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Iran to Hold Major Naval Drills at End of December

Iran will hold widespread naval drills extending to the Gulf of Aden in December, its navy chief said Thursday, asking foreign forces to "leave the area" to avoid incidents.

The week-long exercises -- the first on this scale since the election of reformist President Hassan Rouhani in June last year -- are set to start on December 25 and take place between the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf of Aden, Rear Admiral Habibollah Sayari was quoted as saying by the official Irna news agency.

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EU's Mogherini Urges Putin to Make 'Radical Change' in Attitude

EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini on Thursday urged Russian President Vladimir Putin to make a "radical change" in attitude to end the crisis sparked by Moscow's intervention in Ukraine.

"The fact that Russia is in a difficult situation from a financial point of view is not good news, Mogherini told reporters, referring to the collapse of the Russian ruble, partly due to western sanctions.

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Sri Lanka Military Denies Dabbling in Politics

Sri Lanka's military Thursday rejected opposition allegations that it had deployed troops to campaign for President Mahinda Rajapakse's re-election.

Military spokesman Brigadier Ruwan Wanigasooriya denied opposition claims that soldiers were distributing material in support of the President who is seeking an unprecedented third term at the January 8 elections.

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Six Die in Nairobi Building Collapse

Six people died and 11 were injured in a central Nairobi building collapse, with fears that the toll could rise as crews continued to dig through the rubble, officials said Thursday.

The four-floor building came down early Wednesday. At least 10 survivors emerged from the debris the same day, but it remained unclear how many people could still be trapped.

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African Leaders Consider Joint Steps against Islamist Threat

A summit on security in the sub-Saharan Sahel region of Africa, where armed Islamic extremists linked to al-Qaida are active, opened Thursday in Mauritania, attended by five heads of state.

The meeting was part of the "Nouakchott Process", named for an initiative launched in Mauritania's capital in March 2013 to boost security cooperation among 11 participating states.

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Roadside Bomb Kills Three Soldiers in NW Pakistan

A roadside bomb Thursday killed three paramilitary soldiers in the country's restive northwest, officials said.

"Three paramilitary soldiers were killed when they walked over an IED (Impoverished explosive device) planted on a road side in Damadola area of Bajour tribal district (around 125 miles northwest of Peshawar)," local official Suhail Khan told AFP.

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Executions in U.S. Dip to 20-Year Low

Executions in the United States this year fell to their lowest point in two decades, the Death Penalty Information Center said Thursday.

Looking back on 2014, the watchdog group reported 35 executions in seven states, "the fewest number put to death since 1994."

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Pakistan Court Grants Bail to Alleged Mumbai Attacks Mastermind

A Pakistani court Thursday granted bail to the alleged mastermind of the 2008 terror attacks in Mumbai, lawyers told AFP, prompting India to demand an appeal.

The 60-hour siege on India's economic capital left 166 people dead and was blamed on the banned Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT).

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Pakistan Massacre Survivors Vow to Defy Taliban

Students grieving for their classmates massacred by the Pakistani Taliban Thursday vowed to defy the militants and return to school as soon as possible.

A team of gunmen stormed the Army Public School in Pakistan's northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday, slaughtering 148 people including 132 children in the restive country's deadliest ever terror attack.

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Struggling South Sudan Peace Talks Resume

Peace talks aimed at ending South Sudan's civil war resumed in Ethiopia's capital Thursday, with mediators making a fresh appeal for an end to a "year of horror and tragedy".

The stop-start peace talks, brokered by the east African regional bloc IGAD and held in Addis Ababa, have seen a string of ceasefire deals since the war began just over a year ago -- but each has been violated in a matter of hours.

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