A Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Explorer of the Sea, has reported a breakout of an unspecified illness aboard ship, currently in the US Virgin Islands.
CARIBBEAN-CRUISE SHIP OUTBREAK
SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) -- The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 281 passengers have fallen ill aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship.
The CDC said in a statement Friday that another 22 crew members also are ill, with people reporting vomiting and diarrhea. Authorities said it's not yet clear what is causing the illness.
The CDC said health officials will board the ship on Sunday while it's docked in St. Thomas in the U.S. Virgin Islands. Authorities said specimens are being collected and will be tested.
A total of 3,050 passengers and 1,165 crew members are aboard the Explorer of the Seas.
The CDC said Royal Caribbean officials have taken action, including increasing disinfection procedures and preparing new crew members to join the ship mid-voyage.
HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba has enacted a law letting authorities freeze bank accounts found to belong to terrorists or entities linked to al-Qaida or the Taliban.
The law says it targets money laundering, terror financing, arms proliferation and other illicit financial dealings. It also aims to bring Cuba in line with international conventions.
The measure was signed by President Raul Castro and published into law Friday in the government's Official Gazette.
It applies to Cuban and foreign banks operating in the country.
It is not known whether Cuba has ever detected any accounts linked to terrorism or money laundering.
Washington lists Cuba as one of a handful of countries it considers state sponsors of terror. Havana chafes at that designation, and says it does everything it can to fight terrorism.
L'ISLE-VERTE, Quebec (AP) -- Police say eight people are dead and another 24 are missing after a fire at a seniors' residence in Quebec.
Quebec Provincial Police Lt. Guy Lapointe at a Saturday news conference lowered the number of missing from about 30 to 24 based on more detailed information.
All of the missing are presumed dead after a massive blaze swept through the three-story building in L'Isle-Verte northeast of Quebec City early Thursday.
The confirmed death toll remains at eight as crews on Saturday morning resumed the painstaking search through the iced-over remains of the burned-out retirement home.
Lapointe says police have formally identified two of the victims, with their names to be released later Saturday.
Taliban suicide attack kills 4 in Afghan capital
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- An Afghan official says a suicide bomber has attacked a military bus in Kabul, killing at least four people.
Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi, spokesman for the Defense Ministry, said the bomber waited on foot Sunday in the east of the city for the bus to arrive before setting off his explosives. He said the dead included two soldiers and two civilians, one of whom was a woman. He says 22 others were wounded.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack in an email sent to media.
Pakistan: Thousands flee border after airstrikes
PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Officials and village elders say thousands have fled Pakistan's border region with Afghanistan after airstrikes this week pounded militant hideouts, killing dozens of people.
Pakistan's air force launched the airstrikes in the North Waziristan region after the Taliban claimed responsibility for deadly attacks against security forces there.
Latifur Rehman, a provincial disaster management spokesman, said Saturday that the strikes displaced 6,000 families, but half of them had gone back to their homes.
A tribal prominent elder, Gul Saleh Khan, said people from North Waziristan were still fleeing to nearby towns, villages and cities.
Pakistan has carried out several offensives against the Taliban in other tribal regions, but North Waziristan has largely been spared.
Blasts, clashes in China's restive region kill 12
BEIJING (AP) -- Chinese state media say six people have died in explosions and another six were shot dead by police in fresh violence in the far west region of Xinjiang, home to the restive ethnic minority Uighurs.
The Tianshan news portal, run by the regional Communist Party, said that assailants threw explosives at police Friday in Xinhe county in the Aksu prefecture. It says police killed six and captured five suspects.
The official Xinhua News Agency said another six people died in three blasts that hit a hair salon, a produce market and a vehicle.
The case is under investigation. Xinjiang is home to low-intensity insurgency by native Uighurs against what they see as discrimination and religious suppression by China's majority Han people.
GENEVA (AP) -- The U.N. mediator trying to broker peace after three years of civil war in Syria says "we haven't achieved much" after two brief face-to-face encounters between the government and the opposition.
Lakhdar Brahimi, the mediator, said the painstakingly choreographed talks would continue Sunday on opening up access to humanitarian aid -- the one topic the two sides could agree to discuss.
"The situation is very difficult and very, very complicated, and we are moving not in steps, but half-steps," Brahimi said after a total of three hours acting as a buffer between the two sides.
The veteran diplomat is hoping to broker an end to the civil war that has killed more than 130,000 people and devastated Syria.
15 killed in attacks around Iraq
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Authorities say 15 people have been killed in a series of bombings across Iraq today.
Police say the day's deadliest attack in a town 60 miles north of Baghdad, where two explosions leveled the home of a soldier, killed him, his wife, his two daughters and two sons as they slept.
In Baghdad, a car bomb exploded in a commercial street, killing four people and wounding 12. Another bomb blast near an outdoor market killed two shoppers and wounded six. And three people were killed and five wounded when a car bomb exploded near homes in an ethnically mixed city 130 miles north of Baghdad.
Egypt: 25 killed in uprising anniversary clashes
CAIRO (AP) -- A health ministry official in Egypt says 25 people have been killed in clashes between security forces and anti-government protesters nationwide on the anniversary of the country's 2011 uprising.
Khaled el-Khateeb said Saturday most of those killed were in Cairo. Fierce clashes have raged between largely Islamist protesters and security forces in eastern Cairo. There were at least three killed in Alexandria and the southern province of Minya.
Saturday marked the anniversary of the start of the 2011 uprising that forced longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak to step down. It was marked by rival rallies of those supporting the military-backed government and supporters of Mubarak's successor, Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.
Morsi was removed from office in July following mass protests against him.
