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World News: India Train Fire; Lebanon Rockets; Middle East, Africa Updates; Turkey Scandal Grows; Pakistan Polio Worker Killed

By: ap
By: ap

KOTHACHERUVU, India (AP) -- A fire engulfed a coach of an express train in southern India on Saturday, killing at least 26 passengers, many of whom became trapped and suffocated after the doors failed to open, officials said.
As the inferno and thick black smoke raced through the car at about 3:45 a.m., panicked passengers broke the windows and many saved themselves by jumping from the train.
Sixty-seven passengers were in the carriage when the fire broke out about 2 kilometers (1 mile) from the small town of Puttaparthi in Andhra Pradesh state, said railways spokesman C.S. Gupta.
The train was brought to a halt and the burning coach was delinked from the rest of the cars to prevent the fire from spreading, Gupta said.
The fire spread to a second coach, but the blaze was put out before it caused much damage, Gupta said.
Firefighters put out the blaze in the burning coach and retrieved at least 26 bodies, including two children, said a railway official at the site of the fire. More than a dozen people were brought to hospitals with injuries sustained when they jumped from the train, the official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Firefighters had to force the doors open and make their way through the smoke-filled coach to reach the dead, the official said.
Many bodies were found near the jammed doors, he said.
Medical teams carried out autopsies to identify the bodies, many of which were charred beyond recognition.
The train was traveling from Bangalore to Nanded in the western state of Maharashtra.
Railways Minister Mallikarjun Kharge said preliminary reports from the site indicated that the fire was caused by an electrical short circuit. An investigation was underway.
Accidents are common on India's railroad network, one of the world's largest, with some 18 million passengers daily. Most collisions and fires are blamed on poor maintenance and human error.

WASHINGTON (AP) -- A U.S. official says that four American military personnel investigating potential evacuation routes in Libya were taken into custody at a checkpoint and then detained briefly by the Libyan government before being released.
No one was reported injured. A Defense Department official said Friday night that the military personnel were taken to the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli after their release. The official was not authorized to discuss the incident by name and requested anonymity.
The official says an altercation apparently took place at a checkpoint near the Libyan town of Sabratha.
The official says that after they were detained at the checkpoint, the Americans were transferred to the Ministry of the Interior and held for a few hours.

SOUTH SUDAN-VIOLENCE
South Sudan: 25,000-strong `White Army' marches toward state capital; cease-fire hopes dim
JUBA, South Sudan (AP) -- Government officials in South Sudan say 25,000 young men who make up a tribal militia known as the "White Army" are marching toward the contested city of Bor.
The news comes as hope fades for a cease-fire among South Sudan's warring parties. Leaders from across East Africa announced yesterday that the government had agreed to a "cessation of hostilities." But the former vice president (Riek Machar) who's accused of leading a coup attempt has rejected the cease-fire.
More fighting is expected. Bor is the provincial capital of Jonglei state. It briefly fell to rebels before government forces took it back this week. The estimated 25,000 youths marching on the city are from the same tribe as the former vice president. They are known as the "White Army" because of the white ash the fighters put on their skin as protection from insects.
Nearly two weeks of violence has killed an estimated 1,000 people in South Sudan. Tens of thousands are seeking shelters at United Nations camps.

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli police say two rockets fired from Lebanon have landed in northern Israel.
Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld says there were no injuries and no damage caused from Sunday's rocket fire. Witnesses reported hearing a pair of large explosions.
The Israel-Lebanon border has remained mostly quiet since a monthlong war in the summer of 2006 between Israel and Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon. There have been sporadic outbursts of violence, most recently earlier this month when a Lebanese army sniper killed an Israeli soldier.
In the most serious incident, Lebanese forces killed a high-ranking Israeli officer in 2010. Israel responded with artillery fire that killed three Lebanese. Given the years of enmity between the two countries, even the smallest incident raises the risk of sparking a wider conflagration.

BEIRUT (AP) -- Lebanon's state news agency says a teenager wounded in Friday's car bombing in central Beirut has died, raising the death toll in the attack to seven.
The National News Agency says Mohammed Shaar died on Saturday from massive wounds sustained in the blast, which also targeted prominent Lebanese politician Mohammed Chatah.
The 62-year-old Chatah, who was a critic of Syria and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah, also was killed in the explosion.
Officials say Chatah is to be buried at noon Sunday in the towering Mohammed Al-Amin Mosque in downtown Beirut.
The Lebanese government has declared Sunday a day of mourning.

Activists: Syrian airstrike kills 20 in Aleppo
BEIRUT (AP) -- Activists say a Syrian government airstrike on a crowded vegetable market in a rebel-held neighborhood of the northern city of Aleppo has killed at least 20 people.
For nearly two weeks, President Bashar Assad's warplanes and helicopters have pounded opposition-controlled areas of the divided city. Activists say the aerial assault has killed more than 400 people since it began Dec. 15.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Saturday's airstrike hit a marketplace in the Tariq al-Bab neighborhood. It says at least 20 people were killed and dozens were wounded.
Hassoun Abu Faisal, an activist with the Aleppo Media Center, put the death toll at more than 20, but said medical officials were still tallying the exact figure.

