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Sunday, June 29, 2014,AP News in Brief at 5:58 a.m. EDT

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Posted: Jun 29, 2014 4:00 AM

Updated: Jun 29, 2014 4:00 AM

Iraq forces battle Sunni militants in insurgent-held Tikrit

BAGHDAD (AP) Iraqi forces backed by tanks and helicopter gunships have started battling insurgents in Saddam Hussein's hometown of Tikrit, one of two major cities seized by Sunni militants during a rapid advance across the north earlier this month.

The government received a boost with the arrival in Baghdad late Saturday of five Sukhoi 25 warplanes purchased secondhand from Russia. The aircraft is designed to provide close air support to ground forces and to destroy mobile targets.

Iraqi air force commander Lt. Gen. Anwar Hama Amin said the military is "in urgent need of this type of aircraft during this difficult time."

"These jets will enter service within a few days the coming three or four days in order to support the units and to fight the terrorist ISIL organization," he said, referring to the al-Qaida breakaway Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, which has spearheaded the Sunni militant offensive.

The planes could be deployed in the fight for Tikrit, a predominantly Sunni city of more than 200,000 some 130 kilometers (80 miles) north of Baghdad where anger towards Iraq's Shiite-led government runs deep.

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South Korea says rival North Korea fires 2 short-range missiles into waters in apparent test

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) North Korea fired two short-range Scud missiles into its eastern waters Sunday, a South Korean official said, in an apparent test just days after the country tested what it called new precision-guided missiles.

A South Korean military official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing department rules, said the missiles were fired from Wonsan and are presumed to be short-range Scud ballistic missiles. The official added that the military is determining what kind of Scud missiles the projectiles were. South Korean media quoted officials as saying the missiles are presumed to be Scud-C missiles, the same as ones fired in March. North Korea fired the missiles without designating no-sail zones, which the South Korean military views as provocative.

North Korea regularly test-fires missiles and artillery, both to refine its weapons and to express its anger over various developments in Seoul and Washington. North Korea has in recent days criticized alleged South Korean artillery firing drills near a disputed maritime boundary in the Yellow Sea that has been the scene of several bloody skirmishes between the rival nations in recent years. The missile displays also come days before the leader of North Korea's only major ally, Chinese President Xi Jinping, is set to meet with South Korean President Park Geun-hye. Seoul and Beijing have long pressed North Korea to abandon its nuclear weapons ambitions.

North Korea said Friday that leader Kim Jong Un guided test launches of a newly developed precision-guided missiles, in a likely reference to three short-range projectiles South Korean officials say the North fired a day earlier.

It's not possible to tell if this assertion about the new missiles is an exaggeration, something North Korea has frequently done in the past when trumpeting its military capability, analysts say. Its army is one of the world's largest but is believed to be badly supplied and forced to use outdated equipment.

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Court appearance of Libyan militant suspected in Benghazi attacks first step in legal process

WASHINGTON (AP) A court appearance for the alleged mastermind of the attacks on the U.S. mission in Benghazi, Libya, is the first step in a long legal process that could yield new insight into a fiery assault that continues to reverberate across U.S. politics.

The case of Ahmed Abu Khattala, who pleaded not guilty during a brief court appearance Saturday, also represents a high-profile test of the Obama administration's goal of prosecuting terror suspects in civilian courts even in the face of Republican critics who say such defendants aren't entitled to the protections of the American legal system.

Abu Khattala made his first appearance in an American courtroom amid tight security, two weeks after being captured in Libya by U.S. special forces in a nighttime raid and then whisked away on a Navy ship for questioning and transport. He was flown early Saturday from the ship to a landing pad in Washington and brought to the federal courthouse, a downtown building mere blocks from the U.S. Capitol.

A grand jury indictment made public Saturday accuses Abu Khattala of participating in a conspiracy to provide material support and resources to terrorists in the attacks of Sept. 11, 2012, that killed U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The Justice Department says it expects to bring more charges.

The Libyan who maintained a garrulous public persona at home granting interviews with journalists and gaining popularity and prominence in Benghazi's circle of extremists showed little reaction during a 10-minute appearance before a federal magistrate judge. He spoke just two words, both in Arabic, in response to perfunctory questions, stared impassively for most of the hearing and sat with his hands behind his back. He will remain in custody though the judge did not say where and was directed to return to court next week.

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2 directors detained in India after at least 22 die in building collapses; dozen still trapped

NEW DELHI (AP) Police in southern India detained two construction company directors Sunday as rescuers using gas cutters and shovels searched for dozens of workers believed buried in the rubble of a building that collapsed during monsoon rains. It was one of two weekend building collapses that killed at least 22 people.

The 12-story apartment structure the workers were building collapsed late Saturday while heavy rains and lightning were pounding the outskirts of Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu state. Police said 31 construction workers had been pulled out so far and the search was continuing for more than a dozen others.

Four of the workers died on the spot and another seven succumbed to injuries in a hospital, said police officer George Fernandes.

Fourteen workers remained hospitalized, while six others were discharged, Fernandes said.

Police officer Kanan said two directors of the construction company, Prime Sristi, have been detained for questioning as authorities began investigating the collapse. The officer uses one name.

