Saturday, April 15, 2006

U.S. Pays to Recover Data in Afghanistan

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- U.S. investigators armed with a "box full" of cash have paid thousands of dollars to buy back stolen computer drives, many of which contain sensitive military data, shopkeepers outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan said Friday.

Some drives found this week had classified military secrets, including maps, charts and intelligence reports that detailed how Taliban and al-Qaeda leaders have used southwestern Pakistan as a planning and training base for attacks in Afghanistan, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Dozens of drives are still for sale.

The surfacing of the computer devices has sparked a probe into how security could have been breached at the heavily guarded Bagram base, which coordinates the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants.

Lt. Mike Cody, a military spokesman, said he could not comment because an investigation was underway. Shopkeepers said they were not interested in the data and were selling the drives only for the value of the hardware.

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· KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- Forty-one Taliban fighters and six Afghan policemen were killed in a fierce battle in southern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Saturday.

Six Taliban fighters were killed Friday in an airstrike by U.S.-led forces in eastern Afghanistan after blasts elsewhere in the country killed three policemen and wounded two British service members.

· NEW DELHI-- Two bombs shook New Delhi's main mosque shortly before worshipers gathered for evening prayers, scattering terrified crowds through the ornate 17th-century complex, officials said. At least 13 people were injured. No one asserted responsibility.

· SEOUL -- North Korea's nominal No. 2 leader said Pyongyang could increase its military deterrent a thousand times over to counter a hostile U.S. policy, implying that the communist state might expand its nuclear arsenal.

The comments by Kim Yong Nam came a day after the country's chief nuclear envoy said Pyongyang might boost its nuclear deterrent if talks on ending its atomic programs remained deadlocked.

· TOKYO -- A court rejected a lawsuit filed by about 3,200 citizens claiming Japan's deployment of troops in Iraq violated the country's pacifist constitution, a court official said.

Japan has sent about 550 troops to Iraq since early 2004 to purify water, repair schools and help in other humanitarian tasks in the country's largest overseas military operation since World War II.

· BEIJING -- A man whose face was badly disfigured after an attack by a bear received a partial face transplant, a hospital said. If the report is verified, China would be the second country after France to attempt the procedure.


· BUJUMBURA, Burundi -- Burundi's government lifted a midnight-to-dawn curfew for the first time since 1993, saying most of the country was stable after years of civil war, in which at least 250,000 people have died, following the assassination of the country's first democratically elected president.


· ROME -- Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's hopes of reversing his election loss were dashed when the Interior Ministry said disputed ballots for the lower house of parliament numbered 2,131, not enough to overturn Romano Prodi's 24,000-vote majority.

But the media tycoon, who has refused to concede defeat after the center-left won a razor-thin majority in national elections April 9-10, remained defiant and said he still hoped his coalition would prevail.

the middle east

· ALEXANDRIA, Egypt -- A man with a knife attacked worshipers at two Coptic churches in Alexandria during Mass, killing one person and wounding five before being arrested, officials said.

-- From News Services

© 2006 The Washington Post Company