World briefs: Iraqis vote amid threats

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RAMADI, Iraq -- Iraqis voted Wednesday in the first elections since the withdrawal of U.S. troops, braving terrorists' bomb threats to polling stations as parts of the country remained engulfed in conflict.

The parliamentary elections come amid a deteriorating security situation, as a Sunni insurgency in the western province of Anbar against the Shiite-led central government pushes closer to the capital, Baghdad.

Cars were banned from streets across the country to deter violence as voting began. In Anbar's provincial capital, Ramadi, intermittent explosions could be heard as the polls opened.

Incumbent Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who is seeking a third term, is a front-runner. But no party is expected to secure a majority in parliament, meaning that the winner will have to build a coalition to form a government.

Rehab for Toronto mayor

TORONTO -- Mayor Rob Ford will take a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse, his lawyer said Wednesday, as a report surfaced about a second video of the mayor smoking what appears to be crack cocaine.

The Globe and Mail newspaper reported it has viewed a second video of Mr. Ford smoking what appears to be crack cocaine in his sister's basement. The national newspaper reported two Globe reporters viewed the video from a self-professed drug dealer showing Mr. Ford taking a drag from a pipe early Saturday morning.

The report comes as Mr. Ford's lawyer, Dennis Morris, said the mayor will take a leave of absence for substance abuse. Mr. Ford is seeking re-election in October. Mr. Morris said he spoke to Mr. Ford earlier Wednesday and said Mr. Ford has accepted that he has a problem.

Militant group takes girls

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Schoolgirls abducted by suspected members of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram are being converted to Islam and taken as brides in forced marriages, said Pogu Bitrus, chairman of the Chibok Development Association.

Of the 230 students missing following an April 14 raid on a school hostel in the Chibok area in the northeastern state of Borno, about 200 are Christians and the rest Muslims, Mr. Bitrus, who represents the body of community leaders, said Tuesday.

So far, 53 girls reportedly have escaped. About 200 protesters marched through Abuja on Wednesday to demand action by the government to rescue the hostages.

Energy industry to open

MEXICO CITY -- The Mexican government Wednesday unveiled its proposed rules for a historic opening of the state-owned oil and energy industry, saying contracts and production licenses should be put out for bid and go to the company that offers the best return.

The rules must still be approved by Congress.

Mexico nationalized the oil industry in 1938, but in recent years the state-owned Petroleos Mexicanos has struggled with falling oil production and an inability to harness new gas and oil deposits in deep ocean water or in shale deposits.

Also in the world ...

A barrel bomb tore into an elementary school in the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on Wednesday, just as an exhibit of children's art was about to open, killing at least 18 people, including 10 students, residents and anti-government activists there said, blaming the attack on the government. ... Assailants with explosives and knives killed three people and wounded at least 79 Wednesday outside a railroad station in Urumqi, the capital of western China's restive Xinjiang region where President Xi Jinping had just concluded a visit.


-- Compiled from news services


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