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Sunday, December 21, 2014

World briefs

Afghanistan

After the country’s first democratic presidential election last week, former Afghan opposition leader Abdullah Abdullah leads the race, as preliminary results were released Sunday. According to Reuters, Abdullah has garnered 41.9 percent of votes based on the released 10 percent of total ballots cast from 26 out of 34 provinces on April 5. Western academic Ashraf Ghani is in second place with 37.6 percent.

Still, there have been 870 cases of critical voter fraud reported so far — more than the 815 incidents reported in 2009. Final results of the election are expected to be released on May 14.

Chile

A blaze in the historic port city of Valparaiso on Sunday left at least 11 people dead and consumed 50 houses within 700 hectares of forest and residential neighborhoods. As about 1,200 firefighters continue to extinguish the flames, authorities have evacuated thousands from the site, according to Reuters.

The fire started on Saturday and raged overnight through Sunday. The Chilean Congress, housed in Valparaiso, was not damaged, but authorities worried that weather forecasts of high temperatures and strong winds could exacerbate the situation, Reuters reported.

Mexico

At least 36 people were killed Sunday in a bus wreck in the southeastern state of Veracruz, and another four were injured. According to the Agence France-Presse, the bus slammed into a badly parked trailer truck on the shoulder of a highway, causing the vehicle to burst into flames. The AFP reported that “most of the roof and tires of the bus were reduced to ashes.” Governor Javier Duarte said that because the fire incinerated the passengers, authorities are having trouble identifying the bodies. The four injured passengers have been hospitalized and are now in stable condition.

Syria

Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Sunday announced that the country is investigating an incident that may have involved poison gas in the rural, opposition-held village of Kfar Zeita on Friday. According to the Associated Press, Power said claims that poison gas was involved in the attack are “unsubstantiated,” amid efforts to remove chemical weapons in the country bugged by a three-year civil war. The Syrian National Coalition claimed that dozens were hurt in Friday’s attack. Activists claimed the gas used was toxic chlorine, the AP reported.

Ukraine

In an effort to rid eastern Ukraine of pro-Russian separatists, the government raided state buildings in the city of Slaviansk on Sunday, resulting in casualties on both sides of the encounter. According to Reuters, one government official was killed and five others wounded on the government’s side, while one pro-Moscow activist and two others were injured on the separatists’ side. Separatists have been hiding in the police and state security service headquarters in the city, and some have put up roadblocks in the streets, Reuters reported.

Ukraine, Russia, the European Union and the United States will hold talks to address the conflict Thursday.

Vatican City

To mark the Catholic holiday of Palm Sunday, Pope Francis ditched his prepared homily in front of the Holy Capital’s St. Peter’s Square. Instead, the pope celebrated by “hopping off his popemobile to pose for ‘selfies’ with young people and also sipping tea passed to him from the crowd,” according to the AP. The AP reported that Francis posed with the youthful group from Rio de Janeiro who had brought with them a large cross. The pope also delivered an impromptu homily for 15 minutes during the Mass that opens the Holy Week for the Catholic Church.