- - Monday, March 12, 2012

BAGHDAD — Attacks against al Qaeda’s favorite targets in Iraq killed 14 people Monday as insurgents struck security forces, a government office and jewelry stores, demonstrating a continued threat from armed groups as the country prepares to host a meeting of the Arab world’s top leaders.

Security officials expect al Qaeda to ramp up violence over the next few weeks as Baghdad prepares to host the annual Arab League summit at the end of the month.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Monday’s strikes, and numerous armed groups in Iraq have mixed attacks on political targets with money-making criminal operations.

But al Qaeda in Iraq for years has been thought to fund itself in part with cash and gold stolen from jewelry stores.

Militants struck first in a pre-dawn raid Monday in the city of Tarmiyah, 30 miles north of Baghdad, where police said gunmen in at least two cars attacked the local mayor’s office. Three policemen were killed, police and health officials said. The mayor was not in his office at the time.

AFGHANISTAN

Officials: 45 trapped in avalanche of snow

KABUL — An avalanche struck two remote villages in northeast Afghanistan on Monday, and 45 people were feared trapped in the snow, authorities said.

The avalanche hit the villages of Poshan and Ghadoor in Mondol district of Nuristan province, said provincial spokesman Mohammad Zareen.

“We are not sure how many died and how many survived,” he said.

Avalanches are common in the mountainous northern provinces, but extremely heavy snowfall this year has resulted in more avalanches than normal. At least 50 people died March 4 in an avalanche in Badakhshan province.

UNITED KINGDOM

Euthanasia case allowed to proceed

LONDON — A British judge ruled Monday that the case of a severely disabled man who wants to end his “intolerable” life should be allowed to proceed.

Tony Nicklinson, 57, suffered a paralyzing stroke in 2005 that left him unable to speak or move below his neck and in need of constant care. He communicates largely by blinking.

In January, he asked the High Court to declare that any doctor who gives him a lethal injection with his consent won’t be charged with murder.

The Ministry of Justice argued that granting Mr. Nicklinson’s request would require changing the law on murder and that such changes must be made by Parliament. The government had applied to have the case dismissed.

Mr. Nicklinson argued that British law hindered his right to “private and family life” - guaranteed by the European Convention on Human Rights - on the grounds that being able to choose how to die is a matter of personal autonomy.

NETHERLANDS

Belgium seeks court order on ex-Chad leader

THE HAGUE — Lawyers for Belgium urged the U.N.’s highest court Monday to order Senegal to prosecute former Chad dictator Hissene Habre or to extradite him for trial on charges of masterminding atrocities during his brutal eight-year rule.

Mr. Habre has lived in a luxury villa in Senegal’s capital, Dakar, since rebels ousted him 1990 and has become a symbol of Africa’s inability to try leaders from the continent accused of rights abuses.

The case at the International Court of Justice is about “taking a stand against impunity in the most serious crimes in international law,” Belgian representative Paul Rietjens told judges in the wood-paneled Great Hall of Justice.

Belgium indicted Mr. Habre in 2005 for crimes against humanity, war crimes and torture based on complaints by survivors of his regime, some of whom have Belgian citizenship, but has failed to persuade Senegal to extradite him to Brussels despite repeated requests.

CHINA

Report of railway collapse raises safety concerns

SHANGHAI — Part of a high-speed railway line that already had undergone test runs collapsed in central China following heavy rains, state media reported Monday, jolting railroad shares and reviving worries over safety.

The official Xinhua News Agency and other reports said a 984-foot section of the railway line had collapsed, but mentioned no casualties or other details. It said hundreds of workers were rushing to repair the line between the Yangtze River cities of Wuhan and Yichang.

The reports of the accident Friday near Qianjiang city in Hubei province, the latest since a bullet-train crash last summer that killed 40 people, rattled share markets in Hong Kong and Shanghai, where major railway company stocks dropped on the news.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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