World briefs: Afghan civilian deaths climb

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- Civilian deaths in the conflict in Afghanistan rose sharply last year, nearing the record levels of bloodletting reached in 2011, according to U.N. statistics released Saturday.

The annual report showed that more women and children died in conflict-related violence than in any year since 2009 as more ground combat occurred in populated areas and insurgents increased their use of improvised bombs in public places.

The statistics were a grim reversal from 2012, which saw civilian deaths decline for the first time in six years. The total of 2,959 deaths recorded by the U.N. in 2013 was a 7 percent rise from 2012 and brought the number of civilians killed since 2009 to more than 14,000. An additional 5,656 Afghan civilians were injured in 2013, a 17 percent increase from 2012.

Turks defend Internet

ISTANBUL -- Turkish riot police fired water cannons and tear gas Saturday at hundreds of demonstrators hurling firecrackers and stones who tried to march to the city's main square to protest legislation that critics say will tighten government controls over the Internet.

The legislation would allow authorities to block websites for privacy violation without a court decision. Internet providers would also be forced to keep users' data and make them available to authorities.

Cuba frees Canadian

TORONTO -- A Canadian businessman who served 21/2 years of a nine-year prison sentence in Cuba for corruption has abruptly returned to Canada.

Sarkis Yacoubian, 53, president of Tri-Star Caribbean import company, was arrested in 2011 by Cuban authorities but only formally charged in April 2013 with bribery, tax evasion and "activities damaging to the economy." He said that because he was expelled from Cuba, he is not subject to transfer conditions that would require him to serve the rest of his sentence in Canada.

Social unrest in Bosnia

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- Bosnian protesters set fire to the presidency and other government buildings Saturday in the country's worst social unrest since its devastating war.

A few hundred people continued to protest peacefully in the capital and other cities, angry about the nation's almost 40 percent unemployment rate and rampant corruption.

Local governments in four cities, including Sarajevo, resigned amid the unrest.

Princess testifies in Spain

MADRID -- Spain's Princess Cristina, King Juan Carlos's daughter, testified Saturday as an official suspect in a Spanish court investigation of money-laundering and tax-evasion allegations.

Cristina, who is seventh in line to the throne, is being questioned about her knowledge and involvement in the business activities of her husband Inaki Urdangarin.

The hearing marks the first time since the Spanish monarchy was reinstalled almost 40 years ago that a member of the royal family has faced criminal allegations in court.

Vigilantes fight cartel

APATZINGAN, Mexico -- Vigilantes who have driven a quasi-religious drug cartel from a series of towns in western Mexico entered a gang-held city Saturday and were working with government forces to clear it of cartel gunmen, a leader of the movement said.

Dozens of vigilante group members, who wore white T-shirts to identify themselves, were seen by an Associated Press journalist speeding into Apatzingan in the back of pickup trucks. The city of 100,000 in Michoacan state has been under effective control of the Knights Templar cartel for several years.


-- Compiled from news services


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