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World Scene

- - Wednesday, September 14, 2011

AFGHANISTAN

Afghan capital assault leaves 27 dead

KABUL | The 20-hour insurgent assault on the heavily guarded Afghan capital left 27 dead - including police, civilians and insurgents - when fighting finally ended Wednesday morning, officials said.

The sophistication and vehemence of the attack, in which insurgents fired rockets into the U.S. Embassy compound from a nearby unfinished high-rise, raised fresh doubts about the Afghans' ability to secure their nation as U.S. and other foreign troops begin to withdraw.

Afghan forces have nominally been in control of security in the capital since 2008 but still depend heavily on foreign forces to help protect the city - and it took heavy involvement by U.S. and NATO forces to rout the latest attackers.

Spectacular attacks in the supposedly well-protected capital have become more common. This week's strike was the third deadly attack in Kabul since late June.

The Taliban took responsibility for the assault. But Kabul's deputy police chief said it was likely the Pakistan-based Haqqani Network carried it on behalf of the extremist group.

U.S. Ambassador Ryan Crocker also blamed the Haqqanis, who have emerged as one of the biggest threats to Afghanistan's stability, working from safe areas across the border in Pakistan's tribal region.

SPAIN

Spain revives rape probe of Saudi prince

MADRID | Spain has reopened a rape probe of a Saudi prince who is one of the world's richest people, looking again at allegations he drugged and sexually assaulted a young model on a yacht on the Mediterranean island of Ibiza, according to court papers.

The alleged assault by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, 56, reportedly took place on Aug. 13, 2008. An investigating magistrate on the popular resort island closed the case last year on grounds of insufficient evidence.

However, a higher provincial court in the Balearic Islands, which include Ibiza, accepted an appeal by the plaintiff and issued an order this year instructing the same magistrate to resume the probe and question the prince as a suspect.

A copy of the order was obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press.

The order said the investigating judge, Carmen Martin Montero, had not questioned Prince Alwaleed in her initial probe. It said tests done by a forensic lab that answers to the Spanish Justice Ministry had found semen in the woman, then 20, and traces of a sedative called nordazepam.

CHINA

Dissident writer freed after five years in jail

BEIJING | A Chinese dissident writer who spent five years in jail said Wednesday he was wrongly imprisoned and subjected to ill treatment "beyond people's imagination."

Yang Maodong told the Associated Press that the charges of illegal business activities for which he was jailed were trumped up and that his jailers only questioned him about his pro-democracy activities, not business matters.

"I am innocent," Mr. Yang said. "It's a political case and I was called a political prisoner in the places where I was detained. All of this is political persecution of me because I promoted democracy."

Arrested in September 2006 and sentenced in November 2007, Mr. Yang was released from prison Tuesday.

His release comes as reports emerge about the alleged mistreatment of several Chinese bloggers, lawyers and other intellectuals who were rounded up earlier this year in a crackdown on dissent.

Those detentions were related to government fears that anti-government demonstrations in North Africa and the Middle East could spread to China.

HAITI

Protesters demand ouster of U.N. troops

PORT-AU-PRINCE | Protesters calling for the withdrawal of U.N. peacekeepers from Haiti clashed with police Wednesday outside the earthquake-damaged Haitian National Palace.

The protesters hurled rocks at Haitian police in riot gear and the officers responded by firing volleys of tear gas canisters toward the crowd of several hundred demonstrators.

As the crowd dispersed, many protesters fled into the Champ de Mars, the park that became a huge encampment of tents and shanties after the January 2010 earthquake.

There did not appear to be any injuries among protesters, who said they wanted to see a withdrawal of the U.N. troops who have helped keep order in Haiti since 2004, when political violence engulfed the country.

Protesters also said they were angry over the alleged sexual assault of an 18-year-old Haitian man by U.N. peacekeepers from Uruguay in the southwestern town of Port-Salut in July.

The U.N. has 12,000 U.N. military and police personnel in Haiti, but no peacekeepers were in sight as the protesters clashed with the Haitian police.

Haitian President Michel Martelly is expected to ask for a renewal of the U.N. mission's mandate, which expires next month.

DENMARK

Denmark expected to shift left in election

COPENHAGEN | Denmark appears poised for a political shift to the left that would oust a center-right government and its anti-immigration ally and install a Social Democratic leader as the country's first female prime minister, polls showed Wednesday.

The left-leaning opposition bloc held a clear lead over Prime Minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen's center-right coalition in three surveys released Wednesday, the day before the parliamentary election.

A power shift isn't likely to result in major changes because the main parties have similar views on the economy, welfare, foreign policy and immigration.

But Helle Thorning-Schmidt wants to slap taxes on banks and wealthy Danes and avoid some of the austerity cuts planned by the government to balance the budget amid worries of contagion from Europe's debt crisis.

"We have a government that has believed that austerity was the right way to achieve more growth in Denmark," 44-year-old Mrs. Thorning-Schmidt said Wednesday.

Her party stands to return to power after a decade in opposition.

"Austerity and tax cuts are not the right course for Denmark. What we want to achieve is to create more growth, kick-start the economy and then, after that, create the foundation for a new sustainable growth," she said.