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24 Ulster Bank branches close

Twenty-four Ulster Bank branches across Ireland are to close early next year as consumer champions warned large areas risked becoming "financially forgotten".

Ten offices in counties Antrim, Down, Tyrone and Derry will shut but no staff in Northern Ireland are likely to be made redundant, a spokesman for the business said. Another 14 will go in the Republic - with a number of voluntary job losses expected.

Services are moving in February and March to nearby offices amid declining numbers using the properties in favour of the internet.

Five killed in China quake

A strong earthquake that hit a sparsely populated, mountainous area of western China killed at least five people and injured 54 others, officials said. The injured included schoolchildren in a stampede.

The US Geological Survey said the magnitude-5.9 quake hit Saturday about 30 kilometers from the county of Kangding in Sichuan province. China's seismological agency put the magnitude at 6.3.

The dead included a woman in her 70s who was struck by a falling window pane.

Painting set to sell for €15m

A painting of an exiled Turkish princess by one of the 20th century's greatest artists could sell for around £12m (€15m) when it goes under the hammer next year.

The Odalisque Au Fauteuil Noir, by Henri Matisse, has gone on view at Sotheby's London galleries and will go under the hammer in February.

Matisse's oil painting, which was completed in Nice in January 1942, shows one of his favourite subjects - Nezy-Hamide Chawkat.

She was the great-granddaughter of the last sultan of Turkey and fled to France with her grandmother when the royal family lost power.

Iraqi forces in battle with IS

Iraqi forces battling Islamic State (IS) militants have focused their offensive on the city of Ramadi, backed by Sunni tribal fighters that the US plans to arm. Iraqi forces and tribesmen fought to regain Ramadi's eastern Sijariya area, which IS said it had captured.


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