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The world in brief

by Compiled by Democrat-Gazette Staff From Wire Reports | February 23, 2021 at 2:00 a.m.

Japan renews claim on S. Korea-held islet

TOKYO -- Japan renewed its claim on a contested island in the Sea of Japan held by South Korea at an annual event Monday, escalating tensions between the neighbors whose relations were already strained over Seoul's demands for compensation for Japanese actions in World War II.

Monday was the anniversary of the day Japan placed the island under the jurisdiction of the western Japanese prefecture of Shimane in 1905. Japan has held the ceremony since 2006 in a bid to step up its claim on the island.

The uninhabited islet in rich fishing grounds off the northwestern coast of Shimane is called Takeshima in Japan and Dokdo in South Korea. It has been effectively controlled by South Korea since the 1950s.

Yoshiaki Wada, a Cabinet Office official representing the central government at the ceremony in the prefectural capital of Matsue, accused South Korea of "unlawful occupation that has no legal basis whatsoever under international law."

"It is totally unacceptable," he said.

South Korea's Foreign Ministry denounced Japan for continuing "futile provocations" by holding the event. It demanded that the event be abolished and said it's clear that the island is South Korean territory because of "history, geography and international law."

EU sanctions hit 19 Venezuelan officials

BRUSSELS -- The European Union on Monday imposed sanctions on 19 more officials in Venezuela accused of undermining democracy or of rights abuses in the crisis-torn South American country.

EU foreign ministers targeted the 19 with asset freezes and travel bans "in view of the deteriorating situation in Venezuela following the December 2020 elections." The main opposition parties boycotted those polls.

A total of 55 Venezuelan officials are now subject to EU sanctions.

"The individuals added to the list are responsible, notably, for undermining the oppositions' electoral rights and the democratic functioning of the National Assembly, and for serious violations of human rights and restrictions of fundamental freedoms," the ministers said.

They said the measures are not designed to "to have adverse humanitarian effects or unintended consequences for the Venezuelan population, and can be reversed."

Once a wealthy oil nation, Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis, which critics blame on two decades of failed socialist policies that have left the nation bankrupt and its infrastructure crumbling. President Nicolas Maduro says he is under attack from the United States, which wants to oust him from power.

Migrants hidden in dangerous materials

MADRID -- Spanish authorities say they have found and rescued 41 migrants who tried to reach continental Europe from North Africa last week, some of them hiding inside a container of discarded glass bottles and a bag of toxic ash.

Among people found Friday trying to travel to Europe from the Spanish port of Melilla, an enclave in North Africa, four hid among bottles and other glass partially broken in pieces and with sharp edges that were destined for recycling, the Spanish Civil Guard said Monday.

A video released by the police also shows another incident in which an officer first finds a motionless leg sticking out of a large plastic bag containing ash from the city's incinerator, a material that is considered highly toxic. When the agent starts removing the ash, the stowaway seems to recover consciousness.

The port of Melilla, where trucks and containers embark on a trip to Spain that can take up to seven hours, is together with the nearby Ceuta enclave a target for many migrants trying to reach the European mainland.

Some of them try to enter the fenced area of the harbor by swimming there or by hiding in vehicles, in some cases jumping on to them when they slow down or stop at the gates of the port.

4 women instructors killed in Pakistan

PESHAWAR, Pakistan -- Suspected militants on motorcycles ambushed a vehicle carrying instructors from a private vocational school in northwest Pakistan on Monday, killing four women and wounding the driver before fleeing, police said.

The attack took place in the village of Epi in Mir Ali, a town in North Waziristan district in a former tribal region bordering Afghanistan, said Shafi Ullah Khan Gandapur, a district police chief.

Police said the slain women were sent to the village by private vocational school Bravo Institute of Technology in Peshawar under an agreement with the Sabawon Pakistan charity. They had planned to train 140 residents for skilled occupations that would allow them to open their own businesses.

Arfan Ullah Marwat, a spokesman for the charity, said the women were not their employees.

The wounded driver, Abdul Khaliq, said he saw assailants on two motorcycles open fire and then flee. He said he was hired by the institute to take the women from the town of Bannu to Mir Ali and back.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

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