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March 25, 2017 - 11:08 am

IRAQ

Iraq: Speaker voices concern over Mosul airstrike

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraq's parliament speaker has expressed concern over reports of airstrikes that have allegedly killed more than 100 civilians in western Mosul where U.S.-backed government troops are fighting the Islamic State group.

In tweets published on his official account, speaker Salim al-Jabouri said Saturday "we realize the huge responsibility the liberating forces shoulder" and call on them to "spare no effort to save the civilians." Al-Jabouri is a prominent Sunni Muslim politician in Iraq.

It was unclear who carried out the airstrikes, but on Friday the U.S.-led coalition fighting IS in Iraq and Syria said it was investigating the allegations. Residents reported two airstrikes hitting a residential area on March 13 and 17.

The Iraqi Defense Ministry has provided no immediate comment.

SYRIA

UPDATE: Airstrikes across rebel-held Syria kill and wound scores

BEIRUT (AP) — Opposition activists say warplanes have struck rebel-held parts of Syria, killing and wounding scores of people.

The activists say the airstrikes come amid clashes on multiple fronts between government forces and insurgent groups in some of the worst violence to hit the country in weeks.

The airstrikes, of which some activists said included Russian air raids, concentrated on the rebel-held northwestern province of Idlib, the central province of Hama and suburbs of the capital Damascus that have come under attack by insurgent groups over the past week.

One of the airstrikes hit a main street in the Damascus suburb of Hamouriyeh killing at least 16 people and wounded more than 50, activists said. The airstrikes caused wide destruction in the area.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the airstrikes killed 16, including eight women and children, and wounded more than 50. The Local Coordination said 18 were killed and dozens were wounded.

Both groups said some people are still missing, and that the death toll could rise.

EUROPE-SUMMIT

27 EU leaders toast Europe's future, its people

ROME (AP) — The leaders of the European Union's 27 remaining countries have toasted Europe and its united people.

At a Quirinal Palace luncheon in Rome, Italian President Sergio Mattarella lifted his crystal wine glass and invited guests who had just finished an EU summit in Rome to join him in a toast to "our Europe, to the union of our peoples."

The 60th anniversary of the signing in Rome of EU's founding treaty comes days before Britain formally signals the beginning of its exit.

EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker used his own pen instead of a summit-supplied pen to sign a summit declaration committing the 27 countries to build the bloc's future through a united front.

Later, the European Commission president pulled the pen out of his jacket pocket and showed it off with a flourish, saying "I'm keeping it."

BRITAIN-BREXIT

Thousands in London take to streets to protest Brexit plan

LONDON (AP) — Thousands of demonstrators are gathering under sunny skies in central London to protest plans for Britain to withdraw from the European Union.

The Unite for Europe march included many carrying EU flags just days before Britain is expected to begin its formal divorce from the EU.

Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger Article 50 Wednesday, setting the process in motion. Negotiations are expected to take at least two years.

The substantial march follows by three days an attack on Parliament. Organizers considered delaying the march but decided to go ahead.

Organizers said in a statement that "we will not be intimidated. We will stand in unity and solidarity."

Britain voted in a June 23 referendum to leave the EU.

BRITAIN-POLITICS

UKIP's only member of British Parliament quits party

LONDON (AP) — The UK Independence Party is losing its only member of the British Parliament in a blow to the upstart anti-Europe party's future.

Douglas Carswell said Saturday that he's leaving UKIP and will serve in Parliament as an independent. He said his departure is amicable and won't trigger a new election because he isn't joining another party.

Carswell had recently clashed with the party's most generous financial donor, Arron Banks, who is allied with former UKIP leader Nigel Farage.

Carswell said UKIP has achieved its goal of getting Britain out of the European Union, making the party successful even though it hasn't fared well in parliamentary elections.

The party had campaigned fiercely for years to convince Britons to leave the EU. That goal was met in the June referendum.

CHILDREN KILLED

NEW: N. Carolina father accused of killing newborn, toddler

RAEFORD, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina father is accused of stabbing his infant and toddler daughters to death.

Hoke County Sheriff Hubert Peterkin says 30-year-old Tillman Freeman III of Fayetteville is charged with two counts of first-degree murder for the deaths of 4-day-old Genesis Freeman and 2-year-old Serenity Freeman. Their bodies were found early Saturday near an intersection near Raeford.

Peterkin tells the Fayetteville Observer (http://bit.ly/2n4qjoV ) the children were stabbed multiple times with what appears to be a hunting or survivalist-type knife. He called the crime "horrific."

Before they were found, Freeman was arrested and charged with child abuse and child endangerment. The children were reported missing following a domestic dispute. Freeman's wife was in a local hospital when the children disappeared.

