive and well in single-digit weather.

Kristen Smith faces life in prison if she’s convicted of kidnapping Kayden Powell, who’s nearly a week old.

The newborn’s parents reported him missing from the Town of Beloit home in southern Wisconsin where the family was staying early Thursday morning. According to an affidavit accompanying the kidnapping charge, Smith is the mother’s half-sister and had come to visit the family in Wisconsin. She left the home early Thursday morning. Several hours later the newborn’s mother reported the baby missing.

Police arrested Smith at a West Branch, Iowa, gas station on Thursday morning on an outstanding warrant from an unrelated case in Texas. The baby was not in the car, although she had baby clothes, a fake pregnancy belly and a stroller with her, according to the affidavit. Hundreds of officers in Wisconsin, Illinois and Iowa, meanwhile, began searching possible stops on her route.

West Branch Police Chief Mike Horihan was searching the area around a BP gas station off Interstate 80 -- about 500 yards from the Kum & Go station where Smith was arrested -- when he heard cries that led him to a closed storage crate alongside the building. The baby was inside the crate, swaddled in a blanket but healthy and responsive.