Shelling shatters ceasefire in Syrian city of Homs

Shelling broke a United Nations-brokered ceasefire in the government-besieged Syrian city of Homs on Saturday.

Mortar rounds landed near an aid convoy as it tried to cross into the rebel-controlled old city district. Syrian state television reported that four members of the Syrian Red Crescent were wounded in the attack, and were trapped on the rebel side as night fell and the cease-fire expired.

Both sides accused the other of breaking the cease-fire.

KABUL, Afghanistan


Civilian casualties increase as Taliban steps up attacks

The number of children killed and wounded in Afghanistan’s war jumped by 34 percent last year as the Taliban stepped up attacks across the country and continued to lay thousands of roadside bombs, the United Nations said Saturday.

Overall civilian casualties were up by 14 percent, reversing 2012’s downward trend and making 2013 one of the deadliest years of the 12-year war for civilians, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in a report.

In terms of deaths and injuries, 2013 was also the worst year of the war for Afghan women and children, with most of the casualties caused by either stepping on or driving over roadside bombs or getting caught in fighting.

The rising civilian toll underscores mounting levels of violence in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have ramped up attacks to try to gain ground and shake the Afghan government’s confidence as international combat troops prepare to complete their withdrawal at the end of the year.

MAJURO, Marshall Islands


Man who washed ashore still too weak to travel

The Salvadoran man who says he spent more than a year drifting across the Pacific Ocean before making landfall in the Marshall Islands is too weak to travel and will remain in the island nation for a while, an official said Saturday.

Diego Dalton, an official with El Salvador’s embassy in Tokyo, said Jose Salvador Alvarenga’s health was “very frail” and that he would not return home until he was able to make the journey.

Alvarenga, 37, washed ashore late last month.

He was taken last week to the Marshall Islands’ capital, Majuro, where he has been resting at a hotel.

Dalton arrived in Majuro late Friday and met with Alvarenga and local officials.

– From news service reports

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