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Top News Stories of 2004

I’m Steve Ember with In the News in VOA Special English.

This week we tell about some of the biggest news stories of two thousand four. We start in Asia, with what is being described as one of the worst natural disasters ever.

Last Sunday, huge waves moved across the Indian Ocean and flooded coastal areas across southern and southeast Asia to East Africa. The waves were caused by one of the most powerful earthquakes every recorded, measuring nine on the Richter Scale.

The countries hardest hit were Indonesia, Sri Lanka, India and Thailand. More than one hundred thousand people are reported dead. Millions of people have been left homeless.

Two thousand four was also filled with news about the war in Iraq and daily reports of violence in the country. Militants increased their attacks against American soldiers, Iraqi police officers and civilians working with the United States. American-led forces battled militants in the cities of Fallujah and Najaf. In May, news organizations around the world reported about the mistreatment of Iraqis by American soldiers at Abu Ghraib prison.

More than one thousand American soldiers have been killed in Iraq since the war began almost two years ago. And the number of Iraqis killed is reportedly many times higher.

Terrorism was a top story in other parts of the world. In March, suspected Islamic militants exploded bombs on crowded passenger trains in Madrid, Spain. About two hundred people were killed. Days later, Spanish voters defeated the country’s conservative government, which had supported the American-led war in Iraq.

In September, armed Chechen militants seized more than one thousand children, parents and teachers in a school in Beslan, Russia. The seizure ended in gunfire and explosions after days of negotiations. More than three hundred people were killed, most of them children.

The African nation of Sudan was in the news because of a major humanitarian crisis in the Darfur area. Reports said government-supported Arab militants killed more than seventy thousand people in a two-year campaign of violence against black tribal farmers. More than one million people have been displaced from their homes.

Two thousand four was also a year of historic political elections. In Afghanistan, voters elected Hamid Karzai in the country’s first presidential election. Voters in the United States re-elected George W. Bush after a hard fought presidential campaign against the Democratic party candidate, John Kerry.

And a political crisis eased in Ukraine after the Supreme Court cancelled the election victory of Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych. The court decided there had been widespread cheating and ordered a new presidential election. Opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko won that election on Sunday and has promised democratic changes in Ukraine.

In the News, in VOA Special English, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.