- - Monday, August 16, 2010

AFGHANISTAN

NATO: al Qaeda leader killed in air strike

KABUL | The NATO force in Afghanistan said Monday it had killed an al Qaeda cell leader after he was pinpointed by alliance aircraft while carrying out an attack on a police post.

Abu Baqir, described as “a dual-hatted Taliban subcommander and al Qaeda group leader,” was killed Sunday when his truck was targeted in an air strike in northern Kunduz province, a hotbed of the insurgency.

Another militant also was killed, and several others were captured while seeking treatment for their injuries in a local hospital, NATO’s International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

It did not give more details about the al Qaeda commander.

BOSNIA

Serb leader condemns Turkey’s activities

SARAJEVO | Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik accused Turkey Monday of interfering in Bosnia’s internal political affairs and Ankara of acting in favor of Bosnian Muslims.

“We resent the fact that Turkey wants a unified and centralized Bosnia, favoring only one of the peoples” living in the country, Mr. Dodik told Bosnian state radio from Israel following talks with Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman.

Mr. Dodik said he had told Mr. Lieberman that the Bosnian Serb community “resented Turkey’s strong presence in Bosnia motivated only by support for the Bosnian Muslims, without any willingness to comprehend the context in which Bosnia exists.”

The 1992-95 Bosnian conflict left the country split into two semi-independent entities — the Serbs’ Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation — each having its own government. They are united by weak central institutions.

MOROCCO

Al Qaeda tells France it will avenge fighters

RABAT | Al Qaeda’s North African wing has warned France it will avenge its fighters killed in a raid by French troops in the Sahara desert last month.

In a statement posted on radical Islamist forums, al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb called French President Nicolas Sarkozy an “enemy of Allah.”

It urged tribes in the desert region straddling Mali, Niger, Mauritania and Algeria to join in the fight against “the sons and agents of Christian France.”

The group has said it executed the 78-year-old French hostage Michel Germaneau after the raid failed to free him.

al Qaeda has claimed that France launched the raid while negotiations were under way to release Germaneau, contradicting French officials, who said there had been no talks.

SOUTH KOREA

War games begin despite warning

SEOUL | South Korean and U.S. troops launched computerized military drills Monday despite North Korea warning it would retaliate with a “merciless counterblow” for the exercises Pyongyang considers rehearsal for invasion.

The 11-day drills, dubbed Ulchi Freedom Guardian, are annual war games that involve about 56,000 South Korean soldiers and 30,000 U.S. troops in South Korea and abroad, South Korea’s Defense Ministry and the U.S. command in Seoul said Monday.

GREECE

Israeli PM makes historic visit

ATHENS | Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu arrived in Greece Monday for the first visit by an Israeli head of government.

Mr. Netanyahu was due to meet with his counterpart, George Papandreou, in the afternoon, with the situation in the Middle East and military and economic cooperation the main points of discussion.

Mr. Papandreou, who visited Israel and the Palestinian Territories in July, spoke Sunday with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas and Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League.

Mr. Netanyahu is the first Israeli prime minister to visit Greece, which has traditionally been pro-Arab and did not recognize Israel’s existence until 1991.

THAILAND

Anti-piracy mission set for Somalia

BANGKOK | Thailand will send two naval vessels, including one warship, to join the fight against piracy in the lawless Gulf of Aden off Somalia, officials said Monday.

The Thai navy will deploy 371 personnel for the 98-day operation, starting in early September, said deputy government spokesman Supachai Jaisamut.

An international armada has been patrolling the Gulf of Aden, one of the globe’s busiest maritime trade routes, since 2008 in a bid to stop pirates from hijacking commercial vessels.

Several Thai vessels have been hijacked by Somali pirates, including three fishing boats with a total of 77 crew members aboard who were seized in April.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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