Nine killed by twin bombings in Russia's Dagestan

At least nine people, including a top regional police official, have been killed by two bombs in Russia's restive North Caucasus republic of Dagestan.

A car bomb was detonated at about 0830 (0430 GMT) outside the offices of the local interior ministry and the FSB security agency in the town of Kizlyar.

The second bomb went off about 35 minutes later on the same street.

Russia is on alert after double suicide bombings on the Moscow Metro on Monday morning, which killed 39 people.

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has called on security forces to "scrape from the sewers" those responsible. Investigators say they believe the bombers were linked to militants operating in the North Caucasus.

Last month, Chechen rebel leader Doku Umarov threatened that "the zone of military operations will be extended to the territory of Russia... the war is coming to their cities".

Violence in Dagestan has escalated following a crackdown on militants in Chechnya. In June, its interior minister was shot dead.

Officials said the chief of police in Kizlyar, Col Vitaly Vedernikov, was killed in the second of Wednesday's blasts.

He was in a crowd gathered at the site of the car bomb, which a suicide bomber infiltrated before blowing himself up, they added.

Kizlyar is situated close to Dagestan's border with Chechnya.
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US official doubts N.Korea role in warship sinking

South Korean navy ship ATS-28 Gwangyang searches for possible survivors
and bodies from a sunken warship

A senior US official on Monday doubted that North Korea was involved in the recent sinking of a South Korean warship, in which dozens of crewmen are missing.

Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg said that while South Korea was leading the investigation into Friday night's maritime explosion, he had heard nothing to implicate any other country.

"Obviously the full investigation needs to go forward. But to my knowledge, there's no reason to believe or to be concerned that that may have been the cause," Steinberg told reporters.

US naval forces are assisting South Korea in search, recovery and salvage efforts for the warship, 46 of whose crewmen remained missing.

South Korean officials said there was no evidence so far that Pyongyang attacked the 1,200-tonne Cheonan, which was torn in half in the Yellow Sea.

However, Defense Minister Kim Tae-Young said a drifting North Korean mine dating back to the 1950-53 war might have caused the blast, or the North might have intentionally sent a mine floating towards the ship.
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Moscow metro blasts: female suicide bombers kill 35

Two female suicide bombers known as “black widows” blew themselves up in Moscow’s busy metro during morning rush hour killing at least 35 people, according to the Russian authorities.

A further 40 people were reported badly wounded.

Though no group has so far claimed responsibility for the atrocity, security sources said early indications suggested that the suicide bombers were from the volatile North Caucasus region that includes Chechnya.

The bombers struck two separate metro stations in central Moscow – Lubyanka and Park Kultyry - in a carefully coordinated attack.

At least 22 people were reported dead at the Lubyanka metro station, which is situated close to the headquarters of the FSB security service, the successor agency to the KGB.

Witnesses said an explosion tore through one of the carriages as the train was coming into the station killing commuters onboard as well as people standing on the platform. Dozens were reported wounded.

One witness, a policeman, said the bomb went off as the train’s doors opened and people poured out. Officials said the suicide bombers were wearing belts around their bodies packed with explosives. There were unconfirmed reports that they had set off the bombs using their mobile phones.

A second explosion at the busy Park Kultyry metro station located close to Moscow’s famous Gorky Park followed about forty minutes later.

It is not clear how many people that blast killed and wounded though some reports said up to fifteen people had lost their lives. Officials said the attacks had been conducted in identical fashion and that the overall death toll was likely to rise.

There were unconfirmed reports of a third blast at a third metro station, Prospekt Mira, but officials said they could not confirm whether that was true or not.

Traffic on the metro system, one of the world’s busiest, was disrupted as emergency service vehicles surrounded the stations affected. Police said sniffer dogs were checking for explosives before removing victims’ bodies. Mobile phone networks crashed as people scrambled to find out about their loved ones, long traffic jams formed, and emergency hotlines were set up. Bookmark and Share

Bin Laden Warns US Against Executing 9/11 Mastermind

Osama bin Laden resurfaced yesterday in an audio message in which he threatened to kill American prisoners if a US court decides to execute Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the alleged mastermind of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

The short message, broadcast by al-Jazeera, accused President Obama of continuing the policies of his predecessors “especially by supporting Israel in its continued occupation of Palestine”. It warned that if the death penalty is carried out against Mr Mohammed, al-Qaeda will “execute whoever we capture”.

