World Briefing

Tsunami warning issued after quake off Fukushima in Japan

TOKYO (AP) — Coastal residents in Japan were ordered to flee to higher ground on Tuesday after a strong earthquake with preliminary magnitude of 7.3 struck off the coast of Fukushima prefecture.

The Japan Meteorological Agency issued a tsunami warning for waves of up to 3 meters (10 feet) in Fukushima, and a tsunami advisory for much of the rest of northeast Japan’s Pacific coast.

Tsunamis of up to 90 centimeters (3 feet) were recorded about an hour after the 6 a.m. earthquake.

Fukushima prefecture is home to the nuclear power plant that was destroyed by a huge tsunami following an offshore earthquake in 2011.

The operator of the plant said there were no abnormalities observed at the plant, Japanese public broadcaster NHK said.

Pope allows all priests to absolve “grave sin” of abortion

VATICAN CITY (AP) — Saying nothing is beyond the reach of God’s mercy, Pope Francis told Catholics worldwide he is allowing all priests to absolve the faithful of abortion — women and health workers alike — even while stressing that it is a grave sin in the eyes of the church to “end an innocent life.”

In an Apostolic Letter made public Monday, Francis said he was extending indefinitely the special permission he had granted to all rank-and-file priests during the just ended Holy Year of Mercy.

“There is no sin that God’s mercy cannot reach and wipe away when it finds a repentant heart seeking to be reconciled” with God, the pope wrote in the 10-page letter, signed Sunday, the day the Holy Year ended. But, he added: “I wish to restate as firmly as I can that abortion is a grave sin, since it puts an end to an innocent life.”

Because the Roman Catholic Church holds abortion to be such a serious sin, absolution had long been a matter for a bishop, who could either hear the woman’s confession himself or delegate it to a priest considered an expert in such situations, a potentially intimidating scenario for many of the faithful.

Authorities say Texas, Missouri officers shot in ambushes

A manhunt was underway Monday in Texas for a suspect wanted in the fatal shooting of a veteran police detective in what authorities say was one of several attacks targeting law enforcement in multiple states. The San Antonio detective as well as officers in Missouri and Florida were conducting routine tasks Sunday when they became the targets of violence.

The detective was writing a traffic ticket when he was shot to death in his squad car late Sunday morning outside police headquarters. “I think the uniform was the target and the first person that happened along was the first person that (the suspect) targeted,” San Antonio Police Chief William McManus said at a news conference Monday.

In Missouri, a St. Louis police sergeant was shot twice in the face Sunday evening while he sat in traffic in a marked police vehicle. The sergeant was released from the hospital Monday.

The shootings were the latest in what law enforcement officials say is an alarming spike in ambush-style attacks. Twenty of the 60 police officers shot to death on the job this year were purposely targeted by their assailant, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

Iraq’s ascendant Shiite militias take the fight to Tal Afar

TAL AFAR AIRPORT, Iraq (AP) — A sandstorm is brewing west of the Iraqi city of Mosul, kicked up across a barren landscape by thousands of men and machines headed to war.

Trucks, armored transports and even tanks carry fighters through a cloud of fine dust past a series of base camps and heavy weapons depots dotting the route to the front line against the so-called Islamic State. These are the Shiite militias, and their goal is Tal Afar, on the main road to the Syrian city of Raqqa, the capital of IS’ self-declared caliphate.

Currently a sideshow compared with the street-to-street fighting in Mosul, some 70 kilometers (44 miles) to the east, the battle for Tal Afar is certain to boost Shiite power. And its significance could be just as great — if not greater — for Iraq and the future of the region than the main battle for Mosul itself.

Officially, the Iraqi government and top militia leadership say that only Iraqi army units will enter Tal Afar, once dominated by Shiites but now primarily Sunni Turkmen, a minority in the country with cultural and historic links to nearby Turkey to the north.