It's not clear whether Freeman has an attorney.

CHILD STRUCK-DRIVER SHOT

NEW: Ohio police: Driver shot, killed after hitting boy, 4

CINCINNATI (AP) — Police in Cincinnati say a driver was shot and killed after his car hit a 4-year-old boy who ran into the street.

Investigators say they believe the driver got out of his car after hitting the child Friday and a confrontation broke out.

Police say 44-year-old Jamie Urton was shot several times and a passenger suffered minor injuries in the fight but was not shot.

The child hit by the car was hurt but is expected to be OK.

Police say they're looking for three suspects. They say it's not clear yet if any other circumstances led to the shooting just outside downtown Cincinnati.

AMBULANCE DRIVER KILLED

NEW: Funeral set for NY medic who died when run over by ambulance

NEW YORK (AP) — Thousands of mourners are packing a Bronx church for the funeral for an emergency medic killed last week when she was run over by her own ambulance.

Yadira Arroyo (yah-DEER'-ah) was killed March 16 responding to a call. Police say a man got into the truck when she got out and she was run over.

The mother of five was a 14-year veteran of the department. She was beloved by colleagues at her station house and in her Bronx community. Arroyo was a dedicated EMT who responded to calls even during asthma attacks and was a mother figure to her co-workers.

Fire Department Commissioner Daniel Nigro says the outpouring of support shows the respect people have for their fallen colleague. He said she lived and died as a hero.

CONGRESS-HEALTH OVERHAUL-OBAMACARE

Health care law works in some ways, comes up short in others

WASHINGTON (AP) — Once again, "Obamacare" has survived a near-death experience.

It won't be the end of the political debate, but House Speaker Paul Ryan acknowledges, "We're going to be living with 'Obamacare' for the foreseeable future."

Ryan pulled the "repeal and replace" bill drafted by House Republican leaders and blessed by President Donald Trump after it failed to muster enough support. It was the latest attempt to undo the Affordable Care Act, which already beat two Supreme Court challenges.

Trump blamed Democrats for the failure and repeated his dire predictions for the Obama-era law. "It's imploding, and soon will explode, and it's not going to be pretty," he said.

In the meantime, Trump and Ryan plan to turn their attention to the first major re-write of the tax code in more than 30 years.

MONTANA-ABORTION

Montana bill seeks abortion ban on 'pain-capable' fetuses

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — The Montana Senate on Friday advanced a proposal seeking to extend protections to so-called "pain-capable" fetuses.

If approved, Montana would join more than a dozen states adopting laws protecting pain-capable fetuses.

The measure is one of a pair of anti-abortion bills that continued moving through the Montana Legislature. Earlier in the week, a House committee further advanced a bill that would effectively ban all abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy by requiring doctors to save a fetus.

Opponents decried both measures as attacks on a woman's right to choose an abortion.

Proponents of both bills acknowledged the U.S. Supreme Court's Roe v. Wade decision in 1973 that affirmed abortion rights, but they argued that federal law allows states to carve out their own abortion rules.

VATICAN-POPE

Pope puts focus on peripheries during Milan pastoral visit

MILAN (AP) — Pope Francis began his one-day visit to the world's largest diocese with a stop in a housing project on the city's outskirts, emblematic of his view that the peripheries offer a better view of reality than the well-tended and prosperous city centers.

The pope told thousands of faithful assembled that it was important for the Roman Catholic Church "not to remain in the center to wait, but to go toward everyone, in the peripheries, to go toward also non-Christians and non-believers."

The housing project on the edge of Italy's wealthy finance and fashion capital is home to more than 1,000 people, including many elderly and foreigners living on the margins of society.

It is the fifth papal visit to Milan, the world's largest parish with 5 million faithful, including two by Pope John Paul II and one by Pope Benedict the XVI.

CAMBODIA-ELEPHANTS RESCUED

11 endangered wild elephants rescued from mud in Cambodia

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia (AP) — Eleven endangered wild elephants were rescued in Cambodia on Saturday, four days after getting stuck in a 3-meter-deep mud hole, officials said.

The animals were rescued in northeastern Mondulkiri province, home to about 250 wild elephants, said Wildlife Alliance official Botumroat Lebun.

The chief of Mondulkiri's environment department, Keo Sopheak, who headed the rescue team, said the elephants apparently got stuck in the mud when they went to drink water at a 3-meter-deep (10-foot-deep) hole that was left over from U.S. bombing during the Vietnam War.

After being rescued, the elephants were sent back to the jungle where they normally live, Keo Sopheak said.

He said if local villagers had not reported the incident, the elephants would have died from thirst and starvation.

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