- - Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DERA ISMAIL KHAN — The Taliban released a video Wednesday that they say shows the heads of 17 Pakistani soldiers captured in a cross-border raid from Afghanistan this week and beheaded.

The bloody attack showed the threat still posed by the Pakistani Taliban despite army offensives. The militants increasingly have used sanctuaries in eastern Afghanistan to attack border areas in Pakistan’s northwest.

Pakistan has criticized NATO and Afghan forces for not doing enough to stop the attacks, but it has received little sympathy.

The Afghan government and its allies have long faulted Pakistan for failing to target Afghan Taliban militants and their allies who use Pakistani territory to launch attacks in Afghanistan.

The Pakistani and Afghan Taliban are allies, but the former has focused on fighting the Pakistani government, while the latter has concentrated on attacking foreign and local forces in Afghanistan.


Putin orders reform of parliament

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin submitted a bill Wednesday that would change how the upper house of the Russian parliament is formed, a move he said would make it more democratic but critics said wouldn’t change the body’s role as an obedient tool of the Kremlin.

Under the current system, the Federation Council is made up of randomly chosen former officials or rich businessmen with government links, with two representatives for each of Russia’s 87 regions.

Mr. Putin’s bill would have candidates for provincial governorships publicly name their choice for an upper-house member from the region ahead of local elections. The second candidate for each province should be a member of its legislature, Mr. Putin said.

The bill requires approval from the lower house of parliament as well as the Federation Council itself. Given both bodies’ genuflection to Mr. Putin, it is all but certain to pass quickly.


Court outlaws pedophile association

THE HAGUE — A Dutch court outlawed a pedophile association Wednesday, saying its promotion of sexual contact between adults and children breaches the country’s generally accepted moral values.

The civil court in Assen ordered the association, called Martijn, to be dissolved immediately.

The court said in a statement that Martijn is a threat to public order because it “glorifies sexual contact [between adults and children] and presents it as something that should be normal and acceptable.”

Its chairman, Marthijn Uittenbogaard, called the decision “an attack on the freedom of expression.”


Premier threatens early elections

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s prime minister threatened Wednesday to call early elections that could tighten his grip on power if the nation’s political factions fail to break an impasse that has all but paralyzed the government.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s gambit is the latest in a monthslong political crisis in Iraq that has Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds alike calling for his resignation.

The impasse also has fueled fears of a possible flare-up in violence by insurgents seeking to take advantage of the chaos. Bombings targeting a Shiite cleric and an anti-al Qaeda militia fighter killed at least 11 people Wednesday in Baghdad.

Mr. al-Maliki, a Shiite, said continued refusals by his political opponents to negotiate a resolution to the crisis would leave him little choice but to call for a new vote.

His threat to hold snap elections comes in response to months of demands for his resignation by Sunni, Kurdish and some Shiite leaders who say he has sidelined them from power. It’s unclear whether they have the political will or enough support in parliament to oust Mr. al-Maliki in a no-confidence vote.


2 bodies recovered in mall roof collapse

ELLIOT LAKE, Ontario — Officials recovered two bodies after dismantling a piece of a partially collapsed Ontario shopping mall on Wednesday and said they are confident no other victims are inside.

The renewed rescue effort came after angry residents shouted down fears that the unstable structure made the work too risky to continue.

Police Staff Inspector Bill Neadles of the Toronto-based Heavy Urban Search and Rescue team said the second victim was being removed.

Rescuers had not detected signs of life after detecting breathing inside the rubble early Monday, nearly two days after Saturday’s collapse.

Authorities called off work Monday afternoon amid fears of another collapse, but dozens of angry residents protested in front of City Hall, saying that abandoning trapped comrades would be unthinkable in the culture of the city, a former mining community.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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