- - Tuesday, October 9, 2012

BRUSSELS — The killings of more than 130 U.S. and allied forces by Afghan troops or those dressed like them is not deterring NATO countries from the war in Afghanistan, two senior U.S. defense officials said Tuesday.

As NATO defense ministers gather this week, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan will tell worried allies Wednesday what the U.S. is doing to stop the escalating insider attacks.

The officials told reporters that so far NATO ministers attending the conference here have not used the meeting to threaten any additional withdrawals of troops or to seek to limit the combat use of their forces as a result of the attacks.

U.S. officials, including Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta, are expected to assure the ministers that commanders have come up with a range of ways to reduce the attacks.

And they will insist that while the Taliban has seized on the attacks as a way to derail the fight and the trust between allied and Afghan forces, it is not yet a threat to the war strategy.


Official: Gunmen stole Zetas leader’s body

MEXICO CITY — Mexican marines gunned down one of Mexico’s most feared drug lords outside a baseball game near the Texas border, then handed over the body to local authorities in a town where it was snatched by armed men in a predawn raid on a funeral home, officials said Tuesday.

The theft of the body believed to be Zetas founding member Heriberto Lazcano adds a bizarre and embarrassing twist to one of the most significant victories in Mexico’s militarized battle with organized crime. In two months, the man who sharply expanded it, President Felipe Calderon, leaves office.

Officials said that, with the body missing, the remaining evidence of Lazcano’s fall consists of three fingerprints and a few photos of the army special forces deserter whose brutal paramilitary tactics helped define the devastating six-year war involving Mexico’s drug gangs and authorities.

Mr. Calderon said in a speech Tuesday that the evidence clearly indicated that Lazcano had been killed. The president praised the marines’ action, though he stopped short of an unqualified declaration that the Zetas’ leader was dead.


Shells explode at military test site

MOSCOW — A series of blasts from exploding shells rocked a Russian military test site Tuesday, breaking windows and releasing giant clouds of smoke over the city of Orenburg near the Kazakhstan border.

The emergency services said one military officer was hospitalized, but no other injury was reported.

Military prosecutor Yevgeny Ivanov said on state television that the explosions were set off by a fire that may have been caused by someone smoking. The shells were being transported in crates in preparation for future disposal.


Thousands march to mark killing of Coptic Christians

CAIRO — Several thousand Egyptians marched for miles through Cairo on Tuesday, marking the anniversary of a military crackdown on Christian protesters that killed 26 people and demanding retribution against army leaders they hold responsible for the deaths.

Muslim clerics, Christian priests, activists and liberal former lawmakers joined the procession, filling large boulevards to memorialize the “Maspero massacre,” referring to the name of the state TV building overlooking the Nile River where the violence occurred a year ago.

The protest last year was led by hundreds of Christians angered over a string of attacks on churches and denouncing the military — which ruled the country at the time — for failing to protect them. Soldiers attacked the crowd, with military vehicles running over some protesters, while others were killed by gunshots. Almost all the dead were Christians.


City government linked to Mafia dissolved

ROME — The Italian government has dissolved the administration of the Mafia-infiltrated southern city of Reggio Calabria after a city counselor was arrested in connection with organized crime.

Interior Minister Annamaria Cancellieri announced the decision Tuesday. It followed an investigation into the city administration after the arrest last year of a city counselor on Mafia-related charges.

Calabria is home to the powerful ‘ndrangheta organized crime syndicate.

Italian law calls for such investigations to determine if there was any possible Mafia infiltration in the city administration.

Ms. Cancellieri said this is the first time the administration of a provincial capital had been dissolved. Three commissioners will run the city for 18 months until elections.


Military accuses rebels of shelling state capital

KHARTOUM — Rebels have shelled the capital of South Kordofan state near the border with South Sudan, killing five civilians and wounding more than 20 others, the Sudanese military said Tuesday.

Sudanese military spokesman Col. Sawarmy Khalid said rebel forces fired “about eight” shells Monday, 3.5 miles outside the town.

Rebels confirmed the attack but denied any casualties, saying they targeted “military installations” in response to “extensive shelling” by government forces in areas of the state the rebels claim to control.

Violence erupted in South Kordofan last year, shortly before South Sudan declared independence under a deal that ended decades of civil war.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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