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The World in Brief

By Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

This article was published July 31, 2014 at 4:45 a.m.

Syria said to still barrel-bomb, defy U.N.

BEIRUT -- The Syrian government is still indiscriminately bombing civilians with explosives-filled barrels in defiance of a United Nations Security Council resolution, an international human-rights group said Wednesday. Activists said at least 11 people were killed by the bombs overnight.

February's resolution demanded a halt to all attacks against civilians, as well as indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardment, including the use of so-called barrel bomb, in populated areas. The crude weapons -- barrels packed with explosives and scraps of metal that are pushed out of helicopters -- cannot be precisely targeted.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said it has documented more than 650 strikes on rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo since the resolution's adoption. It noted in the report that opposition fighters also carry out indiscriminate attacks, including mortar strikes and car bombings.

Barrel bombs on Aleppo have killed more than 2,000 people this year, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of activists inside the war-torn country.

10 guilty in India fire fatal to 94 pupils

NEW DELHI -- An Indian court convicted 10 people Wednesday in a 2004 fire that tore through a thatched-roof schoolhouse, killing 94 children.

The owner of the primary school was sentenced to life in prison on charges including culpable homicide and endangerment, while his wife, the headmistress, the cook and the meal planner were each imprisoned for five years, according to the Press Trust of India news agency.

The Thanjavur district court in Tamil Nadu state also gave five government education department officials prison terms of two to five years and acquitted 11 other defendants.

The case drew attention to the numerous ill-equipped private schools in India, many lacking basic safety measures such as fire alarms and sprinklers. State investigators said the school had no firefighting equipment and poor exit routes.

U.S. visa ban hits 24 Venezuela officials

CARACAS, Venezuela -- The U.S. State Department on Wednesday announced a travel ban for officials of the Venezuela government who it said committed human-rights abuses during a crackdown on opposition protests.

Congress has been considering a similar move since the height of the protests in March.

The action targets 24 high-ranking Venezuelan officials including Cabinet members, senior judiciary members, and high-ranking military, police and National Guard members, according to congressional aides who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

The department refused to publicly identify those on the list, citing confidentiality rules regarding visa processing.

In announcing the sanctions, the department cited the months-long street protest movement that left dozens of people dead earlier this year and said the Venezuelan government had responded in many instances with "arbitrary detentions and excessive use of force."

But the sanctions also followed a diplomatic dust-up between the two countries.

On Sunday, Venezuela secured the release of a powerful Venezuelan general who had been detained in Aruba at the request of U.S. authorities. The U.S. has accused former head of military intelligence Hugo Carvajal of using his high-level position to protect drug traffickers.

Chinese indict scholar over Uighur cause

BEIJING -- An outspoken Chinese scholar who is of the ethnic Uighur minority was indicted on separatism charges Wednesday amid a renewed flare-up of bloody anti-government violence in the country's far west.

The prosecutor's office in the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi announced the indictment of economics professor Ilham Tohti in a brief online statement. Tohti, who was detained in mid-January, has rejected accusations of advocating Xinjiang's independence from China.

Tohti was originally accused of recruiting followers through a website he purportedly founded to manufacture rumors, distort and play up incidents, spread separatist thoughts, incite ethnic hatred and engage in separatist activities.

He also is accused of telling his students that minority Uighurs should emulate Chinese who violently resisted Japanese invaders in World War II, and of teaching them to hate China and seek to overthrow the government.

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