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In brief: Northern Somalia bombing kills four UNICEF workers

From Wire Reports

MOGADISHU, Somalia – Islamic extremists set off a bomb in a U.N. van in normally tranquil northern Somalia on Monday, killing at least seven people, including four employees of the U.N. children’s agency in an attack that was widely denounced.

Two Kenyans, one Ugandan, one Afghan and three Somalis died in the explosion in Garowe town and one American, one Sierra Leonean, one Ugandan, one Kenyan and four Somalis were wounded, police Col. Ali Salad said.

Somali President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud called it a direct attack on the future of the country.

Al-Shabab, which is battling to convert Somalia into a hard-line Islamic state, claimed responsibility through its radio station for the attack in Garowe, capital of Puntland state.

Turkey’s prime minister extends condolences

ANKARA, Turkey – Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Monday extended condolences to the descendants of Armenians killed 100 years ago by Ottoman Turks, saying Turkey shared their pain, and also announced that a service would be held at the Armenian Patriarchate in Istanbul to commemorate the victims.

In his conciliatory message released days ahead of the Friday centenary commemorations, however, Davutoglu stopped short of calling the killings a genocide and criticized efforts to press Turkey to recognize the slaughter as such.

Argentina’s president cleared of accusations

BUENOS AIRES – An Argentine prosecutor on Monday dismissed accusations against President Cristina Fernandez that she helped shield Iranian officials allegedly behind the 1994 bombing of a Jewish center, effectively putting an end to a case that had exposed deep divisions in the South American nation.

Javier De Luca, prosecutor before the Court of Appeals, said there wasn’t enough evidence in late prosecutor Alberto Nisman’s investigation to warrant a probe.

“There has been no crime,” De Luca wrote in his decision, echoing two previous court decisions.

Days before he was found dead Jan. 18, Nisman accused Fernandez and other top administration officials of helping cover up the alleged role of Iranian officials wanted in the bombing of the Jewish community center.

The president has strongly denied the allegations and Iran has long denied the involvement in the bombing, which killed 85 people.

U.S. providing $18 million in non-arms aid to Ukraine

WASHINGTON – The United States will supply Ukraine with nearly $18 million in aid to provide shelter, food vouchers, potable water and health and sanitation in regions affected by fighting between government forces and pro-Russia fighters.

The White House said Vice President Joe Biden informed Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko about the new assistance in a telephone call Monday.

The two men are welcoming efforts by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe to seek a permanent cease-fire in areas still experiencing fighting. Both are calling on Russia to abide by earlier agreements and stop moving troops along the Russia-Ukraine border.

The call came as U.S. and Ukraine troops kicked off joint training exercises intended to help bolster Ukraine’s defenses against incursions from the Russia-backed separatists in the east.

S. Korea prime minister offers to quit amid scandal

SEOUL, South Korea – South Korea’s prime minister has offered to resign amid a bribery scandal just two months after he took up the country’s No. 2 post, officials said today, in the latest political crisis to hit President Park Geun-hye.

Lee Wan Koo has been at the center of a corruption scandal that flared after a businessman killed himself earlier this month, leaving a memo listing the names of eight high-profile figures he claimed to have bribed. Most of the eight men, including Lee, are considered close associates of Park.

Businessman Sung Wan-jong told a local daily before his death he gave $27,390 to Lee in 2013.

Lee has denied the allegation but he has seen growing calls to resign after South Korea’s media have reported alleged evidence that indicates his ties with Sung. Lee’s office said Tuesday he conveyed his resignation offer Monday to President Park, who was in Peru on a four-nation trip.

Vienna-born U.S. author Frederic Morton dies at 90

VIENNA – U.S. writer Frederic Morton, who became internationally recognized in part through books on the Austrian homeland that he was forced to flee because of the Holocaust, has died, his Austrian publishers said Monday. He was 90.

The Deuticke publishing house said Morton died in his Vienna hotel room overnight on the eve of a public reading of some of his works in the Austrian capital. The Austria Press Agency said that event will now be turned into a memorial for the Vienna-born author.

Morton wrote 12 books, including “The Rothschilds” and “A Nervous Splendor,” both of them National Book Award finalists. “The Rothschilds” was made into a Tony Award-winning musical, while “A Nervous Splendor,” chronicling 1888 to 1889 in Vienna, focused on the major Austrian personalities and events of that year – among them the birth of Adolf Hitler, whose rise to power led to Morton’s self-exile 40 years later.

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