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Biden: NYPD slayings touched nation's soul...Extremist leader surrenders...Vatican frees activist

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NEW YORK (AP) — Vice President Joe Biden says the slayings of two New York City police officers in an ambush shooting have "touched the soul of an entire nation." Biden addressed hundreds of police officers, family and friends of Officer Rafael Ramos inside the Christ Tabernacle Church in Queens this morning. Thousands more officers from across the country have been standing in tribute outside the church, watching the service on giant screens.

NAIROBI, Kenya (AP) — A Somali intelligence official says a leader with the Islamic extremist group al-Shabab, who had a $3 million bounty on his head, has surrendered to police. Zakariya Ismail Ahmed Hersi was one of eight top al-Shabab officials whom the Obama administration offered a total $33 million in rewards for information leading to their capture in 2012. The official says Hersi may have surrendered because he fell out with those loyal to Ahmed Abdi Godane, al-Shabab's top leader who was killed in a U.S. airstrike earlier this year.

ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan says it has killed 39 militants as part its offensive in the North Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border. The Pakistani military says several important militant commanders were among those killed, and its warplanes and ground forces also destroyed an underground tunnel system and a large underground store of weapons and ammunition.

DAMASCUS (AP) — Syrian state-run TV says the government is prepared to take part in peace talks hosted by Russia next month. But the unnamed foreign ministry official suggests the scope of the negotiations will be limited to "preliminary" talks meant to pave the way for a conference held in Syria itself. The nearly four-year conflict has claimed over 200,000 lives, displaced a third of Syria's population, and nurtured an extremist group, the Islamic State, which now rules over vast stretches of Syria and neighboring Iraq.

VATICAN CITY (AP) — The Holy See has released a Ukrainian activist who bared her breasts in St. Peter's Square on Christmas Day. The protester shouted "God is woman" when she uncovered her chest and snatched the statue of Baby Jesus from the Vatican's outdoor Nativity scene. The Vatican says the woman (Yana Zhdanova) has been ordered to never set foot again in Vatican City State or on other Vatican property outside the tiny city-state's walls.

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