SYRIA: Last NBC staffer freed
The last missing member of an NBC team that was kidnapped Thursday has been freed and is safely in Turkey, NBC News executives said Wednesday. Ian Rivers was part of the team led by NBC's chief foreign correspondent, Richard Engel. Engel and several other members escaped unharmed on Monday. Rivers said he and the others had been "blindfolded, handcuffed and roughed up a little bit" while being held by pro-regime militia groups. He said he ended up getting released on his own "in the confusion of some type of handover."
Rebel chief girding forces
The new rebel chief said he's been moving between safe houses since taking up command, fearing regime spies. Grappling with untrained and undisciplined fighters, Salim Idris said in an interview he is trying to turn local militias into a united force for a final push against President Bashar Assad. Idris, 55, a former general who defected from the army five months ago, was chosen as rebel chief of staff in a meeting of field commanders this month in Turkey.
EGYPT: Fearful Christians didn't vote
A campaign of intimidation by Islamists left most Christians in a southern province too afraid to participate in last week's referendum on an Islamist-drafted constitution they deeply oppose, residents say. The disenfranchisement is hiking Christians' worries over their future under empowered Muslim conservatives. A week before the vote, some 50,000 Islamists marched through their provincial capital, Assiut, chanting that Egypt will be "Islamic, Islamic, despite the Christians."
IRAQ: Kurdish president ailing
President Jalal Talabani will be flown to Germany for treatment after suffering a stroke earlier this week, two Kurdish officials close to him said Wednesday. Talabani, 79, a Kurd, was taken to the hospital late Monday. His illness raises new concerns about Iraq's stability, being tested anew by tensions between the government and the Kurds.