4 killed as Iraqi troops arrest Sunni lawmaker
BAGHDAD (AP) -- Iraqi officials say troops arrested a Sunni lawmaker sought on terrorism charges and killed his brother and three guards after they opened fire on the officers.
A police official says military and security forces arrived at dawn Saturday at the home of Ahmed al-Alwani, a prominent leader of Sunni protests against Iraq's Shiite-led government.
The official says al-Alwani's guards opened fire and the shootout in the western city of Ramadi lasted nearly an hour. Twelve guards and four soldiers were wounded.
Al-Alwani is also sought on terrorism charges for inciting violence against Shiites who came to power after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that ended Saddam Hussein's Sunni-led regime.
A medical official confirmed the casualty figures. Both spoke on condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to talk to media.

Egyptian student dies during protests at campus
CAIRO (AP) -- One protester is dead and a building burned after riot police moved into Egypt's main Islamic university today, claiming that striking students were disrupting end-of-term exams.
University professors and security officials accused protesting students of blocking entrances to classes and harassing students as they made their way into the campus. Supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi have called for an exam boycott but deny claims that they threatened students trying to take their exams.
Egypt's minister of higher education says authorities will go after those he says are financing non-peaceful protests on campuses, pointing a finger at the Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The government is intensifying its crackdown on Brotherhood and Morsi supporters ahead of a Jan. 14-15 constitutional referendum they see as a milestone in the transition plan. Authorities fear Morsi supporters will seek to derail the key vote, through protests or by violent means.

Magnitude-6 earthquake shakes Turkey's Mediterranean coast; no damage reported
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- A magnitude-6 earthquake has struck in the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Turkish province of Antalya. No damage or casualties have been reported.
The Istanbul-based Kandilli seismology center says the earthquake was centered some about 52 miles (84 kilometers) southwest of the holiday resort of Alanya. It was also felt in the neighboring province of Mersin and on the island of Cyprus.
The European-Mediterranean Seismological Center said the quake measured 5.9.

EU voices concern over Turkish graft scandal
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- The European Union has expressed concern over a deepening corruption scandal that has ensnared Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's allies and urged the country to handle the issue in a "transparent and impartial manner."
The statement came amid opposition criticism that the government was trying to stifle the corruption investigation by dismissing police officials. The government also changed regulations on how probes are conducted but that move was overturned by a Turkish high court.
The EU's Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele welcomed the court's decision saying in the change in rules has undermined the judiciary's "capacity to act."
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt urged EU-candidate Turkey on Twitter Saturday to return to "EU-inspired and democratic reforms."
Erdogan says the probe is part of a conspiracy aimed at bringing his government down.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani police say gunmen attacked an anti-polio vaccination center in the country's northwest and killed a medic on duty, then fled the scene.
Police official Raheem Khan says another technician was also wounded in Saturday's attack on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
The health facility is run by the party of cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and authorities are using it to vaccinate children against polio.
No group claimed responsibility for the attack, but militants have killed several polio workers and police protecting them in recent months.
Pakistan is one of only three countries where the polio virus is still endemic. Militants oppose vaccination against polio and consider such campaigns a cover for spying. They also claim the vaccine is intended to make Muslim boys sterile.

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia (AP) -- Saudi Arabia's official news agency says the bodies of three South Asian workers have been recovered from the sea after an offshore mobile rig belonging to the country's main oil company sank during maintenance work.
A statement from the Saudi Arabian Oil Co., known as Aramco, said the bodies were recovered Saturday. It says 24 workers were rescued, some of whom sustained minor injuries.
The accident took place Friday off the coast of al-Safaniya region -- the site of the world's largest offshore oil field. Two of the workers are from India while the third worker is a Bangladeshi.
The statement was carried by the SPA news agency.
The company says the incident will be investigated and that it's not expected to affect overall production.

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- The two popes have prayed together, chatted together and now they have lunched together.
Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano says retired Pope Benedict XVI took up Pope Francis' luncheon invitation, and the two men dined at Francis' residence, at the Santa Marta hotel on Vatican City's grounds.
The newspaper's Saturday edition gave no details of the meal, except to say the two popes' personal secretaries and two other Vatican officials joined them at the lunch on Friday.
Francis had extended the invitation when he paid a call on his predecessor earlier this week to offer Christmas greetings. Benedict retired on Feb. 28 to a generally secluded life of prayer in a Vatican City monastery. Francis, who says he likes company, has made a point of keeping in touch.

HAVANA (AP) -- Cuba says it's easing the terms of lending to private business owners in an attempt to boost the country's new small business sector.
The new rules were published in the country's Official Gazette this week and publicized by state media Saturday. They let private businesspeople take out loans for as little as 1,000 pesos, or $41, a third less than the previous minimum.
The terms of repayment can now extend up to 10 years, with bank presidents authorized to extend them even longer in certain cases.
Earlier this year, Cubans were allowed to use personal property such as real estate and jewelry as collateral for loans.
The number of islanders working for themselves has stalled for the past two years at about 444,000 -- or 9 percent of the workforce.


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