Pope Francis adds hundreds of new saints to church list
VATICAN CITY | Pope Francis on Sunday gave the Catholic Church new saints, including hundreds of 15th-century martyrs who were beheaded for refusing to convert to Islam, as he led his first canonization ceremony Sunday in a packed St. Peter's Square.
The "Martyrs of Otranto" were 813 Italians who were slain in the southern Italian city in 1480 for defying demands by Turkish invaders who overran the citadel to renounce Christianity.
Their approval for sainthood was decided upon by Francis' predecessor, Benedict XVI, in a decree read at the ceremony in February where the former pontiff announced his retirement.
The first pontiff from South America also gave Colombia its first saint: a nun who toiled as a teacher and spiritual guide to indigenous people in the 20th century.
With Colombia's President Juan Manuel Santos among the VIPS, the Argentine pope held out Laura of St. Catherine of Siena Montoya y Upegui as a potential source of inspiration to the country's peace process.
He also canonized another Latin American woman. Maria Guadalupe Garcia Zavala, a Mexican who dedicated herself to nursing the sick, helped Catholics avoid persecution during a government crackdown on the faith in the 1920s.
Sharif's election as Pakistan leader appears assured
LAHORE, Pakistan | Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif looked poised Sunday to return to office with a resounding election victory — a mandate that could make it easier to tackle the country's daunting problems, including growing power outages, weak economic growth and shaky government finances.
Questions remain, however, about Sharif's stance on another key issue: violent Islamic extremism. Critics have accused his party of being soft on radicals because it hasn't cracked down on militant groups in its stronghold of Punjab province.
That could be a concern for the United States, which has pushed Pakistan for years to take stronger action against a variety of Islamic militant groups, especially fighters staging cross-border attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.
As unofficial returns rolled in Sunday, a day after the election, state TV estimates put Sharif close to the majority in the national assembly needed to govern outright for the next five years. Even if he falls short of that threshold, independent candidates almost certain to swing in Sharif's favor would give his Pakistan Muslim League-N party a ruling majority.
9 detained in car bombings rocking Turkish border town
ANKARA, Turkey | Turkish citizens believed to have links to the Syrian intelligence agency have been detained in connection with twin car bombings that shattered a Turkish border town, officials said Sunday. Turkey's prime minister insisted the country wouldn't fall for a "dirty scenario" and be dragged into its neighbor's civil war.
The bombings left 46 people dead and marked the biggest incident of violence across the border since the start of Syria's bloody civil war, raising fears of Turkey being pulled deeper into the conflict.
Nine people were detained overnight, including the mastermind of the attack, and more were expected, officials said during a joint press conference in Hatay, near the border town of Reyhanli where the bombs struck. Syria denies involvement in the bombings.
"This incident was carried out by an organization ... which is in close contact to pro-regime groups in Syria and I say this very clearly, with the Syrian mukhabarat," said Turkish Interior Minister Muammer Guler. He did not name the organization.
Among the nine people detained overnight was the mastermind of the attack and more were expected, Guler said. Earlier in Damascus, Syrian Information Minister Omran al-Zoubi rejected Turkey's charges that Assad's regime was behind the bombs.
Israel grounds drone fleet after Mediterranean crash
JERUSALEM | Israel's military has grounded a fleet of high altitude surveillance drones after one was downed over the Mediterranean Sea.
The military says it intentionally crashed the unmanned aircraft late Saturday because of a malfunction.
The military would not say how many aircraft were grounded. The planes will stay down during an investigation. An Israeli defense official said the drone was the Israeli-made Heron 1, which flies at high altitudes and can stay in the air for about 45 hours.
Israel is a world leader in drone technology. Palestinians say Israel uses drones to fire missiles, but Israel does not confirm that.