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story.lead_photo.caption Italian Premier Giuseppe Conte meets Monday with the media at Chigi Palace premier office in Rome on fighting in northern African nation of Libya.

Libya toll at 146; Italy calls for cease-fire

BENGHAZI, Libya -- At least 146 people have been killed since a Libyan military commander launched an offensive on the capital earlier this month, the U.N. said Monday, as Italy called for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of his forces.

The World Health Organization said 614 others have been wounded since the Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter's self-styled Libyan National Army launched its offensive on April 5. It did not specify whether those killed and wounded were civilians or fighters.

The fighting pits the group against rival militias loosely affiliated with a weak U.N.-backed government based in the capital, Tripoli. The U.N. says more than 13,500 people have been displaced.

The clashes threaten to ignite civil war on the scale of the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi. The oil-rich North African country is split between rival governments in the east and west.

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte called Monday for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Hifter's forces, saying that a military campaign would not bring stability. He spoke after meeting with Qatar's foreign minister in Rome.

"We hope and we are working with full determination to prevent a continuation of military hostilities," Conte said, adding that he has personally intensified diplomatic contacts to reach a political solution under U.N. auspices.

Since 2011, Libya has become a major conduit for African migrants fleeing war and poverty and seeking a better life in Europe. Italy and other European countries have provided aid to Libyan authorities to try and stem the flow of migrants.

Last known female of turtle species dies

BEIJING -- The only known female member of one of the world's rarest turtle species has died at a zoo in southern China, officials said Sunday.

The animal was one of four Yangtze giant softshell turtles known to remain in the world. The Suzhou zoo, where the female turtle lived, also houses a male Yangtze giant softshell turtle. The other two live in Vietnam, but their genders are unknown.

The turtle died Saturday afternoon, the Suzhou city government said in a statement, citing the zoo. It said experts used technology to collect the turtle's ovarian tissue for future research.

The state-run People's Daily reported that the turtle was over 90 years old and had undergone a fifth attempt at artificial insemination shortly before she died.

Yangtze giant softshell turtles originated in China, making their homes in the Yangtze River and Taihu Lake, according to the People's Daily.

Serb detained, faces war crime charges

PRISTINA, Kosovo -- A Kosovo court has ordered the detainment of a Serb man while he awaits trial on charges of genocide and war and humanitarian crimes during Kosovo's 1998-99 war for independence.

The court said in a statement Monday that the man, identified only by his initials Z.K., is suspected of belonging to a Serb police unit that killed four ethnic Albanians and tortured and robbed a family of 19 in a southern Kosovo village in March 1999.

Since the war, the defendant, who was arrested last week, has been living in Kragujevac, Serbia.

About 10,000 people died and about 1,650 remain missing from the war, which ended after a 78-day NATO air war that stopped a bloody Serb crackdown against ethnic Albanian independence fighters.

China denies U.S.' Maduro-backing flak

BEIJING -- Beijing fired back at the U.S. Monday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized China's role in Venezuela as prolonging the crisis there.

Pompeo's accusations were "unfounded" and "deliberately drove a wedge" between China and Latin America, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said at a regular briefing.

"For a long time, the United States has regarded Latin America as its own backyard to pressure, threaten and even subvert political power in other countries at every turn," Lu said, adding that "some American politicians have been harping on one string" in order to "smear China across the world."

Pompeo said last Friday that China's financing of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government helped "precipitate and prolong" the country's crisis. He accused China of investing more than $60 billion of "no strings attached" funds that were used for actions such as crushing pro-democracy activists and bankrolling ineffective social programs.

Hyperinflation, shortages of food and medicine, and other hardships have caused more than 3 million Venezuelans -- about one-tenth of the population -- to flee the country in the past few years. President Donald Trump's administration, which recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaido as Venezuela's interim president, has been trying to remove Maduro from power. China, meanwhile, is a close ally of Maduro and has urged other countries to not intervene in Venezuela's affairs.

-- COMPILED BY DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS

Photo by AP/RAHMAT GUL
An Afghan boy pushes his wheelbarrow through floodwaters as heavy rain falls in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday.

A Section on 04/16/2019

Print Headline: Libya toll at 146; Italy calls for cease-fire Last known female of turtle species dies Serb detained, faces war crime charges China denies U.S.' Maduro-backing flak

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