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Marine commander declares Marja 'cleared'; Militants kill 11 in Philippines

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

AFGHANISTAN

Commander declares Marja 'cleared'

Marines and Afghan troops cleared the last major pocket of resistance in the former Taliban-ruled town of Marja on Saturday -- part of an offensive that is the run-up to a larger showdown this year in neighboring Kandahar province.

After a four-day march, Marines and Afghan troops who fought through the center of Marja linked up with a U.S. Army Stryker battalion on the town's northern edge. The hookup means the operation is somewhere between the clear and hold phases, although the troops anticipate facing intermittent attacks for at least two more weeks.

"Basically, you can say that Marja has been cleared," said Capt. Joshua Winfrey, commander of Lima Company, 3rd Battalion, 6th Marines Regiment.

Capt. Abdelhai Hujum, who spent two decades with various Afghan militias before joining the Afghan army, said he suspected most of the local Taliban buried their guns and blended with the civilian population.

"They're not stupid," Hujum said. "I'd do the same if I saw a company of U.S. Marines coming my way."

-- Associated Press

PHILIPPINES

Militant raid kills 11 in southern village

Suspected al-Qaeda-linked militants raided a village in the southern Philippines early Saturday, killing 11 people and injuring at least 11 others in the country's worst militant attack on civilians in nine years.

Gunmen from the extremist Abu Sayyaf group backed by renegade Muslim separatist rebels fired grenade launchers and automatic rifles while residents were asleep, killing one government-armed militiaman and 10 civilians in the village of Tubigan on Basilan Island, police said.

The attack followed the recent killing of Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad -- wanted for murder and kidnappings, including last year's abduction of three Red Cross workers -- and the arrest of two key members of the militant Islamist faction. Government forces had been told to be on alert for reprisal attacks.

In U.S.-backed counterterrorism strikes over the past six years, Philippine security forces have killed or arrested more than 800 suspected militants, officials said. The Abu Sayyaf group, which is fighting to create an Islamist state in the predominantly Christian country, is on the U.S. list of terrorist organizations.

-- Associated Press

Suicide attack kills 4 in Pakistan's northwest: A suicide car bomber attacked a police station in Pakistan's North-West Frontier Province, killing two police officers and two civilians and wounding more than 20 other people. Elsewhere in the region, a paramilitary commander said his forces had killed 25 militants.

Berlusconi's graft trial to continue: A panel of judges in Milan ruled that Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi's trial on corruption charges will continue, despite a ruling by Italy's highest appellate court Thursday that overturned the conviction of the lawyer Berlusconi is accused of bribing.

Colombian election race gets underway: The race for Colombia's presidency began Saturday, with former defense minister Juan Manuel Santos the favorite after the country's incumbent, Álvaro Uribe, was blocked Friday from running for a third term. Santos is closely associated with Uribe's domestically popular, U.S.-backed security policies.

Egypt rebuffs legal bid to ban gas exports to Israel: An Egyptian court dismissed a lawsuit that sought a ban on natural gas exports to Israel. It did, however, order the government to review the price and quantity of the gas regularly. Egypt should stop exporting gas to Israel until the review mechanisms are in place, the ruling said.

3rd suspect in Juarez massacre captured: Mexico arrested a third suspect in last month's massacre of 15 people in the border city of Ciudad Juarez. Prosecutors say he is an ex-police officer who was a hit man for the Juarez cartel.

-- From news services


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