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In brief

Jack-o-lantern o’ the sea Dawn Lambeth of Fort Myers, Fla., puts finishing touches on her winning jack-o-lantern during the Underwater Pumpkin Carving Contest held Sunday in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary off Key Largo, Fla. Staged by the Amoray Dive Resort, contestants worked in teams of two and competed for dive-related prizes.

GOMA, Congo U.N. troops, rebels clash

Peacekeepers attacked rebels in eastern Congo with helicopter gunships Monday while crowds of protesters threw rocks outside four U.N. compounds, venting outrage at what they claimed was a failure to protect them from advancing rebel forces.

U.N. spokeswoman Sylvie van den Wildenberg said the peacekeepers fired Monday at rebel forces surging on Kibumba, about 28 miles north of the provincial capital of Goma.

In December, U.N. officials also used helicopters to repel the rebels, killing hundreds under their mandate to protect civilians in the vast Central African country that has been ravaged by years of dictatorship and civil war.

CAMDEN, N.J. Agent discusses informant

Being an informant for the FBI in the Fort Dix terror investigation has paid well, a witness explained to jurors Monday.

John Stermel, an investigator assigned to an FBI counterterrorism task force, spent Monday morning on the stand detailing the role of informant Mahmoud Omar, who wore a wire for 16 months in the investigation of five men accused of planning to shoot soldiers at the Army training base.

Defense lawyers say it was Omar who tried to plot an attack, not their clients — all foreign-born Muslims in their 20s who are all charged with conspiracy to kill military personnel and attempted murder. No attack happened.

For his help, authorities will recommend immigration officials, who once were considering deporting Omar, offer him legal resident status — perhaps even citizenship, Stermel testified.

By year’s end, Omar will have received nearly $240,000 for his help; $185,000 in payments plus reimbursement for $25,000 in expenses and nearly $29,000 in rent.

CONWAY, Ark. 2 students shot dead

A shooting that left two students dead at the University of Central Arkansas did not appear to be random, authorities said Monday as the school’s president pronounced the campus secure.

Two suspects were being questioned and two others were being sought after Sunday night’s shooting, which wounded a third person at the 12,500-student campus.

Though investigators have not determined a motive for the shooting, “It does not seem at this time that it was a random act,” campus police Lt. Preston Grumbles said.

TOWSON, Md. Teen pleads to killing family

A Maryland teen pleaded guilty Monday to shooting his father, mother and two younger brothers to death as they slept, then going back to a friend’s house to play video games.

Nicholas Browning, 16, of Cockeysville, pleaded guilty to four counts of first-degree murder in the February slayings of John W. Browning, 45, Tamara, 44, Gregory, 14, and Benjamin, 11.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors will not seek a sentence of life without parole. Instead, they will seek a maximum of two consecutive and two concurrent life sentences, meaning Browning could eventually get parole.

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