World News: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, NKorea, Australia Updates

MGN Online
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) -- A pair of attacks in southern Afghanistan in the past 24 hours killed 18 people as Taliban fighters escalate their activity while U.S.-led foreign forces reduce their presence and hand over primary security responsibility to Afghan troops.
In the most recent attack, a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near a police checkpoint and a bank today. At least six people died -- four of them civilians, one police officer and one private security guard. Another 24 people were wounded.
Another 12 people were killed in an ambush involving a roadside bomb in Helmand province yesterday evening.
Separately, a NATO service member was killed by insurgents in the country's east, according to a military statement.
No group immediately claimed responsibility for any of the attacks.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) -- Pakistani intelligence officials say a suspected U.S. drone strike has killed at least three militants in a northwestern tribal region near the Afghan border.
They say two missiles hit a room of an abandoned seminary in Mussaki village in North Waziristan Saturday. Militants from Turkmenistan were among those at the seminary but the nationality of the dead was not immediately known.
The two officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
North Waziristan is home to a mix of Pakistani, Afghan and al-Qaida-linked foreign militants.
The U.S. drone program causes extreme tension between Pakistan and the United States. Washington says it needs to send drones after militants because Pakistan refuses to engage them militarily. Pakistan says the strikes violate its sovereignty.

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Witnesses say hundreds of demonstrators have taken to the streets of Iraqi cities to protest lawmakers' perks despite an intense security crackdown.
Organizers say the aim of Saturday's protests is to demand an end to generous pension benefits granted to members of parliament, although demonstrators also voiced long-standing grievances about the poor state of public services.
Authorities in Baghdad refused to permit demonstrations there. They put in place extraordinary security measures, such as blocking bridges and deploying large numbers of rifle-toting soldiers and police in major squares.
Iraqi authorities cracked down firmly on anti-government protests the erupted at the start of the Arab Spring in early 2011. A new wave of ongoing protests against the Shiite-led government erupted in Sunni Muslim areas in December.

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- An aide to Yemen's prime minister says the senior official escaped unharmed after unknown gunmen opened fire on his convoy.
Ali al-Sarari tells The Associated Press the gunmen were riding in a vehicle without license plates. Al-Sarari said they opened fire at the three-car convoy of Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Bassindwa, spraying the speeding vehicles with bullets.
Al-Sarari said some of the vehicles were pockmarked but Bassindwa escaped unharmed. It was not clear who was behind the attack but militants have carried out a number of assassinations, mainly against security officers.
Meanwhile, Yemeni security officials say suspected al-Qaida-linked gunmen have shot and killed a senior intelligence officer. The attack took place in a southern province where the intelligence official had organized local tribes in a campaign to weed out militants from the area.

Tunisians protest Islamist gov't as crisis deepens
TUNIS, Tunisia (AP) -- Thousands of Tunisians have marched through the capital calling for the resignation of the Islamist-led government as the nation's political crisis deepens.
Saturday's march was organized by a coalition of opposition groups known as the National Salvation Front, which is calling for the resignation of the government and the dissolution of the assembly elected in 2011 to write the constitution.
The assassination of an opposition politician in July, the second in six months, has sharply polarized the country and prompted a walkout from the 217-member assembly by some 60 opposition deputies.
Negotiations mediated by the main labor union have yet to bear fruit.
Since the overthrow of its dictator in 2011, Tunisia has struggled with its transition to democracy.

Suspected sect members in Nigeria kill at least 24
MAIDUGURI, Nigeria (AP) -- A security official says suspected Islamic sect members have ambushed and killed at least 24 members of a youth vigilante group in northeastern Nigeria.
The attack, which occurred Friday when the Civilian Joint Task Force vigilantes were on a mission to find sect members, also left 36 people missing, the official said on condition of anonymity because he is not permitted to speak to the media.
The attack took place near Monguno town, 158 kilometers (98 miles) from the city of Maiduguri, the Borno state capital where the Boko Haram Islamic ideology started years ago.
The official said Saturday that about 100 Nigerians were ambushed by sect members dressed in military uniforms.
Two attacks earlier in the week killed at least 20 vigilantes.

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) -- North Korea says it rescinded its recent invitation to a U.S. envoy because Washington perpetrated "grave provocation" by allegedly mobilizing nuclear-capable bombers during recent military drills with Seoul.
Bob King, the U.S. special envoy for North Korean human rights, had been scheduled to visit North Korean on Friday to seek the release of an American detainee.
An unidentified North Korean Foreign Ministry spokesman said in remarks carried by state media late Saturday that his country intended to allow King's visit although the U.S. and South Korea were conducting annual drills.
But he says the visit could not take place because the U.S. allegedly infiltrated B-52H strategic bombers into the sky above the peninsula during the exercises. He called it "the most blatant nuclear blackmail" against the North Korea.

Australian PM makes final major campaign pitch
CANBERRA, Australia (AP) -- Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has made his final major campaign pitch to revive his Labor Party's chances at elections this week, promising tax breaks for small businesses and more work for local contractors on infrastructure projects if his government is re-elected.
Rudd officially launched his center-left party's campaign in his hometown of Brisbane on Sunday. It is the capital of Queensland, a battleground state for swing seats that will decide the election Sept. 7.
Rudd was dumped as prime minister by his own government colleagues in 2010, only to regain the top job in a similar leadership wrangle in June. On Sunday, he dismissed opinion polls that show opposition leader Tony Abbott's conservative coalition is headed for a clear victory.

PRAGUE (AP) -- An official says a passenger train in eastern Czech Republic smashed into a herd of cattle, killing 17 of them. No people were injured.
Martin Drapal, spokesman for Czech Rail Safety Inspection, says the train heading from the town of Krnov to the city of Olomouc hit the animals two hours before midnight on Friday.
The damage to the train is estimated at about $5,000. Drapal said in a statement Saturday that the train track had to be closed for almost five hours after the incident.
Trains in the country collide with animals from time to time but such a massive crash is exceptional. Authorities are investigating why the cows were on the track.