The message was ridiculed by a senior US counter-terrorism official as “the height of absurdity” for suggesting that al-Qaeda had only now resolved to murder US citizens. “They may have forgotten Danny Pearl and all the others they’ve slaughtered but we haven’t,” the official said, referring to The Wall Street Journal reporter who was beheaded in 2002.

Experts tentatively confirmed that the voice on the tape was that of the al-Qaeda leader, who was last heard from in January.

The Obama Administration said in November that Mr Mohammed would be tried in a civilian court close to Ground Zero in New York but has since backtracked after protest from 9/11 victims’ groups. Only one known US soldier, Private Bowe Bergdahl, is being held by al-Qaeda. He was captured in Afghanistan last year.
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Saudis Arrest 113 Militants

Saudi Arabia has arrested some 113 suspected militants linked to al-Qaeda who were allegedly planning attacks on oil facilities, the Interior Ministry announced Wednesday.

One group of 101 suspects - including 47 Saudis, 51 Yemenis, a Bangladeshi, an Eritrean, and a Somali - have been placed under arrest, the ministry's statement said.

Weapons, cameras, computers, pre-paid phone lines and documents were also seized, along with big amounts of cash.

The arrests came after security members killed two Saudi men, disguised as women, during earlier clashes. The two men were killed before detonating the explosive belts they were wearing

Police found another dozen grenades and money, including foreign currencies, on the two men.

Investigations also led to the further breakup of two other al- Qaeda linked networks, resulting in the arrests of a further 11 Saudis and one Yemeni, before their attacks could be carried out.

In August last year, the world's biggest oil exporter arrested a group of 44 suspects believed to be part of an al-Qaeda network in the kingdom.

Also last year, Saudi authorities published a list of wanted men worldwide saying they adhered to 'deviant' ideologies - common Saudi terminology for al-Qaeda.

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8 children stabbed to death at Chinese school

A former medical worker allegedly stabbed to death eight young children and wounded five others Tuesday in a bloody rampage outside an elementary school in eastern China.

The attacker struck in the morning as students arrived for classes, mingling with parents at the school gates before suddenly pulling out his knife and slashing children, according to witnesses interviewed on local television.

In the aftermath, doctors treated small children and bodies lay covered in bloody sheets after the attack at Nanping City Experimental Elementary School in Fujian province. Police officers manned a cordon around the school. Some comforted distraught parents.

China has witnessed a series of school attacks in recent years, most blamed on people with personal grudges or suffering from mental illness, leading to calls for improved security.

The rampage in Nanping was finally stopped by passers-by and school security guards and the attacker was arrested, the reports said. The suspect was identified as Zheng Minsheng, 41.

Zheng worked as a senior nurse in a community clinic before resigning last June, the official Xinhua News Agency said, citing Huang Zhongping, spokesman for the Nanping city public security bureau.

Zheng was known to have a history of mental illness, said a man surnamed Wu in the Nanping city government office, who would not give his full name as is common among Chinese officials.

An unidentified former co-worker interviewed on Fujian television said Zheng was "difficult to get along with."

Eight children were killed, and five were being treated at a hospital, Wu said. Six died at the scene, which was smeared with blood from the sidewalk to the floor of an inner reception room.

The victims' ages were not immediately known, but Chinese elementary schools typically have students ages 6 to 12.

The school was closed and students were sent home for the day. Counseling will be provided for students when classes resume Wednesday, Xinhua said.
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French national strike disrupts transport

French public sector workers are holding a day-long, nationwide strike to protest against the government's social and economic policies.

The strike was causing some transport disruption, French media reports said.

The protest comes two days after regional elections in which President Nicolas Sarkozy's centre-right UMP party suffered a heavy defeat.

Resistance to Mr Sarkozy's economic reform programme was widely thought to have contributed to the loss.

On Monday, the French president reacted by reshuffling his cabinet, replacing Labour Minister Xavier Darcos with Budget Minister Eric Woerth.

Mr Sarkozy has also suggested he may slow the pace of unpopular reforms.

