- - Thursday, March 17, 2011


U.S. missiles kill 38 militants

MIR ALI | U.S. unmanned aircraft fired four missiles into a building where suspected militants were meeting Thursday, killing 38 of them in an unusually deadly strike close to the Afghan border, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The strikes took place in the Datta Khel area of the North Waziristan tribal region - the main sanctuary for al Qaeda and Taliban fighters along the Afghan border, said the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.

Seven militants were wounded in the strikes, said the officials. While it was unclear exactly how many militants were present at the meeting, it appeared that almost all of them were killed or wounded.

The militants were allied with Hafiz Gul Bahadur, a powerful Pakistani Taliban commander in the area who has focused his efforts on fighting foreign troops in Afghanistan, said the officials. The insurgents were discussing plans to send new groups of fighters across the border, the intelligence officials added.

The most senior militant killed in the attack was Sharabat Khan, Mr. Bahadur’s top commander for the Datta Khel area, who was leading the meeting, said the officials. Several foreign militants were also killed.


Moscow-led group worried about Afghan drawdown

DUSHANBE | A Russian-led regional security body said Thursday it is too early to withdraw NATO troops from Afghanistan without risking instability in the former Soviet republics in central Asia.

“I believe that today Afghanistan on its own is unable to resist the threats existing there now,” Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary-general of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) pact, told a news conference in the Tajik capital.

“To pull out troops now means to doom Afghanistan to colossal problems and create a threat to the entire [Central Asian] region,” he said.

The CSTO security pact, which includes Russia, Belarus, Armenia and Central Asian nations of Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, controls an important land route from Europe to Afghanistan and acts as a counterweight to NATO in the region.

President Obama has promised to start withdrawing U.S. troops in Afghanistan, who now number nearly 100,000 out of NATO’S total 150,000, in July.


Tibetan monk dies after self-immolation

BEIJING | A Tibetan monk in western China set himself on fire in an anti-government protest, then was beaten and kicked by police, prompting hundreds of monks and others to rally, an exiled Tibetan monk said. A state news agency said the monk died Thursday.

The 21-year-old monk, Phuntsog, who like many Tibetans goes by only one name, set himself on fire Wednesday afternoon on a main street near the Kirti monastery in Aba county, in Sichuan province, said Kusho Tsering, a monk now living in Dharmsala, India.

The official Xinhua News Agency cited an unidentified county government spokesman as saying the monk died early Thursday, more than 10 hours after the self-immolation, because monks refused to let police take him to a hospital.

The exile’s account highlights simmering tensions in Tibet and Tibetan-inhabited regions in western China amid several anniversaries this month, including the March 10 anniversary of the unsuccessful revolt against China that caused the Dalai Lama to flee in 1959. Aba has for years been the scene of large protests involving hundreds of monks and citizens.


Bus rolls off bridge, kills 17

NEW DELHI | Police said a bus carrying Hindu pilgrims veered off a bridge and crashed onto the ground below in western India, killing at least 17 people.

Police official S.R. Rokhade said 29 were injured in the crash before dawn Thursday in Maharashtra state. The cause was being investigated.

The pilgrims were returning home after visiting a popular shrine of a Hindu saint.

The site of the crash, Malkapur, is about 160 miles northeast of Mumbai, India’s financial capital.

The World Health Organization said India has the highest annual road death toll in the world.

Police figures show more than 110,000 deaths occur annually on India’s roads. The majority are caused by speeding, bad roads, overcrowding and poor vehicle maintenance.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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