North Korea

Building collapse leads to casualties, apology

North Korean officials offered a rare public apology for the collapse of an apartment building under construction in Pyongyang, which a South Korean official said could mean hundreds might have died.

The word of the collapse in the secretive nation’s capital was reported Sunday morning by the North’s official Korean Central News Agency, which gave no death toll but said that the accident was “serious” and upset North Korea’s leader, Kim Jong Un.

The report said it occurred in the capital’s Phyongchon district on Tuesday “as the construction of an apartment house was not done properly and officials supervised and controlled it in an irresponsible manner.”

Kim’s ex-girlfriend apparently alive

The ex-girlfriend of North Korea leader Kim Jong Un, reportedly executed by firing squad last year, turned up apparently alive and well on a state television broadcast Friday night.

Hyon Song Wol, a singer with an all-female band, was reported to be one of 10 to 12 people executed in August by firing squad, as the story claimed, for performing in pornographic videos sold in China.

But on Friday she spoke at a national meeting of artists in Pyongyang, where she thanked Kim for his support of the arts and promised to “stoke up the flame for art and creative work.”

Her execution had first been reported by Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper known for its staunchly anti-Communist views and its criticism of North Korea.

“Kim Jong Un has been viciously eliminating anyone who he deems a challenge to his authority,” the newspaper wrote in August.


Inmates end revolt, free hostages at prison

SAO PAULO — Inmates released four prison officers Sunday after holding them hostage for more than a day during an uprising at a Brazilian penitentiary in the northeastern city of Aracaju.

Authorities said they had met the rebellious inmates’ main demand that some prisoners be transferred to other jails.

Nearly 130 relatives of prisoners who had arrived Saturday for visits at the prison and got caught up in the uprising were also allowed to leave, said Mauricio Lunes, commanding officer for the military police in the state of Sergipe, home to Aracaju.

Legal counsel Sandra Melo said the family members had not been threatened, but they were trapped while inmates held the prison officers hostage. Melo is the legal adviser for the company Fundacao Reviver, which runs the Advogado Antonio Jacinto Filho prison complex with 476 inmates.

Lunes said officials agreed to transfer some of the inmates out of the maximum-security prison. That was the key demand behind the uprising that erupted at midday Saturday in one of the wings of the penitentiary.


Rebels kill Assad’s
chief of air defenses

DAMASCUS — The head of Syria’s air defenses was killed in clashes near the capital, Damascus, a government official and activists said Sunday, one of a few high-ranking military officers to be killed in the country’s 3-year-old civil war.

Lt. Gen. Hussein Ishaq’s death may boost morale for those fighting against President Bashar Assad’s government, as they’ve faced setbacks and surrendered territory over the last year.

Ishaq was one of the highest-ranking members of the Syria’s army, said military analyst Hisham Jaber, a retired brigadier general in the Lebanese military.

He died Saturday after rebels attacked a Syrian air defense base near Mleiha, the government official said.


Tuareg rebels grab 30 hostages, kill soldiers

Separatist Tuareg rebels launched an assault on the northern Mali city of Kidal over the weekend, killing eight soldiers, storming government buildings and taking 30 hostages in a “declaration of war” on the government, officials said Sunday.

The attack was apparently prompted by a visit to Kidal on Saturday by newly appointed Prime Minister Moussa Mara, highlighting regional hostility toward the central government in Bamako and casting further doubt on the viability of reconciliation efforts.

The country’s U.N. mission said in a statement Sunday that six local government officials and two civilians also were killed, although the circumstances of their deaths were unclear.

“This barbaric crime is totally unacceptable and those responsible must answer,” said mission chief Albert Koenders. “An investigation must be carried out quickly.”


Car bomb in Kano kills at least 4, misses bars

KANO, Nigeria — A car bomb exploded in the Christian neighborhood of Nigeria’s second-most populous and mainly Muslim city of Kano on Sunday night, killing at least four people, police said. Five people were wounded.

Police Superintendent Aderenle Shinaba said the car exploded Sunday night before the bomber reached his target of the busy restaurants and bars lining Gold Coast Street, indicating casualties could have been higher. It was unclear if the bomber was among them.

The Sabon Gari Christian quarter is a popular area where people dine, play games, dance and drink alcohol late into the night — all anathema to the Islamic extremists blamed for previous attacks in the neighborhood. Multiple blasts in Sabon Gari — the name means “Strangers’ Quarters” in the Hausa language — killed at least 24 people last July and a suicide bomber drove a car laden with explosives into the neighborhood’s bustling bus station in March 2013, killing at least 25 people.

Wire reports

Wire reports