BEIRUT -- In the first attack to target a campaign event, a mortar shell slammed into a tent packed with supporters of President Bashar Assad, killing 39 people and wounding 205 others, Syrian state TV said Friday.
The shelling in the southern city of Daraa underscored deep fears in government strongholds that rebels will escalate attacks in an attempt to disrupt the balloting.
Assad is widely expected to win a third, seven-year mandate in the vote scheduled for June 3, but the West and opposition activists have criticized it as a farce since it is taking place despite a raging civil war.
U.N. panel faults Vatican
GENEVA -- The Vatican on Friday faced criticism from a U.N. panel for the second time this year over failures to report priests accused of sexually abusing children to civil authorities or to ensure redress for victims.
In a statement, the Holy See said the Committee Against Torture had not found it in violation of the treaty, which prohibits torture and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Panel members bluntly contradicted that assertion.
Militia leader sentenced
PARIS -- The International Criminal Court in The Hague sentenced a Congolese militia leader, Germain Katanga, to 12 years in prison Friday for his role in an attack on a village in 2003 where, within hours, more than 200 civilians were shot or hacked to death, limb by limb.
The court had convicted him of aiding and abetting murder and looting in the village, Bogoro, in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2003. He was acquitted of charges of rape and the use of child soldiers.
The presiding judge said Katanga's militia group, largely made up of members of the Ngiti tribe, had intended to wipe the Hema-dominated village off the map.
Sikhs protest in Pakistan
ISLAMABAD -- Dozens of baton-wielding Sikhs pushed past the front gate and entered the grounds of Pakistan's parliament on Friday as they protested against recent attacks on their houses of worship.
Sikhs are a tiny minority in predominantly Muslim Pakistan. Most of them live in Sindh province. They have never held such a protest in the past.
U.S. wins trade case
GENEVA -- China's duties on autos imported from the U.S. violated global trade rules, the World Trade Organization said in a ruling that adds to mounting commercial tensions between the world's two largest economies.
China improperly imposed tariffs on imported vehicles, including those made by General Motors Co. and Chrysler Group LLC, the WTO, a Geneva-based trade arbiter, ruled in a decision issued Friday. China added the duties in 2011, after the U.S. government bailed out the automakers during the global financial crisis, and eliminated them in December.
China claimed victory on some techical aspects of the case.
Oil giant ignores sanctions
PARIS -- Total agreed Friday to seek shale oil in Western Siberia with Moscow-based Lukoil, brushing off U.S. and European sanctions against Russia over its annexation of Crimea.
Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie signed the deal at the St. Petersburg International Economic Forum in a demonstration of Total's commitment to Russia, after officials from companies including Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and Statoil withdrew from the meeting.
-- Compiled from news services