Briefs, January 14, 2013

PUBLISHED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 14 January, 2013, 6:08am

Seven Afghan civilians killed in blast after raid

KABUL - An explosion killed seven Afghan villagers as they tried to pull bodies of insurgents from the rubble of a mosque after a night raid by Nato and Afghan troops in the country's east, officials said. Four insurgents and an Afghan soldier were also reported to have been killed. The predawn operation in Sayedabad district was aimed at capturing a Taliban fighter who had holed up in a village, a local official said. AP


Israeli spiritual leader recovers from stroke

JERUSALEM - Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, 92, the spiritual leader of Israel's ultra-Orthodox Shas party, was discharged from hospital a day after a colleague said he suffered a mild stroke. Aryeh Deri, a leading member of Shas and long-time Yosef confidant, told an Israeli television station that his mentor was lucid and his speech fluent, saying the stroke did not cause much damage. AFP


Shipwreck survivors unveil memorials

GIGLIO - Survivors of the Costa Concordia shipwreck and relatives of the 32 people who died marked the first anniversary of the grounding with the unveiling of memorials to the victims, a mass in their honour and a minute of silence to recall the exact moment that the cruise ship rammed into a reef off Tuscany. The first event of the day-long commemoration was the return to the sea of part of the massive rock that tore a 70-metre gash into the hull of the ocean liner. The boulder remained embedded in the mangled steel as the 112,000-tonne vessel capsized along with its 4,200 passengers and crew. AP


Shooting stance wins Miss America crown

LAS VEGAS - Miss New York Mallory Hytes Hagan, 23, was crowned Miss America, beating rivals from all 51 US states. Hagan appeared to have won over the jury when asked if armed guards should be placed in schools in the wake of last month's deadly shooting spree in Newtown, Connecticut, replying that violence should not be fought with violence. AFP


Serbs recognise Kosovo's authority

BELGRADE - Lawmakers urged autonomy for ethnic Serbs in Kosovo after Serbian Prime Minister Ivica Dacic conceded sovereignty over its former province was all but lost. Kosovo declared independence five years ago, in the wake of a 1998-99 war that pitted its ethnic Albanian majority against Belgrade. Parliament adopted a resolution calling for broad autonomy for ethnic Serbs within the legal framework of Kosovo - implicit recognition of Kosovo's authority over its territory. Reuters


Russians protest over ban on US adoptions

MOSCOW - Thousands of demonstrators gathered for a march in Moscow to protest a ban on Americans adopting Russian children, saying President Vladimir Putin's government had made orphans pawns in a political dispute. The ban has deepened a chill in Russian-American relations in the first year of Putin's new term and compounded the bitterness between his government and opponents. The ban, which took effect on January 1, was rushed through parliament in retaliation for the Magnitsky Act - US legislation that denies visas to Russians accused of human rights violations and freezes their assets in the US. Reuters


'Personal convicts' of Georgia leader freed

TBILISI - Nearly 200 inmates considered political prisoners by Georgia's new parliament have walked free under an amnesty strongly opposed by President Mikhail Saakashvili. Many of them were arrested during anti-Saakashvili protests in May 2011. Others had been convicted of trying to overthrow the government or of spying for Russia. Relations with Moscow were cut off after Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008. Parliament's human rights committee had described the prisoners as the president's "personal convicts" who opposed his government. Saakashvili's party lost control of parliament in October. AP


Marseille is European culture capital for 2013

MARSEILLE - The French city of Marseille has been inaugurated as the European culture capital for 2013. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso and French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault addressed crowds at the new Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations, designed by Rudy Ricciotti for this year's celebration. The flagship arts centre, situated on Marseille's old port, will promote shared culture from the Mediterranean basin. Other projects for the year include a pedestrian district in the area. AP


Chavez 'responding to cancer treatment'

CARACAS - Ailing Venezuelan president, Hugo Chavez, is not in a coma and is responding well to cancer treatment in Cuba, his brother said. Adan Chavez, governor of the state of Barinas, was responding to reports that his family was considering ending life support. Chavez has been out of public sight since undergoing surgery for cancer in Havana on December 11, the fourth operation in the 18 months since his condition was made public. AFP


Volcano erupts creating lava lake in Kamchatka

MOSCOW - A volcano erupting in Russia's far east is sending plumes of gas and ash high into the sky and creating a lava lake. The Plosky Tolbachik volcano is located in the remote Kamchatka peninsula. Experts said this was the first time a lava lake had formed in the area. The volcano last erupted in November after it had been dormant for almost 40 years. AP