World briefs: Pistorius challenged by prosecutor

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PRETORIA, South Africa -- Oscar Pistorius came under intense pressure Monday at his murder trial from the chief prosecutor, who dismissed his account of how he killed girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp as a flimsy web of lies and accused the Olympian of staging emotional outbursts to mask difficulty in answering a barrage of probing questions.

His voice quavering at times, Mr. Pistorius struggled to explain alleged inconsistencies in his testimony and broke down sobbing on two occasions, forcing Judge Thokozile Masipa to temporarily halt proceedings.

Prosecutor Gerrie Nel was sometimes quick to acknowledge Mr. Pistorius' distress -- possibly to allow him time to recover and avoid any defense argument that he is not getting a fair trial -- but also said the athlete was frantically trying to shore up a fabricated story.

The cross-examination will resume for a fifth day today.

France tests DNA in rape

PARIS -- Investigators began taking DNA samples from 527 male students and staff at a high school -- including boys as young as 14 -- as they searched for the assailant who raped a teenage girl on the closed campus.

Testing began Monday at Fenelon-Notre Dame high school in western France. All those who received summonses were warned that any refusal could land them in police custody, and no one rejected the sweeping request.

Prosecutor Isabelle Pagenelle said investigators had exhausted all other leads in the Sept. 30 rape of the girl in a dark bathroom.

Shooting in West Bank

JERUSALEM -- An assailant opened fire on Israeli motorists in the West Bank on Monday, killing a man and wounding a woman and a boy in two separate cars, police said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility. The shooting took place just before the start of the weeklong Jewish holiday of Passover, marked by families gathering after sundown for a ritual meal, or seder.

Police said the shooting took place near a border crossing. Israeli TV stations said a gunman stood by the side of the road and opened fire as cars with Israeli license plates approached.

Bird flu back in Japan

TOKYO -- Japan has restricted shipments of almost 400,000 chickens in Kumamoto prefecture after the nation's first outbreak of bird flu in three years, the Agriculture Ministry said.

Local authorities were expected on Monday to finish culling about 112,000 chickens in two farms in the prefecture on the southern island of Kyushu, the ministry said.

In the previous outbreak spanning from November 2010 through March 2011, the Japanese government destroyed 1.83 million chickens in 24 farms in nine prefectures.

South Korea cigarette suit

SEOUL -- South Korea's national health insurance body sued three cigarette makers for at least $51.6 million as compensation for health care costs linked to smoking-related diseases.

National Health Insurance Service filed the suit against KT&G Corp., the former state-run cigarette maker privatized in 2002, and the local units of Philip Morris International and British American Tobacco in Seoul Central District Court, the insurer, which is overseen by the nation's health ministry, said Monday.

The lawsuit marks the first time a national agency has sought damages against an industry in which South Korea's government was previously a key participant.


-- Compiled from news services


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