- The Washington Times - Friday, August 28, 2009

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL | A U.S. service member died Thursday in a militant attack involving a roadside bomb and gunfire, a death that pushed August into a tie with July as the deadliest months of the eight-year war.

The death brings the number of U.S. troops who have died in Afghanistan this month to 44. But with four days left in the month, August is likely to set a new record.

Total coalition military fatalities were 67 thus far in August, according to www.icasualties.org.

More than 60,000 U.S. troops are in the country - a record number - to combat rising insurgent violence, and total coalition troops are more than 100,000.

The number of roadside bombs deployed by militants across the country has skyrocketed, and U.S. forces have moved into new and deadlier areas of the country this summer, in part to help secure the country’s Aug. 20 presidential election.

SOMALIA

U.S. Navy chopper fired on by pirates

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | Somali pirates holding a hijacked ship off the coast of Somalia fired at a U.S. Navy helicopter as it made a surveillance flight over the vessel, the first such attack by pirates on a U.S. military aircraft, the Navy said Thursday.

The helicopter, which is based on the USS Chancellorsville, was not hit and there were no injuries, the Navy said.

The copter was flying Wednesday over a Taiwanese-flagged fishing vessel, the Win Far, which pirates seized along with its 30-member crew in April and were holding south of the Somali port town of Hobyo.

Since seizing the Win Far in the Gulf of Aden, the pirates have used the vessel as a base for attacking other commercial ships, including the U.S.-flagged Maersk Alabama. Four pirates seized the Maersk Alabama in April, taking hostage its captain, Richard Phillips. He was held for five days in a sweltering lifeboat off the coast until U.S. Navy snipers fatally shot three of his captors.

CUBA

Jailed activist’s wife visited by EU envoys

HAVANA | Representatives from five EU embassies in Cuba visited the wife of jailed political opposition activist Darsi Ferrer on Thursday, but insisted their visit was not political.

Diplomats from Sweden, Britain, Hungary, Poland and Germany saw Dr. Ferrer’s wife, Yusnaimy Jorge Soca, at her Havana home and brought donated items including food and clothing.

The group said it organized the visit on its own and had not been invited by the couple.

Cuban officials had no immediate comment, but in the past they have often complained about foreign diplomatic contacts with dissidents, accusing the countries of meddling in Cuban affairs and of helping “mercenaries” who are trying to undermine the communist system.

Dr. Ferrer, a physician, is among Cuba’s top dissidents. Like most opposition activists, however, he is better known in South Florida and Europe than on the island.

SUDAN

Darfur conflict said winding down

KHARTOUM | Sudan’s Darfur region is no longer in a state of war and only has one rebel group capable of mounting limited military campaigns, the head of the area’s peacekeeping force said as he ended his tour of duty.

The statement was quickly dismissed by Darfur insurgents Thursday who said they were armed and preparing to launch new attacks on Sudanese government troops in the near future.

The commander of the joint U.N.-African Union UNAMID peacekeeping force, Martin Luther Agwai, told reporters the conflict had descended into banditry and “very low intensity” engagements that could still blight the remote western region for years without a peace deal.

The six-year Darfur conflict has pitted pro-government militias and troops against mostly non-Arab rebels, who took up arms in 2003, demanding better representation and accusing Khartoum of neglecting the development of the region.

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