Hundreds of train workers were expected to walk during the strike out over planned reforms to the pension service, prompting travel problems across the country's rail network.

About half the trains were running on Paris commuter lines on Tuesday morning, while nearly two-thirds of national high-speed TGV services were operating, according to French news agency AFP.

National rail operator SNCF said services would be disrupted until early on Wednesday.

Teachers protesting over job cuts were also joining the demonstration, along with other public sector workers complaining about conditions at work and their lack of spending power.

No disruption was expected on the international Eurostar and Thalys rail links.
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Afghan bomb attacks kill at least 12 civilians

A suicide bomber killed 10 civilians on Sunday when he detonated his explosives near a crowd in southern Afghanistan, while a roadside bomb in the east killed two others, officials said.

Violence in Afghanistan has surged, with 2009 being the worst year since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in 2001. More than 2,400 civilians were killed last year, a 14 percent rise on 2008, the United Nations said.

In the first incident, a suicide bomber driving a three-wheeled rickshaw detonated his explosives near a crowd who were holding a picnic for the Afghan New Year in Gereshk district of Helmand province, the provincial governor's spokesman said.

"The target was an Afghan Army vehicle. The first reports are that 10 civilians have been killed and seven more wounded," said spokesman Daoud Ahmadi, adding the bomb missed its target.

A witness at the scene told Reuters by telephone he had been no more than 50 meters away from the blast.

"The bomber was driving a rickshaw and was targeting an army vehicle. When the soldiers saw the rickshaw they sped up. The bomb exploded in a crowded area where many people were having picnics," said Khan Mohammad.

"Many people have been killed and wounded," he said.

A spokesman for NATO-led forces in Kabul said none of its forces were killed or wounded in the attack, but that foreign troops were now in the area assessing the situation.

In February, thousands of U.S. Marines launched an assault in Marjah, another part of Helmand, which had been under the insurgents' control. The operation was described as the biggest offensive of the eight-year war.

There are some 120,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan and that is set to rise to nearly 150,000 by the end of this year as Washington sends in more troops as part of a new strategy to try and quell the mounting violence.

Separately, in Khost province in the southeast of the country, a roadside bomb killed two Afghan civilians and wounded four, a senior police chief said.

"A civilian car hit a roadside bomb on the outskirts of Khost city. Two civilians were killed and four wounded," acting provincial police chief Mohammad Yaqoub Mandozai told Reuters.
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Israeli army confirms air strikes on Gaza

Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) on Friday confirmed an air strike on the Gaza strip earlier in the day as the Quartet of Middle East peace mediators were meeting in Moscow.

Israeli aircraft struck six targets in the Gaza strip early Friday, in response to a deadly Palestinian rocket attack against the Jewish state one day ago, said the IDF.

Among the targets are a weapons-manufacturing site in the north of the strip and five tunnels in southern Gaza, two of which are suspected of being used for military attacks against Israel, the IDF said in a statement released hours after the strikes.

The attacks started shortly after midnight and the first one targeted a hilly land to the east of Khan Younis city in southern Gaza. Residents said militants used to stand there to watch the borders between Gaza and Israel.

Another raid in Gaza city destroyed a metal workshop, witnesses said. Israel believes blacksmith workshops are used to produce rockets that Gaza factions fire on Israel.

In the third aerial bombing, F-16 warplanes dropped five bombs on the tunnels, damaging three underground sandy passages, residents in Rafah city said.

The air strike came a day after a Qassam rocket launched from Gaza landed in a Kibbutz in Ashkelon and exploded in a greenhouse. A Thai worker died after being hit and seriously injured.

A pro-al Qaeda group, Jund Anssar Al-Sunna brigades, claimed responsibility for the attack.

The Israeli army vowed to continue acting against such attacks, saying it "holds Hamas as solely responsible for maintaining peace and quiet in the Gaza Strip."
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Trial of Sri Lanka ex-army chief Fonseka adjourned

The second of two courts martial set up to try Sri Lanka's ex-army chief, Sarath Fonseka, has abruptly adjourned.

The three-judges said they wanted to clarify whether they could conduct both sets of proceedings, a defense lawyer told the BBC.

Wednesday's trial was to have heard charges that Gen Fonseka broke procedure on military procurement.

