Chad: President in charge?

N'DJAMENA — President Idriss Deby declared himself in control of the country Wednesday, even while acknowledging that three-fourths of his government had disappeared since rebels attacked the capital.

For the first time since the assault began, more people were crossing bridges toward N'Djamena than away — apparently heeding a government call to return. Government forces pushed rebels out of the capital after weekend battles that left hundreds dead and sent thousands fleeing.

Ecuador: Volcano spews ash

QUITO — Ecuador's Tungurahua volcano shot columns of ash miles into the air on Wednesday, as officials ordered the evacuation of 3,000 villagers living near its slopes.

Some 1,000 villagers from the western flanks of the 16,575-foot volcano fled their homes for shelters at dawn, said Roberto Rodriguez, director of Civil Defense. He said 11 families who refused to leave, fearing looters, were removed by force.

Germany: Neo-Nazi graffiti

LUDWIGSHAFEN — Neo-Nazi graffiti was found scrawled on the entrance to a Turkish cultural center at a building where nine people — including five children — were killed in a fire, police said Wednesday.

The building in the southwestern city of Ludwigshafen was home to two Turkish families; all nine victims were either Turkish citizens or Germans of Turkish descent.

The deaths called to mind racially motivated attacks in western Germany in the 1990s.

Iraq: Mosque work begins

BAGHDAD — Iraqi and U.N. officials toured a bomb-damaged Shiite shrine in northern Iraq on Wednesday as workers took the first steps in a long-delayed reconstruction — nearly two years after the attack on the famed golden dome became a rallying point for Shiite rage.

Crews in blue jumpsuits and orange helmets picked through mounds of rubble spilling from the mosque in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, which became the spark for a vicious cycle of sectarian violence after the Feb. 22, 2006, blast blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq.

Israel: Hamas fires rockets

JERUSALEM — Hamas militants fired a rocket into an Israeli border village, wounding two young sisters as they played outside their home. The attack followed Israel airstrikes against Gaza militants and threats of an "all-front" war on the Islamic group.

The rapid-fire events threatened to escalate into large scale combat that could bury U.S.-led Mideast peace efforts.

Hamas stepped up its rocket barrages at southern Israel for a second day, retaliating for an Israeli strike that killed seven of its police officers. More than a dozen rockets rained down, one exploding at Kibbutz Beeri, a communal village about four miles from the border fence.

Italy: Parliament dissolved

ROME — The second shortest-lived Parliament in Italy's postwar history was sent packing Wednesday, and Italians will return to the ballot box in April for an election that could propel conservative Silvio Berlusconi back to power.

President Giorgio Napolitano dissolved Parliament more than three years before the end of its five-year term. Napolitano indicated he made the decision reluctantly but saw no way to keep the legislature afloat following the collapse of Premier Romano Prodi's center-left government last month.

Kenya: U.N. deplores violence

The U.N. Security Council on Wednesday deplored the widespread violence in Kenya and urged political leaders to resolve the crisis over disputed elections "through dialogue, negotiation and compromise."

The presidential statement was the first response by the U.N.'s most powerful body to the fighting that erupted after the Dec. 27 presidential election, which has killed more than 800 people in a country once considered among the most stable in Africa.

Puerto Rico: Cruelty charges

BAYAMON — A judge on Wednesday ordered the owner of an animal control company and two of his employees to stand trial for animal cruelty charges for the October massacre of about 80 seized pets that were hurled off a bridge.

Following several days of hearings, Superior Court Judge Nelson Canabal ruled there was sufficient evidence for Julio Diaz, owner of Animal Control Solutions, and the two employees to stand trial.

The killings of pets seized from housing projects brought revulsion around the world and triggered calls for tourist boycotts of this U.S. Caribbean territory.