World Briefing

In this photo released by Xinhua News Agency, rescue workers look for survivors after a work platform collapsed at the Fengcheng power plant in eastern China's Jiangxi Province, Nov. 24, 2016. State media reported dozens were killed after the scaffolding tumbled down. (Wan Xiang/Xinhua via AP)

At least 67 killed in east China scaffolding collapse

BEIJING (AP) — Scaffolding at a construction site in eastern China collapsed into a deadly heap on Thursday, as iron pipes, steel bars and wooden planks tumbled down and crushed nearly all 70 workers in the country’s worst work-safety accident in over two years.

At least 67 people were killed by the collapse of a work platform at a power plant’s cooling tower that was under construction, state media reported. Two others were injured and one worker was missing.

The plant’s cooling tower was being built in the city of Fengcheng in Jiangxi province when the scaffolding tumbled down at about 7:30 a.m., an official with the local Work Safety Administration, who would only give his surname Yuan, said by telephone.

The reported death toll suggested that nearly all the construction workers at the cooling tower perished. Close to 70 people were working at the site when the scaffolding collapsed, according to local media reports.

About 500 rescue workers, including paramilitary police officers, were digging through the debris with their bare hands, according to state broadcaster CCTV. Footage showed debris strewn across the floor of the cavernous concrete cooling tower.

Wayne State University officer dies from gunshot wound

DETROIT (AP) — A Wayne State University police officer has died a day after he was shot in the head while on patrol near the campus.

Officer Collin Rose, 29, died Wednesday about 5:45 p.m. at a hospital, Detroit police Sgt. Michael Woody said.

“This is a tragedy felt by all of us,” Wayne State President M. Roy Wilson said in a statement. “Collin served Wayne State with distinction, and we owe those he left behind our deepest sympathies and our strong support.”

Wilson said Rose, a five-year veteran of the university’s police force, is the only Wayne State officer killed in the line of duty.

Police said a suspect in the shooting was arrested late Tuesday night a few blocks from where Rose was shot, but no charges have been filed. The Detroit man in custody has had several run-ins with police.

Turkey: 3 Turkish troops in Syria die in government strike

ISTANBUL (AP) — Three Turkish soldiers were killed and 10 were wounded in northern Syria on Thursday in what the Turkish military said was a pre-dawn airstrike believed to have been carried out by Syrian government forces.

A statement posted on the website of the Turkish Armed Forces said the attack took place at 3 a.m. but did not provide an exact location for the strike. Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency said the airstrike took place near the town of al-Bab, which Turkish-backed Syrian opposition forces are trying to take back from the Islamic State group.

However, a Syrian monitoring group that tracks the conflict through a network of activists on the ground said the deaths of the Turkish soldiers were caused by an IS suicide attack on Wednesday, disputing the Turkish government claim of a Thursday airstrike.

Rami Abdurrahman, who runs the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the suicide attack occurred Wednesday in the rural area of al-Bab, near a village called Waqqah. He dismissed reports that it was an airstrike.

The discrepancies in the statements from Ankara and Abdurrahman could not be immediately resolved. There was no comment from Damascus but the Aamaq news agency, an IS media arm, also reported a suicide attack against Turkish troops in a village in rural al-Bab on Wednesday.

Iraqi troops capture 3 more neighborhoods in eastern Mosul

BAGHDAD (AP) — Iraqi troops on Thursday drove Islamic State militants from three more neighborhoods in the northern city of Mosul, pushing toward the city center in a slow, street-to-street fight that’s now in its sixth week, according to a senior Iraqi commander.

Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces told The Associated Press that his men have retaken the neighborhoods of Amn, Qahira and Green Apartments and were expanding their foothold in the densely populated district of Zohour.

The neighborhoods are all in the eastern sector of Mosul, east of the Tigris River, where most of the fighting has taken place since the government’s campaign to liberate the city began Oct. 17.

Government troops are backed by U.S.-led coalition airstrikes against IS positions in the city.

Mosul, captured by IS in 2014, is the last major urban center still held by the Sunni extremist group in Iraq.

