The world in brief: Sex allegations doom statue in Germany

A woman watches the monument of German cardinal Franz Hengsbach beside the cathedral in the city center of Essen, western Germany on Friday. (AP/Martin Meissner)

Sex allegations doom statue in Germany

ESSEN, Germany -- A statue of late German Cardinal Franz Hengsbach will be removed from outside a cathedral in western Germany after allegations of sexual abuse against him surfaced, Catholic church officials said Friday.

A memorial for victims of sexual abuse will be created to take the place of the statue, which was erected in 2011, German news agency dpa reported, citing Thomas Zander, the dean of the cathedral in the city of Essen.

Two allegations date back to the 1950s and 1960s. The first case alleges that Hengsbach abused a 16-year-old girl in 1954 while he was an auxiliary bishop in the German city of Paderborn. The second case dates back to 1967 when he allegedly assaulted another woman during his time in Essen when he was already a bishop.

The latest allegations were made by a third victim in October 2022.

Hengsbach founded the Diocese of Essen in 1958, which he led until his death in 1991 at age 80.

Cyprus seeks redrawn Syrian safe zones

NICOSIA, Cyprus -- Cyprus has formally called on the European Union to reevaluate which areas of Syria can be declared safe and free from armed conflict so Syrian migrants can eventually be repatriated there, Cypriot authorities said Friday.

Interior Minister Constantinos Ioannou was the sole official to raise the issue during July's informal gathering of his EU counterparts in Spain. No other EU nation has taken a formal position on safe zone re-evaluation, the Interior Ministry told The Associated Press.

Cyprus is fronting the re-evaluation bid because it says its proximity to the region has now made it a prime destination for Syrian migrants.

Ethnically divided Cyprus, with a population of nearly a million in the southern, internationally recognized part where migrants seek asylum, says migrants now comprise 6% of its population -- much higher than the average in other EU member countries.

Nearly 40% of the 7,369 migrants who have applied for asylum in Cyprus in 2023 until the end of August are Syrians.

The European Union Agency for Asylum says there's "no real risk" to civilians from indiscriminate violence in only one of Syria's 13 regions -- Tartus. In another four, including Latakia, Damascus, Homs and Quneitra, indiscriminate violence isn't "at a high level."

20 Nigerian students abducted in attack

MAIDUGURI, Nigeria -- Gunmen abducted at least 20 students in northwestern Nigeria during an attack early Friday that targeted their school, local media and authorities reported Friday, the latest in a cycle of violence in the country's troubled northern region.

The students were taken hostage when the gunmen broke into their accommodation near the Federal University Gusau in Zamfara state's Bungudu district, Zamfara police spokesman Yazid Abubakar said.

Abubakar couldn't confirm the exact number of abducted students, though local media reported the figure as 24, quoting other students who also said the kidnapped victims were mostly female students.

Abductions of students from schools in northern Nigeria are common and have become a source of concern since 2014 when Islamic extremists kidnapped more than 200 schoolgirls in Borno state. The frequency of the attacks has reduced over the last year, and Friday's incident presents a new challenge to Nigerian President Bola Tinubu, who took office in May.

The assailants in the latest incident arrived in large numbers after earlier confronting the security personnel in the area, residents said, highlighting once again the inadequate security presence in remote communities across Nigeria.

No group has claimed responsibility for the latest attack, though the blame quickly fell on the bandit groups that have been targeting remote communities across Nigeria's northwest and central regions. Authorities say the groups are mostly made up of young pastoralists from Nigeria's Fulani tribe caught up in a decades-long conflict between host communities and herdsmen over limited access to water and land.

Bulgaria to buy 183 U.S. Stryker vehicles

SOFIA, Bulgaria -- Bulgaria's government has approved the purchase of U.S.-made Stryker combat vehicles to modernize the country's land forces and bring them in line with NATO standards.

The decision, announced Friday, came after the approval by the U.S. State Department of the sale of 183 Stryker vehicles and related gear to Bulgaria for an estimated cost of $1.5 billion.

"The aim of the project is for Bulgaria to achieve interoperability with the NATO allies, and also to acquire and maintain capabilities for the country's defense independently, in a joint operation and in the collective defense system, as well as to participate in allied operations outside the country's territory," the government statement said.

Since Russia's invasion of Ukraine, Bulgarian Defense Minister Todor Tagarev has pledged that his country will speed up efforts to guarantee security in the Black Sea region.

  photo  FILE - Migrants walk inside the medieval core at the old city of the divided capital Nicosia, Cyprus, Wednesday, May 10, 2023. Cyprus has formally called on the European Union to re-evaluate which areas of Syria can be declared as safe zones that are free from armed conflict so that Syrian migrants can eventually be repatriated there. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, Files)

  photo  FILE - Ammar Hammasho, migrant from Edlib, Syria, who lives in Cyprus, kisses one of his four children after they arrived with their mother at a refugee camp in Kokkinotrimithia, outside the capital Nicosia, in the eastern Mediterranean island of Cyprus, on Sunday, Sept. 10, 2017. Cyprus has formally called on the European Union to re-evaluate which areas of Syria can be declared safe and free from armed conflict so that Syrian migrants can eventually be repatriated there, the Cypriot Interior Ministry said Friday, Sept. 22, 2023. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias, File)