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Geckos on mission die aboard Russian spacecraft

MOSCOW — Five geckos launched into space by Russia for an experiment on sexual reproduction in near-zero gravity were found dead Monday after their spacecraft returned to earth, the Russian space agency Roscosmos announced in a statement.

The reptiles, popularly called the “sex geckos” because of their mission, gained notoriety in July when Roscosmos briefly lost contact with their Foton-M4 satellite and feared that its life-support systems might have failed. But communication with the satellite was re-established, and the experiment continued.

A colony of fruit flies aboard the spacecraft survived the flight.

“All the geckos, unfortunately, were killed,” the agency wrote in a statement posted on its website. “The date and conditions of their deaths is being determined by specialists.”

—Andrew Roth, The New York Times

Militias seize Libyan capital

CAIRO — The government of Libya said Monday that it had lost control of its ministries to a coalition of militias that had taken over the capital, Tripoli, in another milestone in the disintegration of the state.

“The government reiterates that these buildings and the public headquarters are not safe and inaccessible, because they are under the control of armed men,” the government said in a statement. It was issued from the eastern city of Tobruk, where the recently elected parliament has convened in territory controlled by a renegade general who has tried to stage a coup d’état.

Over the last two months, the fractious militias that have dominated the country since the ouster of Moammar Gadhafi three years ago — variously local, tribal, regional, Islamist or criminal — have lined up into two warring factions. One side, operating under the name Libya Dawn, aligned with militias from the coastal city of Misurata and the Islamist factions in what fighters portrayed as a battle to prevent a counterrevolution. The other side was aligned with the renegade general, Khalifa Hifter, in the east and partisans from the mountain city of Zintan in the west, to fight what they called a battle against Islamist extremists.

—David D. Kirkpatrick, The New York Times

UN rights council looks at Islamic State abuses in Iraq

UNITED NATIONS — The top U.N. advocate for children afflicted by war said Monday that the Islamic State was using them as informers, checkpoint sentries and, in some cases, suicide bombers.

The advocate, Leila Zerrougui, the special representative of the secretary general for children and armed conflict, also said that the United Nations had received reports that the Islamic State had abducted girls from minority communities and forced them into marriage, but that it had been unable to verify those reports.

Zerrougui made the assertions at a special session of the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva on the Islamic State’s actions in Iraq. The group, which has proclaimed a strict Sunni Islamic state that spans the Syria-Iraq border, has imposed severe rules on behavior and has been accused of a litany of brutalities against non-Sunni groups, including summary mass executions.

The U.N. deputy high commissioner for human rights, Flavia Pansieri, told the Human Rights Council that the Islamic State had ordered strict rules for women living in the northern Iraqi city of Mosul and other areas in its control.

“Women are not allowed to walk in the street without the presence of a male guardian, and there are more and more reports of women being beaten” for infractions, she said.

—Somini Sengupta, The New York Times