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World Digest: March 20, 2018

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Bodies of 39 Indians abducted in 2014 found

Iraqi authorities have discovered a mass grave with the bodies of 39 Indian construction workers abducted when Islamic State militants overran the northern city of Mosul in 2014, officials said Tuesday.

The bodies were found near the village of Badush, northwest of Mosul, in an area that Iraqi forces recaptured in July.

The workers had been employed by a construction firm operating near Mosul when militants captured wide swaths of northern Iraq in summer 2014.

Dozens of mass graves have been discovered in territory once held by the Islamic State.

After Iraq retook the area around Mosul, search operations led to a mound near Badush where residents said bodies had been buried by militants, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj said in Parliament in New Delhi.

Iraqi authorities used radar to verify that the mound was a mass grave, she said, and then exhumed the bodies. Indian authorities then sent DNA samples from relatives of the missing workers.

Forty Indians were seized by the militants, though one man escaped. Iraqi authorities said the mass grave held 39 bodies, and 38 have been positively identified through DNA analysis. Tests on the 39th victim were continuing, Swaraj said, but he is believed to be part of the group.

— Associated Press

Scores reported killed in Damascus, suburbs

At least 35 people were killed Tuesday when a rocket hit a marketplace on the outskirts of the Syrian capital, state media said, while rescuers said Syrian and Russian airstrikes killed dozens in nearby rebel-held areas.

The rocket landed in the Kashkoul market, close to rebel-held parts of Eastern Ghouta, which has been under heavy bombardment by the Syrian army and its allies since last month.

The army says rebels in Eastern Ghouta have repeatedly targeted civilians in state-controlled districts of the capital, Damascus.

Separately, civil defense rescuers in the rebel-held town of Douma said more than 56 civilians were killed during Syrian and Russian airstrikes in raids conducted over 24 hours.

Rescuers and residents say napalm and incendiary bombs were being dropped on civilian targets in a campaign to drive civilians out of Eastern Ghouta.

— Reuters

Canada seeks tighter controls on gun sales: Gun retailers in Canada would be required to keep records of firearms inventory and sales for at least 20 years under legislation introduced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government. Among other measures, the bill would also expand the scope of background checks for those who want to acquire a gun. Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said crimes involving firearms have become more prevalent despite an overall decline in crime rates in Canada.

E.U. asylum applications drop to pre-2015 levels: The number of people applying for asylum in Europe has dropped to levels similar to those recorded before the wave of migrant arrivals in 2015, the European Union's statistics agency said. Eurostat said almost 650,000 people applied for asylum in the 28 E.U. nations for the first time last year — about half the applicants in 2015, when hundreds of thousands of people arrived. Almost one in three people sought asylum in Germany in 2017.

Slovakian president rejects proposed new government: Slovakia's president has rejected a proposal for a new government amid a political crisis triggered by the killing of a journalist and his fiancee. Prime Minister Robert Fico's coalition resigned last week amid protests over the slayings, which cast a light on possible government corruption. President Andrej Kiska asked Fico's deputy, Peter Pellegrini, to form a new government. But Kiska rejected Pellegrini's proposal, which involved the same three parties that were in the previous government. Before he was slain, Jan Kuciak was reporting on alleged Italian mafia ties to associates of Fico and corruption scandals tied to Fico's party.

U.S. pastor faces 35 years in prison in Turkey: An American pastor has been charged in Turkey with engaging in espionage and having links to terrorist groups, crimes that carry a potential sentence of up to 35 years in prison, state-run media reported. Andrew Brunson is accused of working with U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen's network and the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party to stir chaos in Turkey. Brunson is from North Carolina but has lived in Turkey for more than 20 years. He was arrested after a July 2016 coup attempt. Gulen has denied any involvement in the putsch.

— From news services