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Car bomb near mosque leaves 14 dead in Homs

A powerful car bomb exploded Friday outside a mosque in a pro-government district of central Syria, killing 14 people in the war-shattered city, state-run television reported.

The bombing occurred as worshipers left the Bilal al-Habshi mosque after Friday prayers, the report said, and also wounded at least 50 people. The area, populated mainly by Alawites, members of President Bashar al-Assad's minority sect, has been targeted often. Opposition activists also reported the blast. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the death toll likely would rise.

The attack coincides with a crushing offensive by government forces aimed at retaking the last rebel bastions in the historic quarters of the old city of Homs. The last few days have seen some of the fiercest fighting there in months.

The old neighborhoods of Homs, a city often referred to as the capital of the revolution, are the last major stronghold for rebels in central Syria.

In Washington, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the U.S. condemns "the regime's breaking of the cessation of hostilities." - AP

Ailing president reelected

Algeria's ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika secured a fourth five-year tenure Friday after amassing nearly 82 percent of votes, according to initial results announced by Interior Minister Tayeb Belaiz. The landslide victory in Thursday's election was widely foreseen, despite opposition from Islamists and leftist groups, and his poor health. Bouteflika, 77, recovering from a stroke, made few public appearances. - L.A. Times

24 more abducted girls flee

Twenty-four more Nigerian schoolgirls abducted by Islamic extremists have escaped and 85 still are missing, an education official said Friday. Some of the girls jumped off the back of a truck when they were kidnapped before dawn Tuesday from a high school in the extreme northeast of Nigeria. Others have escaped into the Sambisa Forest, which borders their school in Chibok town and is a known hideout of militants of the Boko Haram terrorist network. "So far, we give thanks to God, for what we now have is 44 girls" who have escaped, the Borno state education commissioner, Musa Inuwo Kubo, told the Associated Press by telephone Friday night. - AP