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Officials investigate how security door fell on 3-year-old, killing her at Italian ice shop

PHILADELPHIA (AP) Authorities were investigating how a metal security grate detached and fell from the facade of an Italian ice shop Saturday afternoon, killing a 3-year-old girl.

The girl was at the Rita's Water Ice store in north Philadelphia where a fundraiser for a sorority and fraternity was underway when she was killed around 4:30 p.m., police and witnesses said.

Members of the Omega Psi Phi fraternity rushed to the girl's aid to get her out from under the awning and give her CPR, witnesses said. The girl was taken to Hahnemann University Hospital and died after arrival.

"It took about 20 to 30 men to get that awning off of the baby," witness Tracey Stanford told KYW-TV. "When they finally got it up off of her, she was just lying there, lifeless."

Officials with the Department of Licenses and Inspections were investigating how the grate fell.

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Europeans declare start of peaceful century in Bosnia, where World War I started 100 years ago

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) Artists and diplomats declared a new century of peace and unity in Europe on Saturday in the city where the first two shots of World War I were fired exactly 100 years ago.

On June 28, 1914, the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand was assassinated in Sarajevo, where he had come to inspect his occupying troops in the empire's eastern province.

The shots fired by Serb teenager Gavrilo Princip sparked the Great War, which was followed decades later by a second world conflict. Together the two wars cost some 80 million European their lives, ended four empires including the Austro-Hungarian and changed the world forever.

Visiting the assassination site Saturday, Sarajevan Davud Bajramovic, 67, said that in order to hold a second of silence for every person killed just during WWI in Europe, "we would have to stand silently for two years."

A century later, Sarajevans again crowded the same street along the river where Princip fired his shots. And the Austrians were also back, but this time with music instead of military: The Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra was scheduled to perform works of European composers reflecting the century's catastrophic events and conclude with a symbol of unity in Europe the joint European hymn, Beethoven's "Ode of Joy."

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Mars 'flying saucer' vehicle splashes down after NASA test in Earth's atmosphere

LOS ANGELES (AP) A saucer-shaped NASA vehicle testing new technology for Mars landings rocketed high over the Pacific on Saturday and deployed a novel inflatable braking system, but its massive parachute failed to fully unfurl as it descended to a splashdown.

Control room cheers that greeted successful steps in the complex test rapidly died as the parachute appeared to emerge tangled.

"Please inform the recovery director we have bad chute," a mission official ordered.

NASA planned to hold a news conference on the flight Sunday.

The vehicle, called the Low Density Supersonic Decelerator, was testing methods for slowing big, heavy spacecraft hurtling into the thin Martian atmosphere.

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From Morocco to Jakarta, world's 1.6 billion Muslims get ready for Ramadan

BEIRUT (AP) Across a wide belt that stretches halfway around the globe, the world's estimated 1.6 billion Muslims will mark the beginning of Ramadan this weekend. The holy season is marred by unprecedented turmoil, violence and sectarian hatreds that threaten to rip apart the Middle East, the epicenter of Islam.

Syria is bleeding. Militants have taken over large parts of Iraq. Lebanon, Libya, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Egypt are all battling Islamic extremists. Millions of war refugees are scattered across the landscape.

Although the bloodshed has eroded much of the Ramadan joy, millions of Shiite and Sunni Muslims will fast for grueling hours, both hoping for God's acceptance.

Some facts about Ramadan:

WHAT IS RAMADAN?

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Donna Tartt and Doris Kearns Goodwin awarded Carnegie medals for literary excellence

NEW YORK (AP) For the first time since researching her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, "The Goldfinch," Donna Tartt is back in Las Vegas.

The occasion isn't work, but another literary honor as Tartt received this year's Andrew Carnegie Medal for Excellence in fiction Saturday.

Historian Doris Kearns Goodwin was the nonfiction winner for her book on the progressive era of the early 20th century, "The Bully Pulpit."

The medals each come with a $5,000 cash prize and were presented Saturday at the American Library Association's annual gathering in Las Vegas, where parts of "The Goldfinch" are set. The awards, founded in 2012, are managed by the library association and funded through a grant from the Carnegie Corp. of New York.

Tartt set some of "The Goldfinch" in Las Vegas, where a 13-year-old boy from New York City contends with his neglectful father. For Tartt, the award also helps uphold a family tradition: She is the niece and grandniece of librarians and as a teenager in Mississippi worked as a library aide. She wrote much of "The Goldfinch," which took a decade to complete, at the main branch of the New York Public Library.

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Suarez still idolized, not blamed for being banned as Uruguay exited World Cup in last 16

RIO DE JANEIRO (AP) Dejected but defiant, and still defending Luis Suarez.

Uruguay's support of the banned, biting striker was steadfast on Saturday even as the team was toothless in his absence and went out of the World Cup with a 2-0 loss to Colombia.

Among the Uruguay fans in the stands, in the team dressing room and in the dugout, Suarez's global pariah status is still mystifying. To them, the 27-year-old player is not a pariah but a footballing hero, even if the bite on an opponent will prevent him representing the national team in competitive games for more than a year.

"People have been after him for a long time," Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez said in the Maracana, echoing recent attacks on a perceived FIFA and English-language media campaign against Suarez.

World football's governing body acted swiftly after the bite on Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini during Tuesday's Group D finale, banning Suarez for four months, disrupting his Liverpool career, as well as nine international matches.

Topics: World Briefly

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