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A look back at the year’s top 10 world news stories

Japan Times editors selected these world stories as the most important of 2013.

1) NSA leaks

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden discloses more than a million classified NSA documents to several news outlets, casting light on operational details of a global surveillance apparatus operated by the United States and its closest allies.

2) U.S. health care rollout

The Affordable Care Act, a signature achievement of U.S. President Barack Obama’s administration, survives repeal attempts but runs into trouble in October as visitors to the dedicated health care exchange website quickly encounter numerous technical problems. Enrollment figures fall far below government forecasts and fail to improve significantly.

3) Pope Benedict resigns, Pope Francis installed

Pope Benedict XVI in February becomes the first pope to resign in almost 600 years. He is succeeded by Pope Francis, who sharply criticizes growing economic inequality and unfettered global capitalism, outlining a populist philosophy that he says will guide his papacy as he pushes the Catholic Church to reach out more, particularly to the disenfranchised.

4) Syrian chemical weapons attacks

Chemical weapons strikes on rebel-held territory in August, allegedly by the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad, prompt an international outcry and threats of a strike by the United States. Damascus ultimately pledges to give up its hitherto undeclared chemical arms cache in an effort to avoid an attack by the U.S.

5) North Korea executes uncle of Kim

North Korea executes leader Kim Jong Un’s uncle and political mentor Jang Song Thaek, calling him a “traitor to the nation for all ages” who was “despicable human scum” and “worse than a dog,” showing that no one — not even family — is beyond Kim’s reach.

6) Egyptian Islamist president deposed in coup

Egypt’s army removes President Mohammed Morsi from power after millions of demonstrators flood the streets of Cairo and other cities over alleged misrule by his administration and its Muslim Brotherhood backers.

7) Terrorists attack Nairobi mall

Gunmen from the al-Qaida-linked Somali terrorist group al-Shabab attack the upscale Westgate shopping mall in Kenya’s capital, killing 67 and wounding scores of others, in retaliation for the Kenyan military’s deployment in Somalia.

8) Death of Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela, who went from political prisoner to the first president of post-apartheid South Africa and whose heroic life and towering moral stature made him one of history’s most influential statesmen, dies at 95.

9) Iranian nuclear deal

Iran elects a new president, moderate Hassan Rouhani, in June. Iran and six major powers agree in November on a historic deal that freezes key parts of Iran’s nuclear program in exchange for temporary relief on some economic sanctions, a first step toward a more comprehensive pact to be completed six months later.

10) Boston Marathon bombings

Motivated by extremist Islamist beliefs, two Chechen immigrant brothers plant bombs near the finish line of the Boston Marathon, killing three people and injuring more than 250 others. After an unprecedented manhunt, one brother is killed and the other is severely wounded and flees but is found hiding in a boat in a back yard in a suburban Boston neighborhood and is arrested.