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Nine people are dead following a mass murder in rural Missouri in which the suspected gunman took his own life, police in the Midwestern state said Friday. With an investigation still underway, it appeared that seven people were shot and killed in four different residences in the small Bible Belt town of Tyrone. An eighth person, described as an elderly woman, was found dead in a fifth house, apparently "from natural causes," the Missouri State Highway Patrol said. "The apparent suspect, a 36-year-old male from Tyrone, was found dead in a vehicle... in (neighboring) Shannon County from an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound," added police spokesman Sergeant Jeff Kinder.
Ukraine said on Friday three soldiers had been killed, the first fatalities in several days in the war-torn east, as a shaky truce with pro-Russian rebels appeared to gain some traction with an apparent weapons pull-back. Isolated skirmishes highlighted the fragile situation as the UN discussed the conflict exactly one year after Russia and pro-Moscow forces began seizing ports and cities on the Black Sea peninsula of Crimea. Russia's annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine sparked the worst East-West standoff since the Cold War. A year on, the West is hoping the UN-backed truce deal negotiated by Russia, Ukraine, Germany and France in Minsk earlier this month can prevent a further escalation.
Beijing has imposed a one-year ban on imports of ivory carvings as critics say rising Chinese demand threatens African elephants with extinction, but campaigners described the move as "more symbolic than effective" Friday. The measure came days ahead of a visit to China by Britain's Prince William, who has campaigned against illegal wildlife trafficking and is expected to speak on the issue during a stop in the southwestern province of Yunnan next Wednesday. The ban took effect Thursday and was announced by China's State Forestry Administration in a statement on its website. China is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), but conservationists say it is the world's largest consumer of illegal ivory, with skyrocketing demand leading to the slaughter of tens of thousands of African elephants each year.