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Turkey formally OKs Swedish NATO entry

Turkish lawmakers from Toplumsal Ozgurluk or Social Freedom party, foreground left, and Sosyalist Dayanisma Platformu or Socialist Solidarity Platform hold posters that read in Turkish: "No occupation, no war for Nato!" during the debate of Sweden's bid to join NATO at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Turkish legislators on Tuesday endorsed Sweden's membership in NATO, lifting a major hurdle on the previously nonaligned country's entry into the military alliance. (AP Photo/Ali Unal)
Turkish lawmakers from Toplumsal Ozgurluk or Social Freedom party, foreground left, and Sosyalist Dayanisma Platformu or Socialist Solidarity Platform hold posters that read in Turkish: "No occupation, no war for Nato!" during the debate of Sweden's bid to join NATO at the Turkish Parliament in Ankara, Turkey, Tuesday, Jan. 23, 2024. Turkish legislators on Tuesday endorsed Sweden's membership in NATO, lifting a major hurdle on the previously nonaligned country's entry into the military alliance. (AP Photo/Ali Unal)

Turkey formally OKs Swedish NATO entry

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey published a measure approving Sweden's membership in NATO in its official gazette Thursday, finalizing the ratification that brings the previously nonaligned Nordic country a step closer to joining the military alliance.

Hungary now remains the only NATO ally not to have ratified Sweden's accession.

Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson welcomed Turkey's move, saying on X, formerly known as Twitter: "With this, a key milestone has been reached in Sweden's path towards NATO membership."

Turkey's parliament endorsed Sweden's accession in a vote held Tuesday after more than a year-and-a-half of delays that frustrated other allies who argued Sweden's entry would strengthen NATO.

Sweden, along with Finland, abandoned its traditional position of military nonalignment to seek protection under NATO's security umbrella, after Russia's invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. Finland joined the alliance in April, becoming NATO's 31st member, after Turkey's parliament ratified the Nordic country's bid.

S. African faces 76 murder counts in fire

JOHANNESBURG -- A man was charged with 76 counts of murder and 86 counts of attempted murder on Thursday in connection with a deadly fire at an apartment building in South Africa last year that was one of the country's worst disasters.

Prosecutors said he made a written confession in which he admitted starting the nighttime fire that ripped through the five-story building in Johannesburg in August, killing 76 people and leaving dozens injured.

The suspect, Sithembiso Lawrence Mdlalose, was also charged with arson and was ordered to be kept in police custody until a hearing next month when his lawyer is expected to say whether he will apply for bail.

He faces a possible sentence of life in prison. South Africa has no death penalty.

Mdlalose's lawyer, Dumisani Mabunda, said he has received a copy of the confession and believes his client made it voluntarily.

Mdlalose appeared in the Johannesburg courtroom for Thursday's hearing but didn't enter a plea in response to the charges. He mostly spoke to his lawyer during the hearing.

Mdlalose was arrested on Tuesday after making a startling claim at a separate inquiry that he was responsible for the fire. That inquiry is looking into the causes of the fire and the failures in safety protocols that led to so many people dying.

But he unexpectedly told the inquiry that he was a drug user and set the fire that night while trying to hide the body of a man he had killed in the basement of the building. He said he had strangled the man and then poured gasoline over his body and set it alight with a match on the instructions of a Tanzanian drug dealer who also lived in the building.

Search ends in China slide; deaths at 44

BEIJING -- The bodies of the remaining victims of a landslide in southwestern China were recovered Thursday, bringing the death toll to 44 after four days of searching through the rubble of dirt and crumbled homes, state media said.

The final body was found in the evening, according to state broadcaster CCTV, which posted photos of excavators and teams of searchers in orange uniforms and helmets, part of a contingent of more than 1,000 rescuers.

The landslide slammed into houses at the foot of a slope early Monday morning in Liangshui, a village in a remote and mountainous part of Yunnan province. It left a barren swath on the slope after hitting the village, which sits between snow-covered, terraced fields.

Two survivors were found on Monday.

A preliminary investigation found that the landslide had been triggered by the collapse of a steep clifftop area, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. It did not elaborate on the cause of the initial collapse.

60 said killed by Burkina Faso strikes

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Human Rights Watch said Thursday that Burkina Faso's security forces last year killed at least 60 civilians in three different drone strikes, which the group says may have constituted war crimes.

The West African nation's government claimed the strikes targeted extremists, including jihadi fighters and rebel groups that have been operating in many remote communities.

"The government should urgently and impartially investigate these apparent war crimes, hold those responsible to account, and provide adequate support for the victims and their families," Human Rights Watch said in a new report.

The report also said the strikes were "in violation of the laws of war" and showed "little or no concern" for civilians. Human Rights Watch had said last year that it found Burkina Faso's forces were carrying out extrajudicial killings, forced disappearances, and torture in conflict-hit communities.

The drones targeted crowds at a market and a funeral between August and November last year, according to Ilaria Allegrozzi, senior Sahel researcher at the group.

The government did not respond to inquiries made regarding the findings, the group said. The Associated Press could not independently verify the facts surrounding the strikes.


  photo  FILE - Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, left, shakes hands with Sweden's Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, right, as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg looks on prior to a meeting ahead of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, Monday, July 10, 2023. The road for Sweden's NATO membership has been bumpy, chiefly because of Turkey stalling ratifying Sweden's application. (Yves Herman, Pool Photo via AP, File)
 
 
  photo  FILE - A Swedish build Saab Jas Gripen F Demonstrator jet performs during a flight show of the Swiss air force in Axalp near Meiringen, Switzerland, on Oct. 11, 2012. The road for Sweden's NATO membership has been bumpy, chiefly because of Turkey stalling ratifying Sweden's application. (AP Photo/Keystone,Peter Klaunzer, File)