Gen Fonseka says all the charges are politically motivated and an attempt to bar him from forthcoming elections.

He was arrested by the army last month, after losing presidential elections to incumbent Mahinda Rajapaksa in January.

Gen Fonseka led Sri Lanka's army when it defeated Tamil Tiger rebels last year but he and President Rajapaksa later fell out.

'Delaying tactic'

On Tuesday the general appeared before the court on charges of participating in politics while in uniform.

The trial was adjourned to 6 April after defense objections. Wednesday's hearing was adjourned indefinitely.

The army said the tribunal wanted to be reconvened to ensure transparency and a lack of prejudice.

A spokesman for the general said it was a delaying tactic aimed at preventing him from campaigning for 8 April general elections.

"The army judges did not wake up this morning and discover that they have been appointed to both courts," the spokesman, Anura Kumara Dissanayake, said. "They knew it from the day they were appointed."

Separately, two other cases are pending at the Court of Appeal and the Supreme Court, both petitioning for the general's release.
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17 Australians missing after Fiji cyclone

The Federal Government is attempting to contact 17 Australian citizens missing in Fiji's north after Cyclone Tomas hit the Pacific Island nation earlier this week.

The Government's overseas aid program, AusAID, says 35 Australians known to be in the area have been accounted for and efforts are continuing to contact the others.

"Thirty-five of the 52 Australians registered in the north are reported as safe and well," AusAID's acting director-general, Peter Baxter, said.

"But communications are still down in the area and we expect to make contact with the others as the next couple of days progress."

The lack of communication is also hindering aid efforts, but an Australian Hercules military plane carrying emergency supplies is on its way to Fiji at the request of the interim government.

The northern and eastern parts of Fiji were the worst affected by the cyclone.

The country's disaster management team says thousands of people have been left homeless and some villages have been completely wiped out.

Vuli Gauna from the Fijian Red Cross says relief teams should have a better picture of the damage later today.

"It's basically our priority to ensure that any medical or first aid needs are cared for," he said.

Cyclone Tomas has been downgraded to a category 3 system but strong wind warnings remain in place for Fiji's southern regions.
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Cyclone Tomas hits northern Fiji

Satellite image shows Cyclone Tomas building over Fiji

A powerful cyclone has hit northern Fiji, damaging buildings and crops, and forcing at least 5,000 people to leave their homes.

Cyclone Tomas, a category four storm, is packing winds of up to 170km (106 miles) an hour.

The storm is forecast to intensify and shipping has been warned to stay away; a night-time curfew is in operation.

Schools have closed, public services have been suspended, and international flights have been cancelled.

Fiji Meteorological Service (FMS) said gusts had caused havoc across the north of the country. Power has been disrupted and roofs torn off by the wind.

Northern impact

There were no early reports of injuries, but officials said a woman was swept away in heavy seas as the storm approached.

The cyclone was reported to be generating waves up to 7.2 metres (24 feet) high.

The head of Fiji's Disaster Management Office, Pajiliai Dobui, told local radio that Cyclone Tomas was likely to be the most powerful storm in recent years.

Fiji's main islands of Vanua Levu and Viti Levu are expected to get off lightly as the storm heads towards the northeast.

Smaller islands are expected to be badly hit by winds, heavy rains and high seas. Communication has already been lost with several smaller islands.

"You can see trees swaying and likewise the electrical wires and cables that are running between the poles," an official in the northern region, Inia Seruiratu, told state radio.

The cyclone was said to be moving slowly, increasing the potential for damage.
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Strong earthquake rattles buildings around Japan

A strong magnitude 6.6 earthquake hit off the eastern coast of Japan on Sunday, rattling buildings across a broad swath of the country, including the crowded capital.

There were no reports of casualties, with only light damage to structures near the epicenter, according to local officials.

The quake hit at 5:08 p.m. and was felt most strongly in central Fukushima prefecture about 130 miles (210 kilometers) northeast of Tokyo, according to the Japan Meteorological Agency.

"It was fairly strong, but didn't knock over anything in the office," said Ken Yoshida, a town official in Naraha, one of the hardest-hit areas. He said an earthen wall in town was partially toppled.

The earthquake was centered about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the eastern coast at a depth of about 25 miles (40 kilometers), the meteorological agency said.

