Firefight in Afghanistan

Kills American Soldier

KABUL, Afghanistan -- More than a dozen insurgents attacked a U.S. patrol in southern Afghanistan on Sunday, and the ensuing firefight left one American soldier dead and another wounded, the U.S. military said.

A group of 15 to 20 fighters ambushed the patrol in the Gereshk district of Helmand province, the military said in a statement. An insurgent was killed and two others were wounded. An interpreter working for U.S. troops was also wounded. The other fighters fled the area, pursued by U.S. ground troops and attack aircraft.

The death brings to 172 the number of U.S. troops killed in and around Afghanistan since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, according to the Defense Department.

On a one-day visit to the Afghan capital, Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz pledged "seamless cooperation" with Afghanistan in fighting terrorism and Islamic extremism. Aziz and Afghan President Hamid Karzai discussed security and trade between the neighboring countries, whose rugged border area has been the scene of escalating insurgent attacks in recent months.

ASIA

* BEIJING -- State media reported Monday that an unidentified disease has killed eight more farmers and sickened another 21 in China's western Sichuan province, but ruled out bird flu or severe acute respiratory syndrome as the cause.

A total of 58 farmers have fallen ill with the disease in the past month in villages around the city of Ziyang, and 17 have died. Zeng Huajin, a provincial health official, was quoted saying the deaths were probably caused by a bacteria that spread among pigs.

-- Philip P. Pan

* MANILA -- Philippine opposition lawmakers filed an impeachment complaint Monday against President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, accusing her of vote-rigging among other allegations.

The filing against Arroyo, a staunch U.S. ally, claims she "stole, cheated and lied" to obtain and hold power. Her aides have moved to block the complaint on a legal technicality after Congress convenes following Arroyo's scheduled State of the Nation speech later Monday.

* PORT BLAIR, India -- India's Andaman and Nicobar Islands, devastated by last December's tsunami, were shaken by a strong quake Sunday but officials said there was no danger of new tidal surges hitting the Indian Ocean archipelago. Thailand declared a tsunami alert but canceled it less than 90 minutes later.

* SRINAGAR, India -- At least 5,000 people gathered in the town of Kupwara to protest the killing of three teenage boys by Indian troops who mistook them for insurgents, police and witnesses said.

* KATMANDU, Nepal -- Police used batons to break up a protest by supporters of former prime minister, Sher Bahadur Deuba, leaving about 15 demonstrators and 10 police injured. Deuba was detained after he was ousted by King Gyanendra, who seized absolute power in February.

AFRICA

* ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Gunmen attacked a police station in an Ivorian town after killing five military policemen and seizing weapons in a night raid in the main city Abidjan, the army said.

Residents fled as the army sent troops to regain control of Agboville, 55 miles north of Abidjan, where as many as 2,000 prisoners escaped when the unidentified gunmen attacked a prison during the chaos.

* KANO, Nigeria -- A long-haul passenger bus skidded off a bridge and tumbled into a river in northern Nigeria after the driver fell asleep. Officials said 56 people were killed. Six people were rescued.

* BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau -- Voters cast ballots in a second round of elections to choose between a former military ruler and the interim leader who replaced him, as the West African nation elected its first president since a 2003 coup. Malam Bacai Sanha, of the African Party for the Independence of Guinea and Cape Verde, is competing against former military ruler Joao Bernardo Vieira.

THE AMERICAS

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- President Hugo Chavez launched a new Latin American television channel to fight what his government called "cultural imperialism" from U.S. and European media.

Organizers called Telesur, a Spanish-language station formed by the governments of Venezuela, Argentina, Cuba and Uruguay, an alternative to media outlets such as CNN.

EUROPE

* LES COMBES, Italy -- Pope Benedict XVI prayed for God to stop the "murderous hand" of terrorists, stepping up his condemnation of the recent attacks in Europe and the Middle East blamed on Islamic extremists.

At the same time, Benedict's spokesman said the pope placed great importance on a meeting scheduled next month with members of Germany's Muslim community.

-- From News Services