**Activists: Pro-Syria Troops Advance in Key Homs Neighborhood**
Syrian activists say forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad are pushing to gain control in a strategically important section of the central city of Homs.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said Thursday the troops have taken over a large part of the Wadi al-Sayeh neighborhood, which sits between several rebel-controlled districts in center of the city.
The Observatory warned that if pro-Assad forces capture what it calls the city's "old neighborhoods," then there are fears that sectarian killings could follow.
Homs is Syria's third-largest city, located along a highway about halfway between the capital, Damascus, to the south and the commercial center of Aleppo to the north. It has been a key hub in the more than two-year-old uprising against Mr. Assad.
**NKorea Sentences American to 15 Years Hard Labor**
North Korea says it has sentenced an American citizen to 15 years of hard labor after finding him guilty of committing what it says are "hostile acts" against the state.
The official Korean Central News Agency said Thursday that Pae Jun-ho, known as Kenneth Bae in the United States, was convicted by the country's supreme court Tuesday.
North Korea previously said he confessed to committing crimes aimed at overthrowing the government. But it has not specified the exact nature of those alleged crimes.
The 44-year-old was arrested in November in the northeastern port city of Rason, which lies in a special economic zone near the border with Russia and China.
VOA has learned that Bae was a Korean-American tour operator who may have been arrested after being found with a computer that carried sensitive or controversial information.
Earlier this week, the U.S. State Department called for North Korea to release Bae on humanitarian grounds, saying the welfare of American citizens is a "critical and top priority."