Activists say 15 killed in airstrike in Aleppo

Syrian warplanes struck targets in a rebel-held district in the contested northern city of Aleppo on Friday, killing at least 15 people, wounding dozens and leaving some buried under the rubble of buildings, activists said.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and the Aleppo Media center said the airstrike targeted three buildings that were almost completely flattened in the district of Kalassa, killing at least four children.

The observatory, which relies on a network of activists on the ground in Syria, said the death toll of 15 would probably rise because many of the wounded were in critical condition and others were missing. The Aleppo Media Center, which tracks violence in the city, said 33 people were killed and more than 100 were injured in the airstrike. The varying figures could not be reconciled.

Rebel forces have battled the government for control of Aleppo since last summer. The struggle has fallen into a stalemate, with districts carved up into rebel- and government-held neighborhoods separated by checkpoints.

Activists also reported heavy fighting in several areas of the country, including the contested Qaboun district on the edge of the capital, Damascus.

— Associated Press

U.N.: Refugees surge
into northern Iraq

More than 5,000 Syrians crossed into Iraq’s Kurdistan region Thursday in a “sudden, massive movement,” the U.N. refugee agency said Friday.

About 750 people crossed the Tigris River at Peshkhabour, followed by a wave of 5,000 to 7,000 people, Adrian Edwards, spokesman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, told reporters in Geneva.

Most of the Syrians were women, children and elderly people from embattled Aleppo and other regions near Syria’s border with Iraq, Edwards said, citing U.N. field officers. U.N. officials don’t know what prompted the sudden influx, which was not repeated Friday, he said.

The Syrian and Iraqi sides of the crossing are normally tightly controlled, Edwards said.

— Bloomberg News

Four bodies found on sunken Indian submarine: Four bodies were recovered from a submarine that exploded and burned in Mumbai early Wednesday, the Indian navy said, and navy divers working around the clock have heard no sound or other indication of life inside, making it unlikely any survivors will be found. Eighteen sailors of a full crew of 58 were aboard or unable to jump free when the disaster occurred.

Pakistan says Indian troops wounded six civilians: The Pakistani military accused Indian troops of firing across the disputed Kashmir border Friday and wounding six civilians, the latest in a series of alleged attacks that have heightened tension between the nuclear-armed rivals. An Indian government official had said previously that two civilians were wounded by Pakistani troops Thursday. Both sides accused the other of firing first.

China keeps Nobel winner’s relative in jail: A Chinese court upheld the 11-year prison sentence given to the brother-in-law of jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Liu Xiaobo, the man’s attorney said. Relatives have denounced Liu Hui’s conviction on fraud charges in a real estate dispute as political payback for the pro-democracy stance taken by Liu Xiaobo, who was imprisoned on subversion charges in 2009.

Zimbabwe opposition withdraws poll challenge Zimbabwe’s opposition Movement for Democratic Change said it is withdrawing a court challenge over disputed election results that gave longtime President Robert Mugabe a commanding victory, saying it did not believe it would get a fair hearing. By late Friday, the MDC had not received a separate court judgment on its demands for the release of crucial election material by the state Election Commission.

At least 17 killed in ferry sinking in Philippines: A ferry with nearly 700 people aboard sank near the central Philippine port of Cebu on Friday night after colliding with a cargo vessel, killing at least 17 people. The coast guard said 525 people had been rescued several hours after the collision.

Quakes rattle New Zealand: Strong earthquakes shook central New Zealand, damaging homes and roads and sending office workers scrambling for cover in the capital, Wellington. No serious injuries were reported. A magnitude-6.5 temblor struck just after 2:30 p.m. near the small South Island town of Seddon, and at least six aftershocks were magnitude 5.0 or stronger.

— From news services