- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 13, 2009

AFGHANISTAN

20 killed as troops fight suicide bombers

KABUL | Eleven Taliban suicide bombers struck government buildings Tuesday in a bold, daylong assault in eastern Afghanistan, sparking running gunbattles with U.S. and Afghan forces that killed 20 people and wounded three Americans, officials said.

Troops freed 20 hostages taken by insurgents.

The battle in Khost, a border city that houses a major American base, began about 10 a.m., when a suicide bomber in a burqa attacked the governor’s compound in Khost. Residents hid from explosions and gunbattles that lasted until 5 p.m.



Teams of Taliban militants have launched multipronged assaults on government centers in Kabul, Kandahar and Helmand’s capital in the last year, demonstrating an increasing sophistication in their attacks. Military analysts have said such attacks are a result of training by Pakistani militants and al Qaeda fighters.

AFGHANISTAN

Apparent poisoning leaves 84 girls ill

MUHMUD RAQI | Officials accused extremist militants of launching a poison gas attack Tuesday that caused dozens of schoolgirls to collapse with headaches and nausea as they waited in line for a Koran reading at their school in northeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban and other Islamic fundamentalists have regularly attacked girls schools in Afghanistan, and the second apparent poisoning in two days - and third in two weeks - has raised concerns that they have now found a new weapon to scare girls into staying at home rather than going to class.

Students were gathering in the yard of Aftab Bachi school in Muhmud Raqi for a morning reading of the Koran when a strange odor filled the area. First one girl collapsed, then others, said the school’s principal. At least 98 people were admitted to hospital, including 84 students, the principal, 11 teachers and two cleaners.

SRI LANKA

49 reported killed in hospital attack

COLOMBO | A mortar shell slammed into a crowd of wounded civilians waiting for treatment at the only medical facility left in Sri Lanka’s war zone Tuesday, killing 49 people in the third day of intense shelling in the area, health officials said.

The Tamil Tiger rebels blamed the government for the attack - the second deadly strike on the hospital this month - and called on the international community to push for an immediate cease-fire.

Sri Lankan officials denied responsibility, saying they had ceased using artillery and mortars weeks ago. But the U.N. humanitarian chief said there was evidence the government was still using heavy weapons, despite the estimated 50,000 civilians stuck in the tiny coastal strip still under rebel control. The Red Cross said a ferry filled with aid had to turn back because of fighting.

NATO

U.S. admiral is commander

BRUSSELS | A U.S. Navy officer who advocates a combination of military and diplomatic power to secure strategic goals was formally appointed as NATO’s top military commander, the alliance said Tuesday.

Adm. James G. Stavridis, who currently heads the U.S. Southern Command, replaces Army Gen. Bantz J. Craddock.

President Obama nominated Adm. Stavridis in March to become NATO chief and head of U.S. European Command.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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