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story.lead_photo.caption Villagers head for shelter Thursday near Gopalpur, India, as Cyclone Titli rages.

Cyclone slams east India, kills 9 people

GOPALPUR, India -- A severe cyclone damaged homes and blew down trees and power poles in eastern India, where nine people were killed and about 300,000 were forced to move to higher ground.

Cyclone Titli, or Butterfly, had winds blowing up to 95 mph Thursday when it moved onshore around daybreak, the India Meteorological Department said. It spread rain widely in coastal districts of Orissa state and hit northern parts of neighboring Andhra Pradesh state.

Eight people died from drowning, wall collapses and fallen trees in the Vijayanagaram and Srikakulam districts of Andhra Pradesh, said Kinjarapu Acchan Naidu, the state labor minister.

An 8-year-old boy drowned in a flooded canal in Ganjam district in Orissa state, where five people were also reported missing after being swept away by floodwaters, the Press Trust of India reported.

District Administrator Vijay Amruta said the five people were swept away by floodwaters while returning home from a cyclone shelter. Rescuers were searching for them.

Schools were closed, and air and train travel was curtailed in the region. Authorities also set up more than 800 shelters stocked with food and relief materials.

Electricity and telephone services were cut in a number of areas in both states.

The cyclone weakened by Thursday night with wind speeds dropping to 45 mph, and it was expected to become a deep depression by today, the Meteorological Department said.

Battle in sandstorm kills dozens in Syria

BEIRUT -- U.S.-backed fighters battled in a sandstorm against the Islamic State group in eastern Syria on Thursday in clashes that killed several fighters on both sides.

The U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces, a Kurdish-led group, said it was fighting to retake the village of Sousah, where the extremists took advantage of the poor visibility to launch a counteroffensive.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the fighting began Wednesday and killed at least 10 U.S.-allied fighters, with the fate of 35 others unknown. It said 18 Islamic State militants were killed.

The Islamic State-linked Aamaq news agency reported 18 deaths among the Syrian Democratic Forces fighters, and it posted photos online of what it said were some of the bodies.

In recent years the Syrian Democratic Forces, with U.S. air support, has driven the Islamic State from much of northern and eastern Syria. The extremists have also suffered a series of defeats at the hands of Syrian government forces and Iraqi forces, losing virtually all of the territory that once made up their self-styled caliphate.

Mall being built in Mexico collapses

MONTERREY, Mexico -- A shopping mall under construction in the Mexican city of Monterrey collapsed Thursday, killing at least seven people and leaving another nine missing, officials said.

Local council secretary Genaro Garcia said at a news conference that 15 people were injured, in addition to the dead, and all the victims are believed to be construction workers.

Work on the three-story structure in the northern industrial hub in Nuevo Leon state was being carried out without the necessary license, authorities said.

The concrete slabs of the structure appear to have pancaked, falling one atop another. About 150 emergency personnel were looking for more people who may have been trapped in the wreckage.

Late Thursday night, the civil defense office released a brief statement saying that nine people were still missing.

Israel-held U.S. student appears in court

TEL AVIV, Israel -- An American graduate student, who has been detained while fighting an expulsion order over her involvement in the boycott movement against Israel, appeared in court Thursday, asking a judge to allow her to enter the country to begin her studies.

It was the first time that Lara Alqasem has appeared in public since she was stopped at Israel's Ben-Gurion Airport on Oct. 2.

She is to remain in detention until the court delivers its written verdict in the coming days.

The 22-year-old American, whose father is Palestinian, arrived in Israel with a valid student visa and was registered to study human rights at Jerusalem's Hebrew University.

But she was barred from entering the country and ordered deported, based on suspicions that she's an activist in the boycott movement.

Israel has said she is not being held against her will and is free to leave the country. It also has said it would reconsider its decision if she apologizes and renounces the boycott.

Israel enacted a law last year banning entry for any foreigner who "knowingly issues a public call for boycotting Israel."

Alqasem, from Southwest Ranches, Fla., is a former president of the University of Florida chapter of Students for Justice in Palestine. The group is a branch of the BDS movement, whose name comes from its calls for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

Photo by AP/SEBASTIAN SCHEINER
U.S. citizen Lara Alqasem sits in a Tel Aviv courtroom Thursday as she seeks to stay in the country to begin her graduate studies.

A Section on 10/12/2018

Print Headline: Battle in sandstorm kills dozens in Syria Cyclone slams east India, kills 9 people Israel-held U.S. student appears in court U.K.'s Trump security cost nearly $24M

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