Morning briefing: 8 stories from around the world

The Oppenheimer Blue diamond. Photo / AP
The Oppenheimer Blue diamond. Photo / AP

1 Record price

The Oppenheimer Blue, the largest and finest fancy vivid blue diamond ever offered at auction, sold for a world record 56.837 million Swiss francs ($84.2 million). "It's the most expensive jewel ever sold at auction," Christie's spokeswoman Alexandra Kindermann said. The rare rectangular-cut stone, which weighs 14.62 carats, previously belonged to Sir Philip Oppenheimer, who controlled the Diamond Syndicate in London. The buyer's identity was not immediately known.

2 Robber 'liquidated'

Police in Moscow say a man who took hostages during an attempt to rob a bank has been killed. Police spokeswoman Sofia Khotina said that the man was "liquidated" during an operation by special forces. None of the six hostages were reported injured. Five of them were freed before the police operation. The other was a cashier who had taken shelter in a secure room of the bank. News reports said the man, wearing a mask, entered the Credit Bank of Moscow branch brandishing what appeared to be a pistol.

He threatened to set off a bomb. Police were examining whether a device that he held was an explosive.

3 Apology from Canada

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau apologised in Parliament for a government decision in 1914 to turn away a ship carrying hundreds of South Asian immigrants. The Komagata Maru from Hong Kong arrived off Vancouver only to have almost all of its 376 passengers, nearly all of them Sikhs from India, denied entry due to immigration laws at the time. The ship was eventually sent to Calcutta, and least 19 people were killed in a skirmish with British soldiers. "Canada's government was, without question, responsible for the laws that prevented these passengers from immigrating peacefully and securely," Trudeau said. "For that, and for every regrettable consequence that followed, we are sorry." New Democrat leader Thomas Mulcair called it "racism, plain and simple".

4 Ecuador shaken again

Two earthquakes have struck Ecuador's coast, leading to one death and light damage in the same region where a magnitude-7.8 tremor killed more than 650 people last month. The tremors, measuring 6.7 and 6.8 in magnitude, according to the US Geological Survey, cut electricity in some coastal areas and sent people running into the streets as far away as the highland capital of Quito, witnesses said.

5 Men flown to Melbourne

Five men accused of trying to flee to Syria by boat to join Isis (Islamic State) have been put onto a specially-chartered plane in Cairns to fly to Melbourne where they'll face court. Islamic preacher Musa Cerantonio, Shayden Thorne, Kadir Kaya, Antonio Granata and Paul Dacre have been charged with making preparations for incursions into foreign countries to engage in hostile activities.

6 Birds at risk

More than a third of all North American bird species are at risk of becoming extinct unless significant action is taken, scientists who are part of a tri-nation initiative have said, adding that ocean and tropical birds are in particular danger. The study, compiled by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative and the first of its kind to look at the vulnerability of bird populations in Canada, the United States and Mexico, said 37 per cent of all 1154 species on the continent needed urgent conservation action.

7 Venezuelan protest

Venezuelan police in riot gear clashed with thousands of protesters trying to reach the headquarters of the country's electoral body to demand a referendum to recall unpopular President Nicolas Maduro. The anti-government protest was the third in a week, and came days after the socialist president declared a state of emergency in the economically struggling country. He gave himself decree powers for 60 days.

8 Arrest in boy's stabbing

A man suspected of fatally stabbing an 11-year-old Houston boy who was walking home from school has been arrested. Deputy US Marshal Alfredo Perez says federal authorities took 31-year-old Che Lajuan Calhoun into custody on a street corner in southeast Houston. Calhoun was wanted on a murder warrant for the killing of Josue Flores on Wednesday. A motive for the attack wasn't immediately known.

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