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It normally leads to a surge of militant attacks throughout the country as the Taliban attempt to retake lost territory and intimidate the government.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Embassy in Kabul acknowledged a two-year, rarely used program to release detainees from a military prison run by the American military near the capital, saying it was meant to bolster reconciliation between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

SERBIA

Socialists key for future government

BELGRADE — The Serbian party founded by strongman Slobodan Milosevic emerged Monday as a potential kingmaker, after general elections in which neither the pro-EU nor nationalist camps clinched clear victory.

Socialist Ivica Dacic’s party doubled its tally in Sunday’s ballot from the last elections, achieving its best result since Milosevic, who died in 2006, was ousted from power in a pro-democracy uprising in 2000.

Mr. Dacic said he will seek to be prime minister in any future government, and he left the door open for negotiations with both the incumbent pro-EU Democrats and opposition right-wing populist Serbian Progressive Party.

A near-complete official vote count released Monday confirmed that a presidential runoff will be held May 20 between pro-Western leader Boris Tadic, who won 25.3 percent of the vote, and nationalist Tomislav Nikolic, who had 24.9 percent.

YEMEN

Al Qaeda kills 22 troops after death of leader

ADEN — Al Qaeda gunmen Monday launched spectacular attacks on two army posts in south Yemen, killing at least 22 soldiers, to avenge the death of a top militant in an air raid, a military official said.

Jihadists attacked the military posts outside the city of Zinjibar, which they have controlled since May last year, the official said.

The attacks came after Yemeni al Qaeda leader Fahd al-Quso, who was wanted in connection with the deadly 2000 bombing of the USS Cole, was killed in an airstrike in eastern Yemen on Sunday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports