Teen fatally stabs American soldier

An Afghan teenager killed an American soldier in eastern Afghanistan by stabbing him in the neck while he played with a group of local children, officials said Monday.

The killing comes as the monthly U.S. death toll rose sharply in March to 14 with the start of the spring fighting season, when insurgents take advantage of the improved weather to step up attacks.

Sgt. Michael C. Cable, 26, was guarding Afghan and U.S. officials meeting in a province near the border with Pakistan when the stabbing occurred Wednesday, two senior U.S. officials said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is ongoing.

The stabbing occurred after the soldiers had secured the area for the meeting, but one of the U.S. officials said it was not being classified as an insider attack because the youth was not thought to have been a member of the Afghan security forces or in uniform.

The official said the attacker was thought to be about 16, but the age could not be verified.

The Afghan and American dignitaries were attending a swearing-in ceremony of Afghan Local Police officers in Shinwar district in Nangahar province, senior district official Zalmai Khan said. Afghan Local Police recruits are drawn from villages and backed by the U.S. military.

— Associated Press

Tourist sexually assaulted in Rio van

Two foreign tourists were held for hours and brutalized, and one of them was sexually assaulted in a public transport van they boarded in Rio de Janeiro’s showcase Copacabana beach neighborhood, police said.

Two men ages 20 and 22 have been taken into custody, police said, and a third is being sought in connection with the incident.

The two foreigners were held for about six hours starting shortly after midnight Saturday, police said. The suspects allegedly forced other passengers to get out of the van and then sexually assaulted the female tourist inside the vehicle, among a fleet of vans that serve bus routes. The tourists were driven to the poor suburban neighborhood of Sao Goncalo, where the two suspects were caught, police said.

The victims’ nationalities have not been disclosed, but local media reports have said that the woman is American.

The attack drew comparisons to the fatal December beating and gang rape of a young woman on a New Delhi bus.

— Associated Press

Fatal bird flu in China unlikely to spread easily, officials say: Chinese health officials say that they still do not understand how a lesser-known bird flu virus killed two men and seriously sickened a woman in China but that it’s unlikely that it can spread easily among humans. Two men in Shanghai became the first known human fatalities from the H7N9 bird flu virus after contracting it in February. A woman in the eastern city of Chuzhou remains in serious condition.

Historic synagogue damaged in Damascus fighting: A synagogue in Damascus thought to be thousands of years old has been damaged and looted as clashes have consumed the surrounding neighborhood, a Syrian official and an anti-government activist said Monday. Damage to the Jobar Synagogue, which tradition holds was built by the biblical prophet Elisha, is the latest example of Syria’s rich cultural heritage falling victim to the fighting between President Bashar al-Assad’s government and rebels seeking his ouster.

Hamas reelects Meshal as leader: The Islamist militant group Hamas on Monday reelected longtime leader Khaled Meshal, officials said, choosing a relative pragmatist who has sparred with movement hard-liners in the past over his attempt to reconcile with Western-backed Palestinian rivals. The vote late Monday capped a year of internal elections spread over several countries and shrouded in mystery. The Qatar-based Meshal, 56, has led Hamas since 1996 and won another four-year term.

Sudan to release political prisoners: Sudanese President Omar Hassan al-Bashir on Monday ordered the release of all political prisoners, a move cautiously welcomed by the opposition in the tightly controlled African country. The announcement comes after Sudan and South Sudan agreed last month to end hostilities and resume cross-border oil flows after coming close to war a year ago. Khartoum had accused its southern neighbor of supporting rebels trying to topple Bashir.

— From news services