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Terrorism, Tragedy Top World News in 2015

People pay tribute to victims outside Le Carillon restaurant, one of the attack sites in Paris, November 16, 2015. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol
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Here are some of the top news stories of 2015. The year was marked by violence, with continued civil war in Syria, worldwide terrorism and mass shootings in the United States.

Paris Attacks

On November 13, terrorists carried out a series of attacks across Paris. The attacks killed 130 people and injured more than 300 people. The dead included an English teacher, a yoga instructor, musicians, a television editor, students, lawyers, bankers, architects, a retired limousine driver and a production manager at a Paris theater.

The youngest victim was Lola Ouzounian, 17, of Armenia. The oldest was Jean-Jacques Amiot, 68, who retired from his printing business.

French President Francois Hollande called the deadly attacks “an act of war.”

It was the second attack in the French capital linked to Islamic State militants. Earlier in the year, heavily armed gunmen killed 12 people at the Paris offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine.

In 2015, terrorists also launched attacks around the world, from Africa and the Middle East to Southeast Asia.

Syrian Civil War

The civil war in Syria started in 2011 with protests against the government of President Bashar al-Assad. The UN says more than 250,000 Syrians have lost their lives in this war.

Others fled to neighboring countries, leading to a refugee crisis in Europe.

Syrian army soldiers and civilians inspect the site of two bombings in the Syrian city of Homs, in this photo provided by the state-owned Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Dec. 28, 2015.
Syrian army soldiers and civilians inspect the site of two bombings in the Syrian city of Homs, in this photo provided by the state-owned Syrian Arab News Agency (SANA), Dec. 28, 2015.

The conflict in Syria is more than a battle between forces loyal to Assad and those against him. Both the Islamic State militants and Syrian rebels are fighting against Assad’s forces. But some Syrian rebels also fight against the Islamic State.

The United States has launched airstrikes against the Islamic State as well as targets linked to the Assad government.

Following the November terrorist attacks in Paris, France and the Britain bombed Islamic State targets in Syria.

Russia and Iran have supported Assad’s forces during the war. After the bombing of an airliner in Egypt, Russia promised to attack the Islamic State for its role in the bombing that killed many Russians.

But United States officials say Russian bombers have instead hit rebel groups supported by the United States and its allies.

Mass Shootings

An average of one mass shooting happened every day in the U.S. in 2015, the New York Times reported.

The deadliest mass shooting in 2015 happened on December 2 in San Bernardino, California. Syed Rizwan Farook and his wife, Tashfeen Malik, shot and killed 14 people and injured 22 others.

San Bernardino County employees hold up photos of the San Bernardino shooting victims during a candlelight vigil on Dec. 7, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif.
San Bernardino County employees hold up photos of the San Bernardino shooting victims during a candlelight vigil on Dec. 7, 2015, in San Bernardino, Calif.

The attack took place at a holiday party for a local government agency. Farook worked at the agency. Police killed both Farook and Malik in a shootout.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigations said both Farook and Malik had been radicalized. The FBI considered the shooting an act of terrorism.

Other major mass shootings took place in a South Carolina church, a community college in Oregon, and a health care facility in Colorado.

On June 17, an armed 21-year-old man walked into an African-American church in Charleston, South Carolina, and killed nine people, including the pastor. Police say the gunman told them he hoped the attack would lead to a “race war” in America.

On October 1, a 26-year-old man shot and killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon. He killed himself as police arrived. Friends and neighbors said the man collected firearms and liked to wear military clothing.

On November 27, 57-year-old Robert Dear killed three people during a shootout in Colorado Springs, Colorado. Nine other people were wounded. The shooting happened at a Planned Parenthood clinic. Planned Parenthood offers family planning services, including abortions.

Dear later pleaded guilty to the shootings. In court, he called himself a “warrior for babies.”

Gun Debate

After several mass shootings in the United States, President Barack Obama and Congressional Democrats again renewed calls for stricter gun control measures.

They called for changes to current laws that permit people to purchase guns without a background check. They also want to bar people on the U.S. government’s “No Fly List” from buying guns. The list contains names of people suspected of having connections to terrorist groups.

"If you're too dangerous to board a plane, you're too dangerous to buy a gun,” said Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein of California.

Climate Change

Representatives from nearly 200 nations ratified a new climate change agreement on December 12 in Paris, France. It calls for countries to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.

President Barack Obama said the agreement is a “turning point for the world.”

The agreement is not guaranteed. Nations must provide the money and regulations to reduce pollution.

Both the United States and China, the world’s biggest polluters, support the new climate agreement.

Pope Francis

The leader of the Roman Catholic Church, Pope Francis, made historic visits to Africa, the United States and Cuba in 2015.

Pope Francis is cheered by locals as he visits a refugee camp, in Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29, 2015.
Pope Francis is cheered by locals as he visits a refugee camp, in Bangui, Central African Republic, Nov. 29, 2015.

The visits were major events. But, the Pope’s public statements also made news.

The Pope continued his call for compassion and help for the poor. He said urgent action was needed on the issue of climate change. Pope Francis also asked for tolerance of people and causes that did not agree with the Catholic Church.

On homosexuality, considered a “sin” by the Catholic Church, the Pope continued to ask for love and tolerance. He did not, however, change the Church’s position on same-sex marriage.

Nepal Earthquake

On April 25, an earthquake struck the small Himalayan country of Nepal.

The quake killed more than 9,000 people. More than 23,000 people were injured.

The earthquake marked Nepal’s deadliest disaster since 1934.

The earthquake left hundreds of thousands of people homeless. It destroyed many historic buildings, including some World Heritage sites in the Kathmandhu Valley.

Relationships between Police and Minorities

Relations between police and communities in some U.S. cities grew tense 2015. They protested police killings of African-Americans.

Killings by police took place in Chicago, New York, and Minneapolis. In Baltimore and Chicago, police officers have faced criminal charges.

Deadly force is the main issue. Police often face split-second decisions about whether a person presents a serious threat.

Police advocacy groups have said even a short delay in firing a weapon can lead to the death of a police officer or others. Groups protesting the shooting of civilians have said police take lethal action too often. They also say that those who are shot are often African-American.

Race for President

The United States will not elect a president until November 2016. But the presidential race is already underway.

Hillary Clinton, a former U.S. Senator and Secretary of State, is favored to win the Democratic Party nomination. But she faces a challenge from Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont.

A large number of Republican Party candidates are still in the race. Donald Trump and Senator Ted Cruz of Texas are among the leading candidates.

A main issue in the campaign is U.S. immigration policy, especially the proposed plan to receive Syrian refugees. Trump has called for a temporary ban of Muslim immigrants. He has also called for expelling the estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants.

Bruce Alpert reported on this story for VOA Learning English. Kathleen Struck was the editor.


Words in This Story

satire - n. using humor to show that someone or something is bad; satirical - adj.

radicalizedadj. to cause someone to become more radical, especially in politics

strict - adj. complete or thorough

greenhouse gasesn. pollutants linked to climate change

compassionn. the feeling of wanting to help someone else who is sick or in trouble

tolerancen. willingness to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own

advocacyn. the act or process of supporting a cause or proposals

underway - adv. happening now

challengen. a difficult task or problem

renewed – adj. to do something again

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