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Four suspended for 'rigging' Vanessa-Mae ski results

Four ski officials have been suspended for allegedly rigging the results of pop violinist Vanessa-Mae to help her qualify for the Winter Olympics in Russia.

Competing in Sochi for Thailand as Vanessa Vanakorn, using the surname of her Thai father, she finished last among the 67 racers in the Olympic giant slalom.

To earn enough points to be eligible for the games in February she had to compete in official races in Sweden, Norway, Slovenia and Switzerland.

The Slovenian Ski Association said it found evidence indicating that the races it hosted in January were "fixed at the behest of Thai ski officials to meet her qualifying criteria for Sochi".

UN: Israeli strikes may violate law

The UN's senior human rights official says Israel's air campaign in Gaza could violate international laws prohibiting the targeting of civilians.

Navi Pillay said the Israeli military, which claims to have hit more than 1,100 targets it says are mostly rocket-launching sites, and the Gaza militants, who have fired more than 550 rockets against Israel, must abide by international law.

Ms Pillay said in a statement she has "serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law". She said civilians "are bearing the brunt of the conflict" between Israel, Hamas and Palestinian armed groups in Gaza, and called on all sides to refrain from launching attacks or putting military weapons in densely populated areas.

Ms Pillay said: "We have received deeply disturbing reports that many of the civilian casualties, including of children, occurred as a result of strikes on homes.

"Such reports raise serious doubt about whether the Israeli strikes have been in accordance with international humanitarian law and international human rights law."

Rebels kill 19 Ukrainian troops

Pro-Russian rebels have fired missiles at Government troops near the Russian border, killing at least 19 servicemen, Ukraine's Defence Ministry said, adding that four other troops had died elsewhere in eastern Ukraine.

The statement revised an earlier ministry report of 30 troops killed in the pre-dawn attack at a forward operating base in eastern Ukraine.

Defence Ministry spokesman Vladislav Seleznev gave the figure of 19 on his Facebook account and reported the four other troop deaths. He did not elaborate on the circumstances.

Government troops have been fighting for more than three months against separatists in eastern Ukraine. In the last two weeks they have cut the territory held by the rebels in half and forced them out of their stronghold in the city of Slovyansk.

The Defence Ministry said the troops struck in the latest attack had been trying to secure the porous border with Russia, which Ukraine says has been crossed by large numbers of militants.

Kindergarten minivan crash kills all 11 aboard

Eight young children and three adults died after the minivan they were in crashed into a pond.

The bus was returning the children home from kindergarten on Thursday in a mountainous village near the capital city of Hunan province when it fell into a pond, State media said.

The minivan was pulled out of the pond early yesterday with the children and a driver inside, while the bodies of two teachers were found an hour later, Xinhua News Agency said.

Village council ordered 'revenge' rape of girl (14)

A 14-year-old girl was dragged into a forest and raped on the orders of a village council in remote eastern India in retaliation for a sex assault blamed on her brother, according to police and relatives.

Local police said three men had been arrested, including the village elder and the main suspect, identified as the husband of the woman who was allegedly attacked by the victim's brother.

The incident took place in a village in Jharkhand state's Bokaro district.

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