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story.lead_photo.caption People gather Wednesday at the scene of the fire in Paynesville, Liberia.

27 people die in Liberian school fire

PAYNESVILLE, Liberia -- A fire at a Koranic school outside Liberia's capital has killed at least 27 people and many are thought to be children, police said Wednesday.

The fire around midnight gutted a dormitory and school building where students slept about 7 miles east of Monrovia, police spokesman Moses Carter said. Only the imam and two students escaped, he said. The cause of the fire was under investigation.

The president of the West African nation, George Weah, visited the scene and was set to attend the victims' funerals at a Monrovia mosque before burial later in the day, said spokesman Isaac Solo Kelgbeh.

Pastor Emmanuel Herbert of a nearby church, Fire World Pentecostal Assembly, said he and his congregation woke up to sounds of the fire and called for help.

"When I turned around to look, the entire place was red. When I looked through the window, I saw the whole place blazing with fire," he said.

The fire was so strong there was no way to enter the buildings, the pastor said.

Syrian charter panel agreement reached

UNITED NATIONS -- United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres announced Wednesday that a long-sought agreement has been reached on the composition of a committee to draft a new constitution for Syria, an important step toward ending the more than eight-year conflict.

The U.N. chief told a news conference that Geir Pedersen, the U.N. special envoy for Syria, "is doing the final work with the parties in relation to the terms of reference, and we hope that this will be very soon concluded."

Guterres expressed hope that formation of the constitutional committee "will be a very important step in creating the conditions for a political solution for this tragic conflict."

At a Russian-hosted Syrian peace conference in January 2018, an agreement was reached to form a 150-member committee to draft a new constitution. This was a key step toward elections and a political settlement to the Syrian conflict, which has killed over 400,000 people.

There was early agreement on 50-member lists from the Syrian government and the opposition. But it has taken nearly 20 months to agree on the list the United Nations was authorized to put together representing experts, independents, tribal leaders and women, mainly because of objections from the Syrian government.

8 Filipinos guilty in fisherman's killing

MANILA, Philippines -- A Philippine court found eight Filipino coast guard personnel guilty Wednesday of conspiring to shoot and kill a Taiwanese fisherman in a 2013 incident at sea that strained ties between the neighboring nations.

Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Eduardo Ramon Reyes said in a decision that the members of the coast guards failed to prove that their action of opening fire on the Taiwanese boat that killed Hong Shi Cheng on May 9, 2013, off the northern Philippines was legally justified. The coast guardsmen, who remain free on bail, will appeal.

Reyes said in his 32-page decision that the accused conspired "with intent to kill, killed victim Hoh Shi Cheng with no legal justification duly proven." The coast guardsmen were sentenced to jail terms of up to 14 years and ordered to pay for damages.

Taiwan's government welcomed the ruling, saying in a statement that the shooting happened in the two sides' overlapping exclusive economic zones and that the Philippine government vessel "chased and attacked" the unarmed Taiwanese fishing boat, causing its 65-year-old skipper's death.

Philippine coast guard spokesman Armand Balilo said the agency's personnel were saddened by the ruling but would continue patrolling the country's waters.

Indonesia sending back foreign waste

JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Indonesia is sending 547 containers of waste back to wealthy nations after discovering they were contaminated with used plastic and hazardous materials, amid a growing backlash in Southeast Asia against being a dumping ground for the developed world's trash.

Nine containers with at least 135 tons of waste were sent back to Australia on Wednesday, customs director Heru Pambudi said at a news conference in Jakarta.

He said 91 other containers will be returned to Australia after administrative processes are complete.

They were among 156 containers held in Tangerang port near Jakarta that will be returned soon to other countries, including the U.S., New Zealand, Spain, Belgium and Britain, he said.

Pambudi said the government has stopped more than 2,000 containers this year in several ports in East Java, Jakarta, Tangerang and Batam near Singapore. So far it has sent back 331, which will be followed by 216 others to France, Germany, Greece, Netherlands, Slovenia, Canada, Japan and Hong Kong. Authorities are still investigating the rest.

The government announced in July that it had sent back nearly 60 containers of waste from Australia that were supposed to contain only paper but included household waste, used cans, plastic bottles, oil packaging, used electronics, used baby diapers and used footwear.

A Section on 09/19/2019

Print Headline: The world in brief

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