World news stories of the year
Oscar Pistorius stands in the dock during a break in court proceedings at the Pretoria Magistrates court, February 20, 2013. Photograph: Reuters
Early on February 14th, Reeva Steenkamp, the girlfriend of double-amputee and Olympic athlete Oscar Pistorius, was shot dead at their home in Pretoria, South Africa. Pistorius, nicknamed Blade Runner, was charged with murder the next day. He says he shot the 29-year-old four times through a locked bathroom door, believing she was an intruder. After a week of dramatic testimony, in which police replaced the lead detective on the case and questions arose about whether Pistorius was wearing his prosthetic limbs during the shooting, he was granted bail. He will go on trial for murder in March.
The Chelyabinsk meteor entered Russian skies on February 15th, travelling at nearly 60 times the speed of sound and glowing 30 times brighter than the sun. When the 19m-wide missile exploded at 76,000 ft, the shockwave it produced caused damage up to 80km away, injuring nearly 1,500 people and releasing more energy than the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Though the meteor was too small for warning networks to spot, scientists claim the explosion was a “wake-up call for humanity”, as the number of asteroids that pose a threat is much higher than previously thought.
Jorge Bergoglio of Argentina was elected pope in March, following the unexpected exit of Benedict XVI, who, citing old age, became the first pope to resign since 1415. As Pope Francis, Bergoglio became the first Latin-American and the first Jesuit to lead the Roman Catholic Church. He had not been seen as a favourite among contenders, given his own advanced age of 78. But the 266th pope was touted as bringing a “fresh agenda” to the church, appealing to a broad base of followers through his orthodox stance on sexual matters and liberal views on social justice.
As more than 23,000 runners made their way through the Boston marathon on Patriots’ Day, April 15th, two bombs exploded near the finishing line, killing three people and injuring 264. Three days later the FBI released photos and video of two suspects, the Chechen brothers Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who had also robbed a petrol station and killed a policeman. When authorities pursued a vehicle the pair had stolen, Tamerlan, the elder brother, was killed in a shootout. A huge hunt for Dzhokhar, who is 20, put Boston in lockdown for hours until he was found in a boat. He will go on trial next year.
In May Alex Ferguson announced his retirement as manager of Manchester United, bringing to an end a 26-year tenure that made him the most successful figure in British soccer. The 71-year-old’s announcement, which came two weeks before the end of the Premier League season, stunned the sporting world and caused Manchester United’s share price to fall by as much as 3.5 per cent on the New York Stock Exchange within hours. In October Ferguson published My Autobiography. His candid remarks in it about the likes of David Beckham and Roy Keane caused a stir.
On May22nd the young British soldier Lee Rigby was killed near the Royal Artillery Barracks in Woolwich, southeast London, in what was claimed to be an Islamic terrorist attack. Michael Adebolajo and Michael Adebowale, both British nationals who were raised as Christians and converted to Islam, drove a car at Rigby, knocking him down, before attacking him with knives and a machete. Adebolajo was filmed afterwards, saying: “The only reason we have killed this man today is because Muslims are dying daily by British soldiers.” Adebolajo and Adebowale were found guilty of murder last week.
The first royal birth in the era of social media and 24-hour news coverage brought intense focus on St Mary’s hospital. For 21 days an estimated 300 photographers waited in a media pen outside. When the duke and duchess of Cambridge emerged on July 22nd, they presented their then-unnamed newborn son, who weighed 8lb 6oz, prompting the illumination of London landmarks in red, white and blue. The birth of Prince George injected an estimated €290 million into the UK economy through festivities and merchandise.
The Westgate shopping mall in Nairobi was stormed by Islamist extremists on September 21st. A three-day siege led to more than 70 deaths, and more than 200 people were injured. There were conflicting reports about how many perpetrators were involved, but the Islamist group al-Shabaab claimed responsibility, citing retaliation for Kenya’s military involvement in Somalia. There was no direct evidence to link the al-Shabaab member Samantha Lewthwaite with the incident, but Interpol’s international alert about the Co Down-born woman sparked focus on the “white widow”.
Typhoon Haiyan tore through central Philippines early last month, killing more than 6,000 people, with a further 1,800 reported missing, more than 27,000 injured and almost four million forced from their homes. The tropical cyclone’s peak surges of 315km/h made it the strongest storm ever recorded at landfall, destroying buildings and roads as well as causing widespread cuts to power and water. Rescue crews struggled to reach affected areas, hindered by the fact that emergency funds had been depleted by a 7.2-magnitude earthquake that struck the country just weeks previously.
Death of Mandela
Nelson Mandela, the anti-apartheid icon who became South Africa’s first black president, died on December 6th at the age of 95. He had been in increasingly poor health in recent years and, after several stays in hospital, had been receiving intensive medical care at home for a recurring lung infection that originated from his time in prison. South African president Jacob Zuma announced a 10 days of nationwide mourning, saying, “Our nation has lost its greatest son.” Mandela’s state funeral drew tens of thousands, including presidents, prime ministers and celebrities, bidding farewell to a global symbol of reconciliation.