The government said there was no danger of a tsunami, although slight changes to ocean levels were a possibility in some areas.

It was strong enough to gently sway large buildings in Tokyo and was felt across a broad stretch of Japan's main Honshu and northern Hokkaido islands.

Japan's early warning system predicted the earthquake just before it hit, with public broadcaster NHK interrupting a sumo match to warn residents to take cover.

The country is one of the world's most earthquake-prone countries. In 1995, a magnitude-7.2 quake in the western port city of Kobe killed 6,400 people.

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Six killed in attack on World Vision office in Pakistan

Pakistani police officers at the offices of World Vision in North-West Frontier Province after it was attacked on Wednesday
There are concerns that aid groups are becoming targets for militant groups in Pakistan, after six aid workers were killed when militants struck a World Vision office in the North-West Frontier Province.

It is not the first time an aid group has been targeted and World Vision has suspended its operations in Pakistan. It is likely other groups will soon follow.

World Vision said the office was targeted because it was running programs to help women.

A group of about 15 gunmen stormed into the offices in the Mansehra district on Wednesday.

Witnesses say they gathered the staff together and then dragged them off one by one to a separate room, where they were executed.

They added that a bomb had been thrown as the gunmen left the building after the attack, leaving a large crater by the door.

According to a local police officer quoted by the Associated Press, the bomb was a detonated by remote control after the attackers had left the building.

They left a locally made pressure-cooker bomb that exploded soon after the attackers fled the scene, killing NGO people first by gunfire and then with the blast.

Six Pakistani aid workers, including two women, were killed, and about six others were badly injured.

World Vision Australia chief executive Reverend Tim Costello says the group has now suspended its operations in Pakistan indefinitely.

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Bali mastermind confirmed dead

"Today I can announce to you that after a successful police raid against the terrorists hiding out in Jakarta yesterday, we can confirm that one of those that was killed was Dulmatin, one of the top Southeast Asian terrorists," Yudhoyono said in a speech in Australia's parliament house in Canberra.

Indonesian police shot dead Dulmatin, wanted in the suicide bombings that ripped apart two night clubs in Bali that killed 202 people, and two others in a series of coordinated raids in southern Jakarta on Tuesday.

The raids are a coup in the country's fight against Islamist radicals ahead of a visit by U.S. President Barack Obama later this month.

Dulmatin, an electronics specialist who also trained in Afghanistan, was a top bomb technician for the Southeast Asian Islamist militant group, Jemaah Islamiah.

The U.S. government had a $10 million reward for the capture of Dulmatin, who is said to have been wounded after escaping a raid by Philippine security forces in 2006.

Indonesia's counter-terrorism unit, Detachment 88, has launched raids across the archipelago following the discovery of a militant Islamist training camp in Aceh last month.

Dulmatin was thought to be working with the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines, said Noor Huda Ismail, an Indonesian expert on radical Islamist groups.

Since the 2002 Bali bombings, Indonesian authorities have captured or killed around 440 militant suspects, with around 250 convicted in courts and three executed by firing squad.

Australia congratulated Indonesia on Wednesday over the raids which killed Dulmatin, but Prime Minister Kevin Rudd told Indonesia's leader he could not ease tough warnings of more extremist attacks in the country.

The latest raids could strengthen Jakarta's arguments for a resumption of frozen U.S. military aid for Indonesia's Kopassus special forces, as talks were "still under discussions" ahead of Obama's visit, a spokesman for Yudhoyono told Reuters.

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Quake Kills 51 in Eastern Turkey

At least 51 people died when an earthquake of 6.0 magnitude struck early Monday in eastern Turkey, officials in the region said.

One village was largely destroyed and four others were heavily damaged, the officials said. A second quake with a 5.6 magnitude hit the same area, among scores of aftershocks.

According to Turkey’s Kandilli earthquake observatory, the epicenter of the quake, which struck three miles underground at 4:32 a.m. local time, was 61 miles from the town of Elazig.

“Our citizens lost their lives in five villages,” Muammer Erol, the town’s governor, told NTV, a private news broadcaster.

There were no people still trapped under debris by Monday night, after rescue operations that lasted for hours, Mr. Erol’s office later announced. Emergency officials put the number of injured at 34.

