- - Thursday, July 7, 2011

IRAQ

Roadside bomb kills two U.S. soldiers

BAGHDAD — A roadside bomb killed two U.S. soldiers Thursday outside the main American military base in Baghdad in what U.S. officials said appeared to be another attack by Shiite militias hoping to drive U.S. troops out of Iraq.

The attack follows the deadliest month for U.S. troops in Iraq in two years. Fifteen U.S. soldiers died in June, nearly all in attacks by Shiite militias.

The 46,000 U.S. troops currently stationed in Iraq are to leave by year’s end under a 2008 withdrawal agreement.

However, the White House is offering to keep up to 10,000 American soldiers in the country beyond that deadline, if asked by Iraq, to help stabilize the country’s still-shaky security and keep Iran from becoming too cozy with Baghdad officials.

COLOMBIA

Colombia, U.S. bust cocaine ring

BOGOTA — Colombia and the U.S. drug agency have broken an airport drug ring in the world’s No. 1 cocaine producer that sent up to 2 tons of cocaine monthly to Mexico and the United States, police said Thursday.

Colombian police supported by the Drug Enforcement Administration nabbed 26 suspected traffickers, four of whom are wanted for extradition to the United States, in Colombia’s coastal cities of Barranquilla and Santa Marta as well as Monteria in the northwest and the capital Bogota.

“This structure dedicated to drug trafficking had set up a true mafia company sending aircraft from Colombia to Central America, destined for Mexico and the United States,” said Gen. Oscar Naranjo, head of Colombian police.

“This operation has also led to capture five civil aeronautic officials based in the north coast that facilitated these operations,” he said.

The trafficking group, which used the aviation officials to authorize the drug flights, allegedly was headed by Jesus Lopez, alias “My Blood,” who had been part of outlawed, right-wing paramilitary groups, officials said.

Colombia, where drug traffickers take advantage of dense jungles and forests and a weak state presence in some areas, has received billions of dollars in aid from Washington to fight drug output, rebels and cartels.

PAKISTAN

Violence in Karachi kills nearly 50

KARACHI — Gunmen opened fire on two buses and waged street battles in Pakistan’s largest city Thursday, killing at least 22 people as part of a spate of violence that has claimed 49 lives in three days, officials said.

It was some of the worst strife so far this year in Karachi, a city of 18 million that has long been a hotbed of crime and clashes — much of it linked to ethnic, sectarian and political divisions.

Police had no immediate comment on the possible motives for the latest killings.

At least 22 people were killed Thursday, said Sharfuddin Memon, a security adviser for Sindh province, where Karachi is located. Ten died when gunmen targeted two buses, he said.

Mr. Memon said 27 other people were killed in sporadic shootings Tuesday and Wednesday. He feared the toll could go higher as more violence was reported.

SPAIN

Britain arrests man in plot against king

MADRID — Police in Britain arrested a suspected Basque separatist Thursday who is wanted in connection with a 1997 plot to assassinate the King Juan Carlos I of Spain.

Eneko Gogeaskoetxea Arronategui, 44, was taken into custody for his part in some 10 terrorist cases between 1996 and 1997, British authorities said.

They said he is a suspected member of ETA, the Basque separatist group that has killed 829 people since 1968 in a campaign of bombings, shootings, kidnappings and extortion. The group is considered a terrorist group by Spain, the European Union and the United States.

ETA declared what it called a permanent cease-fire in January and has said it is open to letting international observers verify the truce. Spain insists it must lay down arms.

YEMEN

Injured president makes video address

SANAA — Yemen’s embattled president lashed out Thursday at opponents seeking to drive him from power in his first public appearance since he was injured last month in a blast at his palace compound — an attack that left him appearing stiff and weakened.

Sitting rigid in a chair, his hair covered with a cloth and his hands wrapped in white bandages, Ali Abdullah Saleh accused “terrorist elements” of carrying out the June 3 attack and criticized his opponents for trying to topple him. He wore a white robe and his face appeared noticeable darker than before the attack.

“Many have understood democracy incorrectly, through incorrect practices,” Mr. Saleh said in a seven-minute, prerecorded video broadcast on Yemen state TV from Saudi Arabia, where he is receiving treatment.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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