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AFGHANISTAN

Bomb attack in south kills 3 police

KABUL | A roadside bomb targeting the car of a district police chief killed three police officers Thursday in southern Afghanistan, where militants have stepped up attacks on government workers in response to increased pressure from international troops.

Provincial government spokesman Mohammad Jan Rasoolyar said the police chief was not in the vehicle when it was hit by the blast in the Shinkai district of Zabul province.

Also Thursday, militants shot and killed a government official in charge of the water supply in Dand district of Kandahar province as he was walking near his home, district chief Ahmadullah Nazak said.

Afghan and coalition forces are in the third phase of an operation in and around the city of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban. Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Mohammad Zahir Azimi said the operation — designed to destabilize Taliban strongholds and increase security, paving the way for improved governance and long-term development — was nearly over.

“We are clearing the area of the enemy,” Mr. Azimi said. “We are hopeful that in the coming weeks, the operation will come to an end. It is very difficult to say exactly when.”

RUSSIA

Bears dig up graves for food

MOSCOW | Famished bears in northern Russia have resorted to digging up graves in cemeteries — and reportedly eating at least one body — after a scorching summer destroyed their natural food sources of forest berries and mushrooms, officials said Thursday.

The brown bears’ grisly habit is forcing locals in the Arctic Circle region of Komi to mount 24-hour patrols, protecting their families and livestock with the concern that the bears might get a taste for fresher human flesh, said Pyotr Lobanov, a regional spokesman for the Emergencies Ministry.

Last summer was Russia’s hottest on record, with raging forest fires and droughts wiping out woodland and crops, forcing the bears to forage closer and closer to human settlements as the winter hibernation period approaches.

A top-selling daily newspaper, Moskovsky Komsomolets, reported that one body was devoured in the village of Verkhnyaya Chova over the weekend. Two visitors to the cemetery shrieked at the shocking sight of the animal tearing into half-decomposed flesh, scaring the bear away, the paper reported.

Domestic pets, goats and cattle have fallen prey to the bears since the summer, prompting unsightly fences to go up around farmland and more thoughtful disposal of garbage.

Komi, about the size of California, with the climate of Alaska, carries the nickname “Bear’s Corner” because, covered 70 percent by coniferous Taiga woodland, it is ideal bear habitat.

SOMALIA

Shebab executes two girls for ‘spying’

MOGADISHU | Somalia’s al Qaeda-inspired Shebab group publicly executed two teenage girls in the central town of Beledweyne on charges of spying, witnesses said Thursday.

A firing squad shot the pair in front of hundreds of local residents Wednesday afternoon, in the first known instance of such an execution of women accused of spying.

“These women were spying for the enemy and were arrested by mujahedeen” last week, Sheik Yusuf Ali Ugas, the insurgent group’s regional commander, told the crowd after the execution.

“After a long investigation, they confessed to their crimes,” he said, adding that dozens of other people were held at Beledweyne police station on the same charges and faced the same fate.

The weak central government’s information minister, Abdirahman Omar Osman, issued a statement condemning the executions. “This execution is yet another human rights abuse committed by the criminals. This act of killing innocent children does not have Islamic and humanitarian justifications,” the statement said.

NIGERIA

Weapons ship sailed from India

LAGOS | An illegal shipment of military-grade armaments seized in Nigeria came from a ship that had just left India, officials said Thursday, as investigators continued to trace the weapons’ origins.

Wale Adeniyi, a spokesman for Nigeria’s Customs Service, said Thursday that the MV CMA-CGM Everest dropped off the weapons at Lagos’ busy Apapa Port in July. The 13 shipping containers remained unexamined until Tuesday, when authorities with Nigeria’s secretive State Security Service broke open the sealed boxes and discovered weapons that included 107 mm artillery missiles.

The Everest, a cargo ship registered in the Marshall Islands, is owned by CMA-CGM, a shipping company based in France. In a statement released Thursday, CMA-CGM said the containers holding the weapons were owned by the firm that shipped the them. The shipping company said the manifest for the weapons described the shipment as “packages of glasswool and pallets of stone.”

Mr. Adeniyi said the ship last stopped at Mumbai’s Jawaharlal Nehru Port before coming to Nigeria. He said security officials became suspicious of the containers as the shipment did not have proper documentation.

The origin of the weapons remains unclear, though the rockets and the boxes containing rifle rounds bore English words.

Authorities said the shipment also contained grenades, explosives and possibly rocket launchers.

Fighters in Afghanistan and Iraq have used similar rockets against U.S. troops.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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