“The important thing is to train local construction workers on methods to build earthquake-resistant buildings without giving up locally available construction materials,” Miktad Kadioglu, professor of meteorology and head of the crisis management center at Istanbul Technical University, told NTV.
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Deadly Blast Rocks Lahore

A car bomb explosion killed 11 people and injured 45 others near the FIA and the Special Interrogation Unit buildings in Model Town, Lahore on Monday.

The commissioner of Lahore says that 11 people have been killed and several injured in a suicide car bombing, which took place near the FIA and the Special Interrogation Unit buildings in Lahore. Eleven of the injured are said to be in critical condition.

Witnesses say that the FIA building has completely collapsed and a number of people are still buried under the rubble.

The DCO added that around
70 people were present at the FIA building at the time of the explosion. He also confirmed that around 600 kilograms of explosives were used in this attack. The police say that the massive explosion has managed to create an 8-foot deep crater.

Meanwhile, medical officials have urged residents of Lahore to come fourth and donate blood to help treat the injured. Security has been placed on high alert across the entire city.

The blast rocked Lahore early this morning and witnesses say that smoke billowing from the explosion could be seen for miles.
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Blast Kills 5 in Iraq as Early General Election Voting Begins

Campaign posters in Baghdad

An explosion killed at least five people in the Iraqi capital Thursday as soldiers, prisoners and hospital patients cast ballots in early voting in the country's general election.

Officials say the blast, caused by either a rocket or a bomb, struck near a polling station that was not being used.

The attack came despite increased security at Baghdad polling centers, where those who may not be able to get to the polls Sunday took part in the early voting session.

Officials have warned that insurgents may increase attacks in an attempt to disrupt the vote, which is only the second parliamentary election since former dictator Saddam Hussein was overthrown in 2003.

On Wednesday, three suicide bombers blew themselves up in Baquba, northeast of the capital, killing at least 31 people in the deadliest attack in weeks.
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Taliban network of 156 caves discovered in Pakistan mountains

A complex network of 156 caves used by the Taliban and al-Qaeda has been discovered by the Pakistan army dug into rocky mountains close to the Afghan border.

The tunnels, which are thought to have been created over five to seven years, were carved into sheer rock within view of the snow-capped peaks of eastern Afghanistan.

The network was found during an offensive against Islamist militants in the country's semi-autonomous tribal areas in which 75 militants were killed.

Maj Gen Tariq Khan said the caves served as a key militant headquarters until troops overran the complex in the offensive.

"There were Egyptians, Uzbeks, Chechens and Afghans killed in the operation," he said.

Bedding including pillows and mattresses were found in the caves in Damadola, in the Bajaur tribal region, suggesting inhabitants had camped out for significant periods.

Maj Gen Khan added: "Al-Qaeda was there. They had occupied the ridges. There were 156 caves designed as a defensive complex.

"We have now cleared this area till the Afghan border, military operation is in its final stages and policing has been started."

He said 75 militants were killed, 76 arrested and 364 forced to surrender in the operation.
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Bomb kills NATO service member, 4 Afghan civilians

A suicide car bomber attacked a NATO convoy Monday outside the major southern Afghan city of Kandahar, killing one NATO service member and four Afghan civilians, officials said.

The attacker waited in a station-wagon taxi near a bridge between the airport and city that NATO troops regularly check for explosives, said Inhamullah Khan, an Afghan army official at the bombing site. The assailant then detonated the bomb as the convoy crossed the bridge in the morning, tossing a military vehicle into the ravine below, Khan said.

The attack killed one NATO service member, said Maj. Marcin Walczak of the Polish Army, a spokesman for the international military coalition. He did not provide the nationality or any other details.

The Interior Ministry confirmed four civilian deaths in a statement. Three of the civilians who died were in a car that had pulled over nearby to wait for the convoy to pass, Khan said.

Kandahar city, the capital of the province of the same name, is east of Helmand province, where thousands of U.S., NATO and Afghan troops are conducting a two-week old offensive to wrest control of the town of Marjah.

The town has long been controlled by the Taliban and the assault is seen as the first step in a multi-month offensive that will eventually target Taliban strongholds around Kandahar city.
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