VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis made another one of his cold calls to wish a group of nuns in a Spanish convent Happy New Year. Only he got their answering machine instead.
“What are the nuns doing that they can’t answer the phone?” Francis asked in the message he left, the recording of which was obtained by Spain’s El Mundo newspaper and broadcast on Italian media Saturday.
“This is Pope Francis. I wanted to offer you greetings for the end of the year. Maybe I’ll try to call again later. May God bless you,” he said.
Francis has made a habit out of calling people out of the blue, often checking in with ordinary folk who have written him about their hardships. He places the calls himself, as evidenced by the message.
Group takes credit
for car bombing
BEIRUT — An al-Qaida linked group claimed responsibility on Saturday for a suicide car bombing last week in a Shiite-dominated neighborhood in Lebanon, as its fighters clashed with other rebels in Syria.
The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, now operating in both countries, underscore how the complex Syrian war is increasingly spilling over into its smaller neighbor.
At least five people were killed in the attack Thursday that targeted a south Beirut neighborhood that is bastion of support for the Shiite group Hezbollah.
ISIL vowed more attacks.
It was “the first small payment of a heavy account which these criminal hypocrites should wait for,” it said in a statement, referring to Hezbollah.
The al-Qaida group sought to punish Hezbollah — and their ordinary Shiite Lebanese backers — for sending fighters to Syria.
kills seven in India
PANAJI, India — A five-story building under construction in the southern Indian state of Goa collapsed on Saturday, killing at least seven workers and leaving dozens more feared trapped under the rubble.
Authorities were trying to determine how many people were at the construction site when the structure crumpled in Canacona, a city about 44 miles from the state capital of Panaji.
Witnesses said about 40 workers were at the site.
“It was like an earthquake when the building fell,” witness Ramesh Naik said. “You could not see what exactly had happened because of the dust.”
Police and residents pulled seven bodies from the wreckage, while firefighters and rescue workers were sifting through the debris for survivors.
Ambulances took at least three seriously injured workers to a hospital.
Prabhudessai said the cause of the collapse had not been determined.
Building collapses are common in India, as massive demand for housing and lax regulations often encourage builders to cut corners by using substandard materials or add unauthorized extra floors.
dies in prison
BEIRUT — The leader of an al-Qaida-linked group that carried out attacks across the Middle East before shifting its focus to Syria’s civil war died on Saturday while in custody in Lebanon, the army said.
The Lebanese army said Majid al-Majid “died this morning while undergoing treatment at the central military hospital after his health deteriorated.” It did not elaborate.
A Lebanese army general said al-Majid died after suffering kidney failure.
Al-Majid, a Saudi citizen, was detained in Lebanon late last month and had been held at a secret location.
He was the purported commander of the Abdullah Azzam Brigades — a Sunni militant group with al-Qaida links — and one of the 85 most-wanted individuals in his native Saudi Arabia.
The U.S. State Department designated his group a foreign terrorist organization in 2012, freezing any assets it holds in the United States and banning Americans from doing business with the group.
The brigades have claimed responsibility for attacks throughout the region, including the 2010 bombing of a Japanese oil tanker in the Persian Gulf and several rocket strikes from Lebanon into Israel.
The most recent attack claimed by the group was the double suicide bombing in November outside the Iranian Embassy in Beirut that killed at least 23 people and wounded dozens.
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