Pope Francis meets with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in Yerevan, Armenia Friday. (Osservatore Romano / Handout/EPA)
AFGHANISTAN
U.S. airstrikes are a debut of broader role

The U.S. military has carried out its first airstrikes against Taliban targets in Afghanistan since President Obama authorized limited offensive operations against the insurgency this month, the Pentagon said Friday.

Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook declined to offer details on the strikes, saying only that they were in southern Afghanistan and that no U.S. forces were in the area. The new powers will allow U.S. troops to accompany conventional Afghan forces.

Obama’s decision broadened U.S. support roles in Afghanistan’s grinding conflict more than a year after international forces wrapped up their combat mission and shifted the burden to Afghan troops.

The goal is to put greater pressure on the Taliban, which controls or contests more territory in Afghanistan than at any time since it was ousted by a U.S.-backed intervention in late 2001.

Obama, whose final term ends in January, is under pressure from former commanders and envoys to Afghanistan to forgo plans for a scheduled reduction in the number of U.S. troops to 5,500 from the current 9,800 before he leaves office.

Italian and French archaeologist team, digging in the outskirts of Pompeii, have discovered four skeletons and gold coins in the ruins of an ancient shop. (AP/AP)

— Reuters

LEBANON
Hezbollah vows to send fighters to Aleppo

Hezbollah’s leader said the Lebanese militant group will be sending more fighters to Syria’s Aleppo province, where pro-government forces are battling Syrian rebels on several fronts.

Hassan Nasrallah made the pledge despite the heavy losses the Shiite group has incurred in fighting alongside Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s forces in war-racked Aleppo province this month.

In a speech addressing supporters to mark 40 days since the killing of top Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine in Syria, Nasrallah called the fight for Syria’s largest city and its province the “great” battle of the Syrian war.

“We will increase our presence in Aleppo,” he said, adding that “there can be no retreat and no doubt.”

Hezbollah, a Shiite group that is also part of the Lebanese government, has sent thousands of fighters to support Assad’s forces in the civil war next door. The conflict is now in its sixth year; more than 1,000 Hezbollah fighters have been killed in the battle.

Nasrallah said that it is natural that his fighters are involved in the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, in order to protect Lebanon.

— Associated Press

ARMENIA
Pope’s ‘genocide’ point likely to anger Turkey

Pope Francis departed from his prepared text to use the word “genocide” to describe the mass killings of Armenians in 1915, a description that infuriated Turkey when he said it a year ago.

In an address to Armenia’s president and the diplomatic corps, Francis used the Armenian term “Meds Yeghern” (the great evil), but then added to his prepared text “that genocide” to refer to what he also called “the first of the deplorable series of catastrophes of the past century.”

There was no immediate reaction from Turkey, which last year recalled its ambassador to the Vatican after the pope used the term. The envoy was kept away for 10 months.

Turkey accepts that many Christian Armenians living in the Ottoman Empire were killed in clashes with Ottoman forces during World War I, but it contests the figures and denies that the killings were systematically orchestrated and constitute a genocide. It also says many Muslim Turks perished at that time.

— Reuters

Police officer’s gun goes off in Puerto Rico park, hitting 2: Authorities say a police officer stationed at a children’s park in Añasco in western Puerto Rico is under investigation after her gun allegedly went off and wounded two teenagers. Police said an ­­18-year-old man was grazed by a bullet and a 14-year-old girl received burns on her neck from a bullet fragment. Authorities said that the officer reported that her gun was in her holster the entire time and that she does not know how it went off.

Skeletons, coins found in Pompeii dig: Italian and French archaeologists have discovered four skeletons and gold coins in the ruins of an ancient shop on the outskirts of Pompeii, officials said Friday. The skeletons are those of young people, including an adolescent girl, who perished in the back of the shop near the ancient Roman town when Mount Vesuvius erupted and covered it in ash in A.D. 79, said a statement from the area office of the famous archaeological site near Naples.

— From news services