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SOMALIA: Heavy toll on peacekeepers

More than 50 African Union peacekeepers have died in fighting in Somalia since a major offensive against Islamist militants began two weeks ago, officials told The Associated Press on Friday. The death toll is far higher than any publicly acknowledged casualty figures for the AU, which appears to be trying to keep the extent of its losses under wraps due to political considerations in Burundi, one of two nations providing the bulk of the forces. The AU force supports the country's weak UN-backed government against al-Shabab, factions of which have allegiance to al-Qaida.


ENGLAND: Queen's 1st trip to Ireland

Queen Elizabeth II will make her first-ever visit to the Republic of Ireland - the first ruling British monarch to go there in a century marked by Ireland's brutal war of independence from Britain and the grueling conflict in Northern Ireland. The long-anticipated visit, scheduled for May, by the 84-year-old queen will highlight Ireland's reconciliation with its former colonial master and the slow blooming of peace in neighboring Northern Ireland. Most Irish politicians cheered the news, but the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party warned it was premature.


CHINA: Gov't critical of Mideast

An official Chinese Communist Party-run newspaper Saturday attacked anti-government protest movements in the Middle East and dismissed the possibility of something similar happening within China. Such movements have brought nothing but chaos and misery to their countries' citizens and were being engineered by a small number of people using the Internet to organize illegal meetings, the Beijing Daily said in a front page editorial.


NEW ZEALAND: Aftershock jolts country

A powerful aftershock has rocked the devastated New Zealand city of Christchurch and the confirmed death toll from last month's magnitude 6.3 earthquake has risen by one to 166. The final toll is expected to exceed 200.

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