Egypt's Morsi backs down from decree
CAIRO, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has annulled a decree that granted him expansive power and the army was mobilized to maintain security, officials said.
In a televised statement on al-Arabiya, Vice President Mahmoud Mekki said the army had been mobilized to maintain security. The Egyptian cabinet approved measures permitting the army to use force if "necessary to perform their duty," al-Ahram newspaper reported.
Islamist politician Mohammed Selim el-Awa told a news conference Saturday the referendum on a draft constitution on Dec.15 would go ahead as planned and be immune from judicial appeal, al-Masry al-Youm said.
"If the people voted no to the referendum, a new Constituent Assembly will be formed within three months via general elections, after which it will write a new constitution within six months," he said
However, one of the key demands of Morsi's opponents was to halt the referendum.
Ahmed Said, head of the Free Egyptians Party and a key member of the National Salvation Front coalition, called Morsi's announcement shocking, saying it failed to halt the referendum, the BBC said. Former presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the founders of the National Salvation Front, called Morsi's decision " arm-twisting." The party was due to issue a response later Sunday.
Tanks, concrete blocks and barbed wire surrounded Morsi's palace in Cairo, which has been the flashpoint of violence in the country in the past week, the BBC said.
At least seven people were killed and hundreds injured in violent protests between anti-Morsi protesters and supporters that plagued the country after Morsi announced a decree giving him sweeping powers shielding him from judicial review, Ahram Online said.
Two killed in Bangledesh protests
DHAKA, Bangladesh, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Violence erupted at a demonstration in Bangladesh Sunday, resulting in the deaths of two protesters and injuries to a number of others, officials said.
Protesters blocked roads nationwide, demanding an independent body to oversee next year's election, a system that was done away with by the government last year, the BBC reported.
The main opposition party -- Bangladesh National Party -- called for the protests in an effort to urge the government to restore the system.
Police fired rubber bullets and tear gas while protesters threw petrol bombs, the BBC said.
"We allowed peaceful protests. But once they started attacking cars and buses and throwing cocktail bombs, we used non-lethal weapons such as rubber bullets and tear gas to disperse them," said Deputy Police Commissioner Imtiaz Ahmed.
Two protesters were killed in the clashes, while scores of others were injured, the BBC said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said Bangladesh disbanded the election system following a court order and has no intention of reversing the order.
Report: Israel secretly operating in Syria
DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Israel has embarked on a covert war to monitor Syria's chemical and biological weapons, The Sunday Times of London reported.
"For years we've known the exact location of Syria's chemical and biological munitions," an Israeli source told the newspaper, adding, " ... in the past week we've got signs that munitions have been moved to new locations."
The "cross-border operation is part of a secret war to trail Syria's non-conventional armaments and sabotage their development," the newspaper said, adding special Israeli forces are operating as spotters to track the chemical stockpiles.
The decision to conduct such a mission came after Israel rejected the idea of conducting an aerial or ground assault to destroy Syrian President Bashar Assad's stockpile of chemical weapons, mainly purchased from Russia, the newspaper said.
If it becomes apparent that chemical weapons are being used by Assad, then Israel and the United States may coordinate to carry out a ground invasion, the paper said.
There has been no Israeli government response to the report.
U.S. officials said the White House and its allies are weighing military operations to secure Syria's stockpile of chemical weapons, Haaretz said.
Israel has also been in contact with Jordan to coordinate the issue. Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said his country is preparing "for different scenarios" and said the use of chemical weapons by Syria would be considered a "game changer."
Syrian rebels Saturday captured a chloride factory at Al Safira east of Aleppo considered to be the country's biggest chemical weapons store and base, which also houses Syrian Scud D missiles armed with chemical warheads adjusted to fire at Israel, Debka.com reported.
"The fall of Al Safira into rebel hands crosses a red line and places the Assad regime in direct peril. Possession of the chemical-tipped Scuds gives the rebels their strongest weapon for forcing the Syrian army to capitulate," Debka said.
American doctor rescued from Taliban
KABUL, Afghanistan, Dec. 9 (UPI) -- Coalition forces in Afghanistan Sunday rescued an American doctor who had been abducted by the Taliban four days earlier, military officials said.
Dr. Dilip Joseph, whose hometown wasn't provided, was freed during an operation in eastern Afghanistan and was being checked out before being reunited with his family, a spokesman for the International Security Assistance Force said.
Joseph had been abducted by Taliban insurgents Wednesday in the vicinity of Sarobi District of Kabul province. No details were provided about how he came to be kidnapped.
Gen. John R. Allen, commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, gave the rescue mission the green light to go forward after intelligence showed the doctor was in imminent danger of injury or death, the ISAF said in a release posted on its website.
"Today's mission exemplifies our unwavering commitment to defeating the Taliban," Allen said.
"I'm proud of the American and Afghan forces that planned, rehearsed and successfully conducted this operation. Thanks to them, Dr. Joseph will soon be rejoining his family and loved ones."
Famous Yellowstone wolf fatally shot
CODY, Wyo., Dec. 9 (UPI) -- A wolf described as "the most famous in the world" was shot and killed outside Yellowstone National Park, officials in Wyoming said.
The wolf, known as 832F to researchers, was found dead Thursday, The New York Times reported.
"She is the most famous wolf in the world," said Jimmy Jones, a Los Angeles wildlife photographer whose portrait of 832F appears in the current issue of the magazine "American Scientist."
This fall, Wyoming authorized the wolf hunts for the first time in 10 years.
Since then, eight wolves that researchers had captured and released with GPS tracking devices have been shot and killed by hunters just outside Yellowstone in Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.
Many ranchers and hunters say wolf hunts are a good way to keep the large population of wolves in the Rockies under control, but researchers have been dismayed.