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World Briefs: Three U.S. soldiers killed in suicide attack

- - Wednesday, April 4, 2012

AFGHANISTAN

KABUL A suicide bomber on a motorcycle killed three American soldiers and four Afghan police officers at a park in a relatively peaceful area of northern Afghanistan on Wednesday, part of an increase in violence at the start of the spring fighting season.

At least three other people were killed and about 20 wounded, a police spokesman said.

The Taliban, which claimed responsibility for the attack, are targeting Afghan and NATO security forces as they fight to assert their power and undermine U.S. efforts to try to build up the Afghan military, who will take the lead in combat responsibility over the next couple of years.

NATO said three troops died in the attack, and a U.S. official confirmed they were Americans.

GUYANA

Public opinion sought on controversial laws

GEORGETOWN Guyana is launching a national debate on whether to eliminate its death penalty and overhaul laws that discriminate against gays and transgender people.

Town-hall-style meetings will be held across the socially conservative South American country as part of a promise that Guyana made to the U.N. Human Rights Council.

The government plans to analyze public opinion before deciding whether it will submit any bills to revise current laws.

"Government has no line or position on the gay-rights issue," presidential adviser Gail Teixeira told the Associated Press. "We will hold the consultations, and if the recommendation is to change the laws, then that will be taken into consideration."

The death penalty is common across the Caribbean, as are laws against cross-dressing and gay sex.

The government said officials also plan to meet with leaders from Christian, Hindu and Islamic communities who represent Guyana's most prominent religions. Many religious leaders in the country oppose legalizing homosexuality.

FRANCE

Police nab 10 suspects in sweep of suspected Islamists

PARIS Police rounded up 10 suspected radical Islamists in their second countrywide sweep in several days Wednesday, leading to criticism that President Nicolas Sarkozy is ramping up raids to win votes in a tight election.

The arrests are part of a high-profile crackdown in the wake of attacks on soldiers and a Jewish school. They were carried out as part of a preliminary investigation opened Monday into terror-linked activity in France, a judicial official said.

Another official close to the investigation said the 10 were suspected of links to Islamist websites and of threatening violence in online forums. Some of them may have been trying to attend jihadist training camps along the Afghan-Pakistan border, he added.

WEST BANK

Israeli forces evict settlers in Hebron

HEBRON Israeli security forces swiftly evicted dozens of Jewish settlers from an illegally occupied building in this volatile West Bank city on Wednesday, ending a weeklong standoff that had threatened to spill over into broader violence.

The raid caught the settlers off guard. Only a day earlier, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had moved to block the eviction order.

Settler supporters in Mr. Netanyahu's hard-line government condemned the surprise raid, a key political ally threatened to quit the coalition and settler leaders vowed retaliation.

Hebron, the traditional burial site of Abraham, the shared patriarch of both Jews and Muslims, is the only place where Jews live in the heart of a West Bank city. Arab-Israeli violence there dates back decades, and clashes are frequent.

BRITAIN

Cameron defends plans for secret court hearings

LONDON British plans to expand secret court hearings to protect intelligence shared by the United States and other allies and to extend state snooping on the Internet are vital to protect the public, Prime Minister David Cameron said Wednesday.

Mr. Cameron is seeking to overhaul surveillance laws, saying new powers are needed to check email traffic, web browsing and interactions on social media sites, used by criminals and terrorists to communicate.

His government also hopes to pass legislation to grant Cabinet ministers power to order some civil court cases and inquests to be held in private, when they see a risk of exposing secrets, particularly sensitive material shared by allies.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports