- - Sunday, December 2, 2012

RAS AL-AYN — A leader of an al Qaeda-inspired militant group fighting the regime in Syria said his men do not fear death and they are determined to form an Islamic state.

Jabhat al-Nusra — Arabic for “the Support Front” — has taken responsibility for suicide bombings and other attacks on regime targets across the country.

The group has raised fears of an expanding Islamic militant element among the forces seeking to topple President Bashar Assad.

“Thanks to our strong faith, we do not fear death because we think that if you are killed by the hands of this regime, then we will be martyrs and we will go to paradise,” said Sheik Abu Ahmed, 41, a regional military commander for Jabhat al-Nusra in the northern Hasaka region.

“We want Shariah [Islamic law] to be applied because it’s the right path for all humanity,” he added. “All these constitutional laws couldn’t realize the people’s happiness.”

Abu Ahmed did not give his real name in an interview with The Associated Press or explain why he was using a nom de guerre.

He and his fighters were reluctant to reveal much personal information or say what they did before the civil war.


U.S., China conduct trust-building exercise

CHENGDU — The U.S. and Chinese militaries have wrapped up a modest disaster-relief exercise hailed as a tentative trust-building step amid growing suspicions between the Asia-Pacific region’s largest armed forces.

While not a full-fledged operation, the two-day exercise at People’s Liberation Army barracks outside the city of Chengdu consisted of U.S. and Chinese officers sitting around a table facing a flat-panel video screen and discussing how they would respond to an earthquake in a fictional third country.

Though this was the eighth meeting to discuss disaster relief, it was the first time both sides discussed a joint response to a simulated disaster.

Washington and Beijing have talked about boosting military cooperation for more than a decade.

But distrust runs high and disagreements over Taiwan, North Korea and China’s assertive claims to disputed territories in the East and South China seas remain potential flash points.

China’s military buildup and Washington’s decision to redeploy more weaponry and troops to the Asia-Pacific region have added to the tensions.

The modest scope of the tabletop simulation that ended Friday underscores the underlying hesitation and distrust on both sides, particularly in Beijing, which tends to view military exchanges as a form of diplomatic leverage to be severed at times of tension.


Hindus protest destruction of temple

KARACHI — Pakistani Hindus Sunday protested the destruction of a Hindu temple in the southern port city of Karachi. The temple was razed, along with some nearby homes, by a builder.

Minority Hindus have complained of increasing harassment and discrimination in Muslim-dominated Pakistan in recent years, including the destruction or desecration of their places of worship.

Residents and members of the Hindu community said Sunday a builder with a police escort razed the small temple in one of the older neighborhoods of Karachi, along with some surrounding buildings.

The outer walls and roof of the temple were demolished, and rubble was strewn about the area. Local residents said authorities took statues and artifacts out of the building before it was destroyed.


Security forces raidterrorist training camp

KHARTOUM — Security forces killed two suspected terrorists and arrested more than 20 others in a raid on an Islamist training camp, a state governor said Sunday.

“Over the last two days, up until this morning, security services and police attacked them in their training camp, killing two, while four police were wounded,” said Ahmed Abbas, the governor of Sinnar state in southeast Sudan.

“They arrested more than 20 of them, including the leaders of the group, one of whom is well-known to the security services.”

He said the Islamist extremists, from a group which he did not identify, had set up camp inside Dinder National Park, a vast wildlife preserve that straddles three Sudanese states including Sinnar. It also borders Ethiopia.

More than a month ago the militants attacked park police and stole weapons from them, Mr. Abbas said.


Seven missing in tunnel accident

TOKYO — At least seven people were feared missing Sunday after about 150 concrete panels fell from the roof of a tunnel on the main highway linking Tokyo with central Japan.

Efforts to rescue any survivors trapped inside the tunnel were hindered by heavy smoke after one vehicle caught fire inside the Sasago Tunnel, about 50 miles outside Tokyo.

Rescuers also temporarily suspended work because of fears of a further collapse. They were attempting to reach at least several vehicles believed buried in the rubble, including a truck whose driver was trapped inside and had called his company for help.

Local media reported that at least three bodies had been found inside the tunnel.

Executives for Central Japan Expressway Co. said the company was investigating why the concrete panels had given way. A check of the tunnel’s roof in September and October found nothing amiss, they said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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