French troops foil pirate attacks

PARIS — French soldiers successfully defended two fishing boats from capture by pirates in the Indian Ocean on Saturday, and 11 men suspected of involvement in the failed attack were pursued at sea and captured, officials said.

The chain of events illustrated the teamwork in the international community to crack down on piracy in the Indian Ocean, where pirates cruise the waters searching for boats to hijack for ransoms.

Iraqis ban alcohol use in holy province

BAGHDAD— Local Iraqi authorities have outlawed alcohol in the province of Najaf, home to the holiest Shiite city, saying it contradicts the principles of Islam.

The decision to ban the sale and consumption of alcohol highlights efforts by religious parties to win support with Shiite voters before crucial parliamentary elections this January.

Alcohol consumption is forbidden under Islam, and liquor stores have often been targeted by both Sunni and Shiite extremists in Iraq.

The stores are widely owned and operated by Iraqi Christians, and the move by the Najaf provincial council could trigger fears among the Christian minority and secular Muslims worried that religious extremism is growing in the country.