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Reuters World News Summary

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Following is a summary of current world news briefs.

Pentagon weighs sending planes, ships near disputed South China Sea reefs

The Pentagon is considering sending U.S. military aircraft and ships to assert freedom of navigation around rapidly growing Chinese-made artificial islands in the disputed South China Sea, a U.S. official said on Tuesday. Defense Secretary Ash Carter requested options that include sending aircraft and ships within 12 nautical miles (22 km) of reefs that China has been building up in the Spratly island chain, the official said.

U.S., NATO say Russia must fully implement Ukraine ceasefire

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry called for a halt to fighting around the Ukrainian coastal town of Shyrokyne on Wednesday as NATO backed his demand that Russia fully implement a Ukraine ceasefire agreement. Despite the February truce, shooting has continued around the coastal town of Shyrokyne, near the strategic port city of Mariupol. Kiev fears separatists may try to seize the port to help cement a long-term hold on eastern districts of Ukraine.

North Korea executes defense chief with an anti-aircraft gun: South Korea agency

North Korea executed its defense chief by putting him in front of an anti-aircraft gun at a firing range, Seoul's National Intelligence Service told lawmakers, which would be the latest in a series of high-level purges since Kim Jong Un took charge. Hyon Yong Chol, who headed the isolated nuclear-capable country's military, was charged with treason, including disobeying Kim and falling asleep during an event at which North Korea's young leader was present, according to South Korean lawmakers briefed in a closed-door meeting with the spy agency on Wednesday.

Burundi army officer says sacks president, crowds celebrate

A Burundi army general said on Wednesday he had sacked Pierre Nkurunziza as president for seeking an unconstitutional third term in office, and was working with civil society groups to form a transitional government. The presidential office quickly rubbished the declaration by Major General Godefroid Niyombare, who was fired by Nkurunziza as intelligence chief in February. "We consider it as a joke not as a military coup," presidential aide Willy Niyamitwe told Reuters.

Islamic State kills dozens in Syrian army-held area: Observatory

Islamic State fighters killed dozens in an attack on Syrian army-held areas in Homs province overnight, an organization monitoring the war said, as the group intensifies efforts to expand beyond its strongholds. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, the monitoring group, said about 30 government soldiers and 20 Islamic State militants were killed in the fighting in and around the town of al-Sukhna, some 300 km (190 miles) northeast of Damascus.

Iraqi refinery may be destroyed in battle to save it

Islamic State militants have dug trenches around natural gas and hydrogen tanks at Iraq's largest refinery, raising the stakes in a battle where the price of victory may be the refinery itself. The Baiji refinery remains contested despite more than 300 coalition air strikes in the vicinity since the Islamist insurgents overran the area last June.

Blood drips from bus doors after gunmen kill 43 in Pakistan's Karachi

Gunmen on motorcycles boarded a bus and opened fire on commuters in Pakistan's volatile southern city of Karachi on Wednesday, killing at least 43, police said, in the latest attack directed against religious minorities this year. The pink bus was pockmarked with bullet holes and blood saturated the seats and dripped out of the doors on to the concrete.

Hundreds search for U.S. helicopter after second Nepal quake kills scores

Hundreds of Nepali troops searched for a missing U.S. Marine helicopter with eight people on board on Wednesday, a day after the second powerful earthquake in less than three weeks killed scores and sent panicked residents rushing out of buildings. The Himalayan nation is still reeling from last month's devastating quake measuring 7.8 that killed more than 8,000 people and injured close to 20,000.

Saudi-led air strikes hit Yemen capital hours before ceasefire

Saudi-led air strikes pounded the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday, hours before a five-day truce was set to begin between the alliance of Gulf Arab nations and the Iran-allied Houthi militia which controls much of the country. Residents said three air strikes hit a base for army units loyal to the Houthis in the north of the capital, sending up a column of smoke.

France's Sarkozy accused of pandering to racist sentiments

France's ruling Socialists accused conservative former president Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday of appealing to racist sentiments in criticizing the country's Morocco-born education minister. Sarkozy, expected by many to run for election in 2017, used no explicitly racist words but came under fire for singling out two non-white female ministers in a largely white government for charges of gross incompetence.

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