World and Nation

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Libyan rebels say air strikes killed at least four people

ZUEITINA, Libya — The commander of the Libyan rebel army said it was “likely” that NATO warplanes conducted an airstrike against a convoy of rebel tanks early Thursday, killing at least four people in the second case of friendly fire in less than a week. The commander, Gen. Abdul Fattah Younes, said the tanks — deployed by the rebels on Thursday to the frontlines for the first time — came under “a fierce attack” around 10:30 a.m. “It is likely it is NATO by mistake,” he said, adding that the rebels had notified NATO well in advance that the tanks were headed to the battlefield.

Younes said he was still waiting for an apology from the organization. “It is not possible to make a mistake with 20 tanks advancing on a large patch of desert land,” he said. “We hope that such a mistake will not be repeated.”

He did not say how many tanks were destroyed, but a tank driver in the convoy said eight were damaged or destroyed.

­—C.J. Chivers and Kareem Fahim, The New York Times

Retailers report a surprising rise in March sales

March was expected to be a poor month for retailers, who were hit by the triple whammy of unspringlike weather, a late Easter holiday, and rising gas prices.

Analysts predicted sales at stores open at least a year, known as same-store sales, would post their first drop since Aug. 2009.

But the 25 retailers tracked by Thomson Reuters on Thursday posted an unexpected 1.7 percent increase for March, handily beating the average analyst estimate for a 0.7 percent decline. That was on top of a 9 percent increase in March 2010.

More than four-fifths of the retailers tracked beat analysts’ estimates. The widest margin was at the Limited, where same-store sales rose 14 percent; analysts had forecast a 1.5 percent increase. Saks Fifth Avenue also exceeded forecasts, with same-store sales rising 11.1 percent, instead of the estimated 0.8 percent.

And the wholesale club Costco posted a jump of 13 percent jump, well above estimates for a 5.7 percent gain.

Still, several stores posted sales declines. Gap Inc., which includes the Gap, Banana Republic, and Old Navy divisions, was down 10 percent. Kohl’s was down 6.5 percent, while sales at Target fell 5.5 percent.

—Stephanie Clifford, The New York Times

Excitement for royal 
wedding builds in England

LONDON — A flurry of excitement broke out in the pages of The Daily Mail the other day when Carole and Pippa Middleton, the mother and sister of Prince William’s future bride, Kate, entered a store in broad daylight.

“Pippa arrived in her BMW Z4 just minutes ahead of Carole on Thursday afternoon and made no attempt at subterfuge,” the paper reported. A witness added that Pippa was “carrying what appeared to be a shoe bag.”

No one knows what happened inside the store — the London boutique of the dress designer Alice Temperley — although the two women apparently spent three hours there. While it is of course possible that they were merely going shopping for no particular reason, speculation mounted that Pippa was perhaps having a fitting for her maid-of-honor dress. Or even better, that Temperley was being outed as the designer of the wedding gown itself. (Unlikely.)

Good luck trying to find out. “It’s nothing I can comment on,” a spokesman for the designer told The Daily Mail. At Clarence House, the home of Prince William, a spokeswoman said: “We’re not saying anything at all about the wedding dress.”

Sarah Lyall, The New York Times