Fighters begin leaving rebel-held Douma

A rebel faction trapped by government forces outside the Syrian capital agreed to evacuate to northern Syria on Sunday as reports swirled of a larger agreement that would have the government retake full control of the Eastern Ghouta region after seven years of revolt.

Fighters from the Faylaq al-Rahman group left Douma on buses sent by the government, the official Syrian Arab News Agency reported. About 1,300 fighters, activists and civilians signed up to go to the rebel-held province of Idlib, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

It was the first organized evacuation of fighters from Douma, one of the earliest centers of the anti-government demonstrations that swept Syria in 2011 and led to the civil war. Security forces responded by putting the town and other suburbs of Damascus under siege.

Douma is a stronghold of the powerful Army of Islam rebel group. The town is one of the last around the capital to hold out against the government.

Later Sunday, a media outlet linked to the military reported that the Army of Islam also had agreed to leave, effectively transferring control of Douma to Damascus. That would mark the end of a weeks-long push by the government to consolidate its control of Eastern Ghouta.

Russia’s military also said Sunday that a preliminary agreement has been reached with the Army of Islam.

Opposition officials, however, denied the reports. There was no comment from the Army of Islam.

— Associated Press

Anti-India protests held as fighting flares

Massive protests erupted Sunday in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir amid fierce fighting between rebels and government forces that left at least 12 militants and three soldiers dead, officials said.

At least four civilians were killed and dozens injured in the latest round of anti-India protests, which broke out after Indian troops launched counterinsurgency operations targeting mainly the southern parts of disputed Kashmir .

Nuclear-armed India and Pakistan each administer part of Kashmir, but both claim the region in its entirety.

The gun battles — the deadliest this year in Kashmir — began overnight when government forces raided three southern villages following a tip that rebels were hiding there, police said.

As the protests erupted, authorities stopped train services and cut cellphone Internet services in the most restive towns. They also ordered curfews in some southern areas.

Officials ordered that all schools and colleges be closed on Monday, while separatists have called for a general strike to protest the killings.

Rebels have been fighting the Indian administration since 1989, demanding that Kashmir be made part of Pakistan or become an independent country.

— Associated Press

Islamist extremists kill 4 African Union troops

Al-Shabab extremists on Sunday launched an attack on a base for African Union troops in southern Somalia, killing four Ugandan peacekeepers, Ugandan Brig. Gen. Richard Karemire said.

Four other Ugandans were injured, Karemire said. At least 22 attackers were killed and the rest were repelled, he said.

The attack started in the morning with two suicide car bombings at the base in Bulo-Marer, a town in the Lower Shabelle region, said Col. Ahmed Hassan of the Somali army.

Nearly 100 fighters then attacked the base, which was occupied by Ugandan troops. The attack was thwarted, Hassan said.

— Associated Press

Remains of Indians killed in Iraq headed home: The remains of 38 Indian construction workers killed by Islamic State militants in northern Iraq were handed over to Indian authorities in Baghdad on Sunday to be flown home. The Islamic State abducted and killed the workers shortly after seizing the northern city of Mosul in summer 2014. Iraqi authorities discovered the remains last year after retaking Mosul and identified the bodies last month.

Space station burns up on reentry: China's Tiangong-1 space station reentered the Earth's atmosphere and burned up over the middle of the South Pacific on Monday, China's space authority said. Beijing said Friday that it was unlikely any large pieces would reach the ground in the scheduled reentry. The 34.1-foot Tiangong-1, or "Heavenly Palace 1," was launched in 2011 to carry out docking and orbiting experiments as part of China's ambitious space program, which aims to place a permanent station in orbit by 2023.

— From news services