Following is a summary of current world news briefs.
U.N. says offices in Geneva, Vienna targeted by 'well-resourced' cyberattack last year
The United Nations said on Wednesday that its offices in Geneva and Vienna were targeted by an "apparently well-resourced" cyber attack in the middle of last year that exposed lists of user accounts, but that the damage had been contained. Geneva is home to several U.N. arms, including the Human Rights Council, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the High Commissioner for Refugees, the World Health Organization and the World Trade Organization. Agencies in Vienna include the International Atomic Energy Agency and the Office on Drugs and Crime.
Putin pardons U.S.-Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges
President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday signed a decree to pardon and free a U.S.-Israeli woman jailed in Russia on drug charges, receiving acknowledgement from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on the eve of their bilateral meeting. Naama Issachar, who was born in New Jersey, was arrested in April last year after police found nine grams of cannabis in her bags during a stopover at a Moscow airport, en route from India to Israel.
Taliban kill at least 29 Afghan security personnel in renewed clashes
At least 29 members of the Afghan security forces have been killed in Taliban attacks that followed air and ground assaults by government forces on the Islamist group at the weekend. The surge in hostilities signals deadlock at stop-start peace talks involving U.S and Taliban negotiators in Doha.
Citing Trump plan, Israel defense chief backs extending sovereignty to West Bank settlements
Israel's hawkish defense minister called on Wednesday for Israel to establish sovereignty over nearly a third of the occupied West Bank, acting on U.S. President Donald Trump's announcement of a Middle East peace plan that Palestinians branded apartheid. The remarks by Naftali Bennett, a coalition partner in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's rightist government, led Palestinians to say Trump's plan had given the green light for Israel to formally annex its Jewish settlements in the West Bank occupied by Israel since the 1967 Middle East War.
China virus evacuations begin as death toll rises at outbreak epicenter
Foreign governments began flying their citizens out of China's Hubei province, the epicenter of the coronavirus outbreak, as authorities said the death toll there had topped 160. The health commission for Hubei said on Thursday that deaths in the province from the new coronavirus had risen by 37 to 162, while a further 1,032 cases had been detected.
Shaken Caribbean tiptoes back to normal after shock of major quake
Shaken Caribbean residents and tourists said on Wednesday that life was returning to normal after a powerful earthquake struck the region and rattled nerves but spared the area from serious damage to property or loss of life. The magnitude 7.7 quake hit Tuesday afternoon in the Caribbean Sea between Jamaica, the Cayman Islands and Cuba, bursting drains and ripping open sinkholes.
Tears and cheers as EU lawmakers give final nod to Brexit
The European Parliament gave final approval to Britain's divorce from the European Union on Wednesday, paving the way for the country to quit the bloc on Friday after nearly half a century and delivering a major setback for European integration. After an emotional debate during which several speakers shed tears, EU lawmakers voted 621 for and 49 against the Brexit agreement sealed between Britain and the 27 other member states last October, more than three years since Britons voted out.
Priests in defunct Catholic order in Italy accused of sexual abuse
Nine members of a defunct, cult-like Roman Catholic religious order in Italy's Tuscany region are under investigation for alleged sexual abuse of two brothers when they were minors, authorities said on Wednesday. The nine, including five priests and three other men, were members of a religious order called the Disciples of the Annunciation. Late last year the Vatican shut down the small order, which had several communities in Tuscany.
Suspected associate of El Chapo's sons flees Mexico City prison
Three prisoners wanted by the United States for their links to drug trafficking, including an alleged associate of the sons of Mexican drug lord Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, on Wednesday escaped from a Mexico City prison, authorities said. Mexico and the United States, its most important trade partner, have been looking for ways to address the escalating security situation as well as clamp down on illegal drug and arms trade.
Mali plans to increase the size of its army to rein in jihadists
Mali will increase the size of its army by about 50% in a recruitment drive this year aimed at uprooting jihadist groups, Prime Minister Boubou Cisse said on Wednesday. The plan is to hire 10,000 new soldiers in the coming months to "allow our armed and security forces to be much more present in quantity and I hope in quality in areas where they were not," Cisse said.