Egypt militants claim shooting down of helicopter
CAIRO (AP) -- An al-Qaida-inspired group based in the Sinai Peninsula has claimed responsibility for bringing down an Egyptian military helicopter in the lawless desert region.
A military spokesman said Saturday the aircraft crashed, without giving a cause or the number of the crew.
Ansar Beit al-Maqdis, or the Champions of Jerusalem, in a statement posted late Saturday on militant websites said it shot down the helicopter with an anti-aircraft missile over the town of Sheikh Zuweyid close to the border with the Gaza Strip.
Another poster on the same forum, which jihadist groups typically used to make announcements, said authorities had recovered the bodies of five crewmembers. He gave what he said were their names and ranks, as well as the alleged photo of a pilot.
Al-Qaida leader opposes fighting Christians
CAIRO (AP) -- Al-Qaida's leader says that Egypt's majority Muslims should not fight their Christian compatriots, even though the head of their church supported a military coup that deposed the Islamist president.
In an audio message posted on militant websites early Saturday, Ayman al-Zawahri said it was not in the interest of Muslims to be engaged with the Christians because "we have to be busy with confronting the Americanized coup of (Gen. Abdel-Fattah) el-Sissi and establish an Islamic government instead."
El-Sissi is Egypt's defense minister who removed President Mohammed Morsi from power in a popularly backed July 3 coup.
Iran: Ex-leader's daughter gets suspended sentence
TEHRAN, Iran (AP) -- An Iranian news agency is reporting that the daughter of former President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani has received a six-month suspended prison sentence on charges of slandering top officials.
The semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Fatemeh Hashemi Rafsanjani's lawyer, Vahid Abolma'ali, as saying Saturday that the verdict was issued by the Revolutionary Court in Tehran. Abolma'ali says he will appeal the verdict.
The case stems from comments she made about the country's judiciary chief.
Rafsanjani's younger daughter, Faezeh, and middle son, Mahdi, have spent time behind bars in the past on various charges, including fomenting unrest in the aftermath of Iran's disputed 2009 presidential election and creating propaganda against the ruling government. They have denied the charges.
Militant group in Lebanon issues warning to Sunnis
BEIRUT (AP) -- An al-Qaida-inspired group in Lebanon is warning the country's Sunni Muslims to stay away from areas dominated by their Shiite brethren.
The Nusra Front in Lebanon says it intends to attack strongholds of the Iranian-backed, Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah. That effectively means any Shiite area.
The warning originally was made Friday on Twitter. It was reposted Saturday to websites used by militant groups.
The Nusra Front in Lebanon takes its name from the powerful al-Qaida-linked group fighting in Syria against the rule of President Bashar Assad.
The group has claimed responsibility for two small bombing attacks targeting Lebanese Shiites in January that killed six people.
Hard-line Sunni groups increasingly have been targeting Lebanon's Shiite minority, apparently as punishment for Hezbollah gunmen fighting alongside Assad's forces in Syria.
Boat sinking survivors denounce Greek authorities
ATHENS, Greece (AP) -- Three Afghans who survived the sinking of a migrant boat have described in vivid terms how Greek authorities tried to forcibly tow them back to Turkey.
They said Saturday that the attempt caused their boat to flood and that the Coast Guard did nothing to help those, mostly women and children, who had fallen into the sea and hit at those migrants who attempted to save them.
Speaking to the press and about a hundred leftist supporters through an interpreter, Abdol Sabur Azizi, Fada Mohammad Ahmadi and Ehsanula Safi said Greek authorities' behavior throughout their ordeal verged on brutality.
They claimed survivors never made statements thanking authorities for their rescue, contradicting Greek officials. Some survivors say they lost relatives in the incident, in which 12 are presumed to have perished.
President offers to make opposition leader prime minister
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) -- Ukraine's embattled president is offering the country's No. 2 political post to one of his opponents.
President Viktor Yanukovych (yah-noo-KOH'-vich) has offered the job of prime minister to a leader of the opposition that has conducted two months of intensifying protests (Arseniy Yatsenyuk). That's according to a statement on Yanukovych's website.
It's not clear if the offer is going to be accepted, or whether it would mollify the radical faction of protesters who have clashed with police for much of the past week. Three protesters have died in the clashes and the Interior Ministry says a policeman was found shot in the head overnight.
The protests began in November over the president's decision to back away from an agreement to deepen ties with the European Union.
The opposition has demanded that Yanukovych himself step down and call early elections.
Philippines to grant amnesty, pardon Muslim rebels
MANILA, Philippines (AP) -- The Philippine government will grant amnesty to Muslim rebels facing rebellion-related charges or pardon convicted ones under a newly signed pact where the insurgents agreed to have their 11,000-strong force deactivated.
Presidential peace adviser Teresita Deles said Sunday that the planned amnesty, which will need congressional approval, would cover only fighters of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front and exclude guerrillas who broke off from the main Moro group and continue to threaten attacks.
A pact signed by government and rebel negotiators in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, Saturday says the granting of amnesty and pardon is aimed at facilitating "the healing of the wounds of conflict and the return to normal life."
The pact is the final component of a peace agreement expected to be formally signed in Manila soon.
New river dolphin species found in Brazil
SAO PAULO (AP) -- Scientists say they have discovered the first new river dolphin species in nearly 100 years inhabiting the Araguaia River in Brazil's vast Amazon rainforest.
The discovery of the "Inia araguaiaensis" was officially announced earlier this week in a study posted on line by the Plos One scientific journal.
Biologist Tomas Hrbek works at the Federal University of Amazonas in the city of Manaus and is the lead author of the study. He says the new species is the third found in the Amazon region.
Hrbek said it "it was an unexpected discovery that shows just how incipient our knowledge is of the region's biodiversity."