With less fervor, Colombia takes another stab at peace

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) — With less fervor and an added dose of uncertainty Colombia’s government on Thursday will sign another peace accord with the country’s largest rebel group — the second in two months.

The simple, hastily-organized ceremony in a Bogota theater reflects President Juan Manuel Santos’ greater sense of urgency to end hostilities with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia after the original accord, brokered over four years of talks, suffered a shock defeat in a referendum a week after it was signed in front of heads of state and U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

Santos, winner of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, has tried to project a conciliatory image in the face of the humbling defeat at the polls.

The new, 310-page accord introduces some 50 changes intended to assuage critics led by still-powerful former President Alvaro Uribe. They range from a prohibition on foreign magistrates judging FARC crimes to a commitment from the insurgents to forfeit assets, some of them amassed through drug trafficking, to help compensate their victims.

But the FARC wouldn’t go along with the opposition’s strongest demands — jail sentences for rebel leaders who committed atrocities and stricter limits on their future participation in politics.

Duterte’s anti-US rhetoric not enough for communist rebels

SIERRA MADRE MOUNTAINS, Philippines (AP) — Communist guerrillas warned that a peace deal with President Rodrigo Duterte’s government is unlikely to be reached if he won’t end the Philippines’ treaty alliance with the United States and resist foreign control by other countries he’s trying to befriend, like China and Russia.

In a clandestine news conference in a New People’s Army guerrilla encampment tucked in the harsh wilderness of the Sierra Madre mountains southeast of Manila, regional rebel commander and spokesman Jaime Padilla outlined the advantages and downside of talking with Duterte to end one of the world’s longest-running Marxist insurgencies.

The dozens of mostly young guerrillas in muddy boots in their rain-soaked encampment on a wooded plateau reflected their resiliency but also showed the tough conditions that have long hampered their insurgency. Young rebels cooked rice, pork and chicken in soot-covered pots over wood fire while others gingerly puffed cigarettes while watching the peripheries. The nearest army camp lies just 3 kilometers (1.8 miles) away. When an air force Huey helicopter flew overhead, rebels at the news conference briefly paused and watched the passing aircraft.

Founded in 1968, the rebels’ communist party has held peace talks with six Philippine presidents, including Duterte, whose rise to power in June sparked rebel optimism due to his searing anti-U.S. rhetoric, populist pro-poor stance and appointments of at least two left-wing Cabinet members.

But the guerrillas have also found themselves in a dilemma due to Duterte’s moves they find reprehensible, including the killings of large number of poor drug users that sparked accusations of massive human rights violations against him, a recent decision to allow dictator Ferdinand Marcos to be buried in a heroes’ cemetery and threats to shift to dictatorial rule if rival politicians derail his anti-drug crackdown and try to impeach him.

Sudden currency move spoils business at Indian food market

NEW DELHI (AP) — The scale of India’s cash economy can be seen in the Azadpur Mandi wholesale fruit and vegetable market. Trucks bring load after load of fresh produce to its grimy lanes every day. Then a complex web of wholesale merchants, smaller traders and retailers delivers the produce to most of north India.

Almost every transaction, like most in India, is done in cash. And business at the massive New Delhi market is evaporating, the food spoiling and wasted, two weeks after the government’s surprise currency move made more than 80 percent of India’s banknotes useless.

By withdrawing all 500- and 1,000-rupee notes from circulation, the government is trying to clean India’s economy of “black money,” or untaxed wealth. Its success remains to be seen, but for now the move has created serpentine queues outsides banks and ATMs of people replacing their rupee notes or making small withdrawals.

Few people have access to banks, however. The vast majority of Indians earn and spend in cash, and more than half of the country’s 1.3 billion people have no bank accounts.

In Azadpur people are upset: the impossibly wiry laborers who transport fruit and vegetables in handcarts around the 90-acre market, the big traders who conduct hundreds of thousands of rupees of business in a day and the small retailers who buy a few baskets or crates of food to sell each day.