5-day death toll at 16 after ‘frightful night’

Lebanese supporters and opponents of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad fired heavy machine guns and lobbed mortar shells at each other Thursday in some of the worst fighting in the port city of Tripoli in years.

The battles raised the five-day death toll to 16 and fed fears of the Syrian civil war spreading beyond its borders.

The violence also added to the urgency of U.S.-Russian efforts to bring both sides of the Syrian conflict to a peace conference in Geneva. Members of the Syrian opposition began three-day meetings in Istanbul to hash out a
position on whether to attend.

Lebanon, which is still struggling to recover from its own 15-year civil war, is sharply divided along sectarian lines and into pro- and anti-Assad camps. The overt involvement by the country’s Hezbollah Shiite militant group alongside Assad’s forces has sparked outrage among many Sunnis in Lebanon who identify with Syria’s overwhelmingly Sunni rebels.

Tripoli, the scene of this week’s clashes, is mainly Sunni but has a tiny community of Alawites, members of Assad’s minority Shiite sect.

Residents reported more than six hours of fighting that began late Wednesday and continued through Thursday morning, with five people killed.

“It was a frightful night that instilled terror in the heart of every resident,” said Shada Dabliz, a 40-year-old peace activist in the city.

— Associated Press

Rickshaw bomb kills 13 in Baluchistan

A large bomb hidden by the Taliban in a rickshaw exploded as a police vehicle passed in southwestern Pakistan on Thursday, killing 11 policemen and two civilians, police said.

The bombing on the outskirts of Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan province, came the same day as fighting in the restive northwest left four soldiers and 20 militants dead, according to police.

Pakistani Taliban spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan asserted responsibility for the Quetta attack in a phone call, saying it was revenge for militants killed in the northwest.

Baluchistan is home to many Islamist militant groups, as well as separatist insurgents who have battled the government for decades.

— Associated Press

7 Iraqi soldiers shot dead at checkpoints: Gunmen killed at least seven soldiers in central Iraq, officials said, in the latest violence in a particularly bloody month. The first skirmish took place early Thursday when militants attacked an army checkpoint in the former insurgent stronghold of Taji, 12 miles north of Baghdad, killing four soldiers. At dawn, another group of militants exchanged fire with military forces and pro-government Sunni militiamen in the western village of Karma, near the city of Fallujah, leaving three soldiers dead.

N. Korean envoy, in Beijing, hints at openness to talks: On a visit to repair ties with China and waiting to meet its leader, a North Korean envoy expressed deference to hopes by the North’s chief ally for renewed multinational nuclear talks. Choe Ryong Hae, at a meeting with Communist Party official Liu Yunshan, praised China’s work on behalf of peace and stability and said North Korea “is willing to accept the suggestion of the Chinese side and launch dialogue with all relevant parties,” according to the Chinese state broadcaster CCTV.

Congo rebels call cease-fire for U.N. chief’s visit: U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stressed that security must go hand-in-hand with development in Congo’s troubled eastern city of Goma, arriving just hours after a rebel group halted fighting to allow the visit to proceed. The U.N. chief traveled to Congo, and specifically to Goma, for the first time since the Security Council authorized the creation of a new intervention brigade, which will be based in the city and will have an aggressive mandate allowing the peacekeepers to engage the M23 rebels stationed just north of the city.

Father of Afghan cricket captain abducted: Gunmen kidnapped the father of Afghanistan’s national cricket-team captain near his home in the eastern city of Jalalabad, officials said, adding that there had been no ransom demand since Mohammad Nabi’s 60-year-old father, Khobi Khan, was taken from his car early Tuesday. Kidnapping is fairly common in Afghanistan amid the violence of the Taliban insurgency.

Japanese man, 80, becomes oldest to scale Everest: An 80-year-old Japanese man who began the year with his fourth heart operation became the oldest conqueror of Mount Everest, a feat he called “the world’s best feeling” even with an 81-year-old Nepalese climber not far behind him. Yuichiro Miura, a former extreme skier, also climbed the 29,035-foot peak when he was 70 and 75.

— From news services