December 24th, 2011
08:26 PM ET

2-year-old missing after double homicide in Virginia

Police in Richmond, Virginia, issued an Amber Alert on Saturday for a 2-year-old girl who was in a car a shooting suspect allegedly used to flee the scene of a double homicide.

The shooting occurred during a home invasion, Richmond police spokesman Linwood Harris said. The suspect then left the scene in a car idling nearby, according to CNN's Richmond affiliate WWBT. The toddler was inside the car, Harris said.

The identities of the shooting victims were not released and it was not immediately known what relation, if any, they had to the missing girl.

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Filed under: Crime • Missing Children • Virginia
December 24th, 2011
06:55 PM ET

Pope calls for worshipers to remember 'essence' of Christmas

Pope Benedict XVI presided over Midnight Mass on Christmas Eve, delivering a homily that focused on the "essence" of the holiday rather than the "commercial celebration" it has become.

"Today Christmas has become a commercial celebration, whose bright lights hide the mystery of God's humility, which in turn calls us to humility and simplicity," the pope said after recalling the story of Christmas. "Let us ask the Lord to help us see through the superficial glitter of this season, and to discover behind it the child in the stable in Bethlehem, so as to find true joy and true light."

The 84-year-old pope, presiding over his seventh mass as pontiff, also conjured up an image of the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, explaining that visitors must bend down to enter its low opening, drawing a tie to what followers of Christ must do to find their faith.

"If we want to find the God who appeared as a child, then we must dismount from the high horse of our 'enlightened' reason," he said. "... In this spirit let us celebrate the liturgy of the holy night, let us strip away our fixation on what is material, on what can be measured and grasped."

The pope started off Saturday's celebrations by lighting a peace candle in the window of his study during the unveiling of a larger-than-life nativity scene in St. Peter's Square. The scene, at 23 feet high and 82 feet wide, is dedicated to the Virgin Mary, according to the Vatican's news agency.

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Filed under: Christian • Religion • Vatican
December 24th, 2011
03:58 PM ET

Bahrain drops some charges against protesters

Bahrain's public prosecutor announced Saturday that he will drop some charges against opposition protesters detained in this year's unrest, state media reported.

The charges that will be dropped relate "to speech protected by the right to freedom of expression," the Bahrain News Agency reported.

Forty-three cases applying to 343 people will benefit from the announcement, according to BNA.

The move comes as the oil-rich country that is also home to the U.S. Navy's 5th Fleet works to recover from harsh criticism over its handling of opposition protests this year. A report released in November by an independent commission found police tortured and used excessive force against civilians arrested during a crackdown on the protests.

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Filed under: Arab unrest: developments • Bahrain
December 24th, 2011
05:21 AM ET

Thousands take to Moscow streets, calling for fair elections

Thousands of people took to the streets Saturday in Moscow, braving bitterly cold weather to demand for fair elections after what they claim were rigged results earlier this month that returned Vladimir Putin's party to power.

The protest, organized primarily through social media and word of mouth, comes on the heels of an announcement by President Dmitry Medvedev of sweeping political reforms, an effort to address discontent following the December 4 parliamentary elections.

The latest mass protest follows one earlier this month, when tens of thousands of people across Russia turned out to protest the election results that kept Putin's ruling United Russia party in power, albeit with a smaller majority. Police estimated crowds in Moscow at 25,000, while organizers said at least twice as many participated.

More than 40,000 people were expected to turn out Saturday, according to a Facebook forum discussion moderated by organizers.

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Filed under: Russia • World
December 24th, 2011
04:14 AM ET

Gingrich, Perry fail to qualify for GOP primary ballot in Virginia

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich failed to collect enough signatures to appear on the Virginia primary ballot, the Republican Party of Virginia announced Saturday morning.

Gingrich, as well as Texas Gov. Rick Perry, did not meet the state's requirement of 10,000 signatures and, therefore, did not qualify for the ballot, the Virginia GOP said via Twitter.

The state GOP announced Perry's failure to qualify late Friday.

The state party spent Friday verifying that the submitted petitions met the requirements to appear on the ballot. The Virginia GOP said on its Twitter page Friday that Romney and Paul had both submitted enough signatures to appear on the ballot.

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Filed under: Elections • Politics • U.S. • Virginia
December 24th, 2011
03:58 AM ET

Syrian opposition blames regime for suicide bombings

President Bashar al-Assad's government blamed terrorists Saturday inside and outside of Syria for dual bombings that struck the country's capital on Friday. But the opposition called the attacks the work of the regime.

The allegations by both sides come amid one of the bloodiest periods during the months-long uprising, raising questions about whether observers from the Arab League arriving in Syria can do anything to stem the growing violence.

More than 5,000 people have died since al-Assad began a brutal crackdown in March on anti-government protesters calling for his ouster, the United Nations has said. The Syrian government has said 2,000 of its soldiers and security forces have been killed in the uprising, which it blames on "armed gangs."

The violent crackdown by al-Assad's security forces against the opposition has garnered worldwide condemnation from the United States, the European Union, the Arab League and Turkey.

The suicide bombings in Damascus came amid a surge of violence this week that claimed the lives of almost 300 people, according to the opposition Syrian National Council.

Funerals were slated to begin Saturday for 44 people killed in the two suicide car bomb attacks a day earlier at the offices of two security branches in Damascus, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement released to the state-run Syrian Arab News Agency. At least 166 were wounded in the attack, the ministry said.

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Filed under: Syria • World
December 24th, 2011
12:54 AM ET

Taliban claims suicide bombing that killed 6 in Pakistan

The Taliban is claiming responsibility for Saturday's suicide car bombing that struck a military housing area in northwest Pakistan, a spokesman for the group said.

The attack, which authorities say killed six Pakistani soldiers and wounded 12, was "revenge" for the killing of the group's fighters, Ihsanullah Ihsan, a spokesman for the Pakistani Taliban, told CNN by telephone.

The attack occurred when the explosive-laden car rammed into a house in the city of Bannu, a senior police official told CNN.

The house is used by Pakistani soldiers to rest and relax, said the police chief, Gul Syed Afridi.

About 100 soldiers were at the house at the time of the explosion, he said.

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Filed under: Pakistan • Taliban • World