World briefs: House targets Venezuela rulers

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WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House passed a bill on Wednesday to place economic sanctions on Venezuelan officials involved in a crackdown against protesters and opposition leaders in that country.

The legislation is intended to "hold these human rights violators accountable," said bill sponsor Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Florida Republican. "The first step in doing so is hitting them in their pocketbooks and denying them entry into the United States."

Venezuela has cracked down on protests that started in February over the world's fastest inflation, crime and shortages of staples such as food and toilet paper. At least 42 people have been killed in the demonstrations..

The U.S. State Department has so far resisted calls from Congress for sanctions against Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro's government.

Rebels attack church

BANGUI, Central African Republic -- Muslim rebels stormed a Catholic church compound in the capital of Central African Republic on Wednesday, launching grenades and spraying civilians with gunfire, witnesses said. At least five bodies were brought to area hospitals, though some witnesses said the death toll could be as high as 30.

Wednesday's attack marked a rare attack on a house of worship, as Catholic churches have served as sanctuaries for both Christian and Muslim civilians since the country erupted into sectarian bloodshed in December.

Pakistan Taliban splinters

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- After months of violent infighting, an influential faction of the Pakistani Taliban said Wednesday that it was breaking away because of differences with the Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, in what was seen as a major boost to Pakistani efforts to divide the country's most formidable militant group.

Azam Tariq, a spokesman for the faction led by Khan Sayed, who is known as Sajna, said in a statement that the group was splitting from the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan because "the present leadership has lost its path" -- with the suggestion that foreign intelligence groups had undue influence with Mr. Fazlullah.

For the Pakistani Taliban, which has killed thousands of people in suicide attacks across Pakistan since it was officially formed in December 2007, the split is formal evidence of a profound factional struggle.

Mass sentencing in China

BEIJING -- In a spectacle designed to show their resolve against terrorism, Chinese authorities held a public sentencing in a football stadium in the northwestern Xinjiang region of 55 people convicted of violent crimes.

More than 7,000 people filled the stadium stands in Yili prefecture during Tuesday's sentencing and videos were distributed by police Wednesday to Chinese media.

The sentencing follows the car bombing last week in the northwestern city of Urumqi in which 43 people died, the deadliest attack in China in nearly five years.

Nursing home fire kills 21

SEOUL, South Korea -- A patient suffering from dementia is suspected of setting the blaze that killed 21 people and injured eight at a South Korean nursing home, adding to concerns about public safety after a recent spate of fatal accidents.

An 81-year-old patient is under investigation, police officer Lee Soon-jae said by phone, citing closed-circuit television footage at the Hyosarang hospital for the elderly in Jangseong, about 170 miles south of Seoul.

-- Compiled from news services


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