- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 2, 2009

AFGHANISTAN

3 American troops, 1 French soldier die

KABUL | Three U.S. troops were killed Saturday when roadside bombs ripped through their patrol in southern Afghanistan, while a French soldier died in a gunbattle north of the capital, officials said.

The Americans were killed in the southern Kandahar province, said Navy Chief Petty Officer Brian Naranjo. He gave no further details on the blasts, pending notification of the victims’ families.

Deaths among U.S. and other NATO troops have soared this year. With 74 foreign troops killed - including 43 Americans - July was the deadliest month for international forces since the start of the war in 2001. France has lost 29 soldiers in Afghanistan since 2001.

NIGERIA

Official says 700 died in violence

MAIDUGURI | A Nigerian military official said Saturday that about 700 people were killed in the northern city of Maiduguri during recent fighting between police and a radical Islamist sect. The toll was previously thought to be around 300.

Col. Ben Ahanotu told the Associated Press that mass burials have begun because bodies were decomposing in the heat. The Islamist compound destroyed last week by government troops is one of the burial sites, he said.

The fighting affected other northern cities, too. The total death toll is unknown.

Maiduguri, the Borno state capital, was largely quiet Saturday. Its streets had been cleared of bodies and the blood spilled during five days of fierce fighting. Banks and markets have reopened.

VENEZUELA

13 radio stations go off the air

CARACAS | More than a dozen of the 34 radio stations ordered shut by the Venezuelan government went off the air Saturday, part of President Hugo Chavez’s drive to extend his socialist revolution to the media.

The association of radio broadcasters said 13 stations had stopped transmitting, following an announcement Friday night by government broadcasting watchdog Conatel that 34 radio outlets would be closed because they failed to comply with regulations.

Critics said that the crackdown infringed on freedom of speech and that owners were not given the right to a proper defense.

NETHERLANDS

American-Dutch gay couples wed

AMSTERDAM | The mayor of Amsterdam presided over the weddings of five American-Dutch gay, lesbian and transgender couples on a boat during the city’s Gay Pride festival Saturday, challenging the United States to legalize gay marriage, as well.

Mayor Job Cohen also performed the first weddings in the Netherlands after the country began allowing same-sex marriages in 2001.

Each marriage Saturday included one partner from New York and one from the Netherlands. The marriages were also part of celebrations of the 400th anniversary of New York-Netherlands ties.

Saturday’s marriages may be valid in New York - though they could not have been performed there legally. New York Gov. David A. Paterson has ordered that gay marriages approved in other jurisdictions be recognized by the state.

ISRAEL

2 dead in shooting at Tel Aviv gay club

TEL AVIV | A black-clad gunman killed two people and wounded 12 others in an attack on a Tel Aviv gay club Saturday. Police described the incident as “criminal, rather than nationalistic.” Israel’s biggest city has in the past been the target of Palestinian shooting attacks.

KYRGYZSTAN

Russia to open second military base

MOSCOW | Kyrgyzstan allowed Russia to open a second military base on its territory Saturday, expanding Moscow’s military reach to balance against the U.S. presence in the Central Asian country.

The struggle for influence in the region intensified last month - days after President Obama completed his visit to Moscow - as senior Russian officials traveled to Bishkek to press for the creation of a new Russian base.

The pressure from Moscow came after Kyrgyzstan allowed the United States to keep its air base at Manas, which is vital for supplying U.S. forces fighting in Afghanistan.

PAKISTAN

Building collapse in Karachi kills 21

KARACHI | A five-story building collapsed in the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, killing at least 21 people, mostly women and children, authorities said Saturday.

Local Mayor Mohammad Dilawar said the building caved in late Friday in the congested downtown Lea Market neighborhood. The building apparently was weakened by heavy monsoon rains.

SOUTH AFRICA

Guard shoots self at Mandela home

JOHANNESBURG | A police officer guarding former President Nelson Mandela’s home fatally shot himself outside the anti-apartheid leader’s Johannesburg house Saturday, police said.

Mr. Mandela was home at the time of the apparent suicide, but was not in danger. The officer was assigned to guard the perimeter of the house and was not part of the former president’s detail.

CUBA

Castro to cut spending on schools, health care

HAVANA | Raul Castro announced Saturday that Cuba will cut spending on education and health care, potentially weakening the building blocks of its communist system in a bid to revive a foundering economy.

The former defense minister who took over the presidency last year called state spending “simply unsustainable” and said the cash-strapped government would reorganize rural schools and scrutinize its free health care system in search of ways to save money.

Without mentioning specifics and while insisting education will not suffer, he said some students and teachers in rural areas will be reassigned to nearby cities, saving time and money needed to transport 5,000 educators long distances between home and work.

He also said cuts were in store for the universal health care system, which, along with free education through college, subsidized housing and food provided on a monthly ration system, forms the basis of the communist way of life.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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