- - Thursday, February 17, 2011


NATO, Afghans detain insurgent leaders

KABUL | NATO and Afghan forces captured leaders of an insurgent group in eastern Afghanistan, including one thought to be linked to last month’s suicide attack on a Kabul supermarket, the coalition said Thursday. Insurgent attacks elsewhere killed three, including a NATO service member.

The detainees were identified as members of Hizb-i-Islami, a militant group made up of loyalists of regional warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. Among those captured was the group’s Kabul-based “media emir” - typically a senior official responsible for disseminating propaganda. He was arrested Wednesday in Parwan province.

NATO said the media emir, who was not identified, has ties to multiple militant groups, including the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Taliban, and was involved in suicide bombings in November and January. The most recent blast killed eight people in the Western-style Finest supermarket near embassies in the Afghan capital.


Court delays case of detained American

LAHORE | A Pakistani court delayed a hearing Thursday on whether a U.S. Embassy worker detained after fatally shooting two Pakistani men has diplomatic immunity. The decision was made a day after Sen. John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, visited Pakistan to press for a quick resolution to avert a meltdown in the countries’ relations.

The chief justice of the Lahore High Court agreed to a government request for a three-week delay to allow it more time to prepare its position on the issue of immunity. The hearing was rescheduled for March 14.

The case is straining Washington’s already troubled relationship with Pakistan, a key partner in the war in Afghanistan and in battling al Qaeda and other Islamic militant networks.



BEIJING | China said Thursday that it wants to push forward health care reform efforts this year with targets promising expanded insurance for the urban population and higher subsidies for the poor.

Public health care in China has been underfunded for years, and the high cost and poor availability of health services are among the Chinese public’s biggest complaints.

In 2009, China announced that it would be pumping in $124 billion to reform the system over three years, to provide basic medical coverage and insurance to all of China’s 1.3 billion people.

On Thursday, the State Council, China’s Cabinet, issued a document on its website outlining targets for the year, including plans to expand medical insurance coverage for urban workers and residents to 90 percent, reaching 440 million people.

That would be an increase from the 401 million people working or living in cities who were already covered by state health insurance by the end of 2009, according to state media reports.

In rural areas, more than 90 percent of people are already covered by government health insurance.


Prime minister pushes for Thailand cease-fire

PHNOM PENH | Cambodia said on Thursday it will press Thailand to sign a permanent cease-fire at a regional gathering next week, as both countries remained at odds over how to settle a deadly border dispute.

Prime Minister Hun Sen said Cambodia will urge its neighbor to agree to a peace deal during a meeting of foreign ministers from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Jakarta on Tuesday.

However, Thai Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva rejected the idea of ASEAN involvement in resolving the dispute, which erupted into armed clashes between the countries earlier this month.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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