Inspectors check 11 chemical arms sites

International inspectors have visited 11 sites linked to Syria’s chemical arms program and destroyed “critical equipment” at six, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said Wednesday.

A joint OPCW-U.N. mission is working to eliminate Syria’s stockpile of chemical arms, precursor chemicals and production facilities by mid-2014. Syria is thought to have about 1,000 metric tons of blister and nerve gas agents, the OPCW has said, and the inspectors have to visit more than 20 sites.

Meanwhile, signs of division are growing among those trying to topple the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. A rebel who claimed to speak for dozens of groups of fighters in southern Syria said in a video posted Wednesday that the groups no longer recognize the authority of the main Western-backed political opposition alliance.

If confirmed, the announcement would be a blow to the Syrian Opposition Coalition. Southern Syria is considered a stronghold of the moderate opposition alliance, which appears to be losing ground to Islamist extremists.

In northeastern Syria, two days of heavy clashes between Kurdish gunmen and rebels linked to al-Qaeda have killed at least 41 fighters from both sides, activists said.

— Associated Press

Provincial minister killed in northwest

A suicide bomber shot his way into the residence of a provincial law minister Wednesday in northwestern Pakistan, killing the official and seven others in an explosion, police said.

The blast near the town of Dera Ismail Khan also wounded more than 30 people, police said, adding that the minister of law for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, Israrullah Gandapur, was meeting with people at his house to celebrate the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday when the bomber struck.

No one asserted responsibility for the attack, but suspicion is likely to fall on the Pakistani Taliban and allied groups.

Gandapur was a member of the province’s ruling party, which is led by former cricket star Imran Khan. Khan has strongly backed peace talks with the Taliban, but several officials from his party have been killed in attacks since the May elections.

— Associated Press

49 feared dead in plane crash in Laos: A Lao Airlines plane crashed in the Southeast Asian nation, apparently killing all 49 people aboard, including passengers from 11 countries, the Lao government said. Officials said 44 passengers and five crew members were aboard flight QV301, which was heading from the Lao capital, Vientiane, to Pakse in the country’s south, adding that the plane encountered extremely bad weather on preparing to land at Pakse Airport and reportedly crashed into the Mekong River.

Civilians reportedly targeted in Central African Republic: Government forces in the Central African Republic have launched attacks against civilians as a resurgence of violence and chaos threatens the country, according to the United Nations and humanitarian agencies. The latest warning came Wednesday from Doctors Without Borders, which said its physicians have treated dozens of people recently for shotgun and machete wounds after gunmen linked to the transitional Seleka government attacked villages in the northwest.

17 killed as typhoon batters Japan: At least 17 people died and 46 were missing in eastern Japan as Typhoon Wipha lashed the region, authorities said. Sixteen residents died and 42 people remained unaccounted for after mudslides destroyed dozens of homes on Izu Oshima island, about 75 miles south of Tokyo, and a woman was killed in Machida, a Tokyo suburb, according to police. There were no reports of damage at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the northeastern prefecture of Fukushima.

Greece removes immunity for 6 right-wing lawmakers: Greece’s Parliament lifted the immunity from prosecution for six lawmakers from the Golden Dawn party as part of a crackdown on the extreme right-wing group sparked by the fatal stabbing last month of a Greek rapper. Three other top party members, including leader Nikos Michaloliakos, have been jailed pending trial on charges of running or participating in a criminal group.

Germany’s Greens will not join coalition: German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s options for forming a new government narrowed after talks with the Greens ended with both sides unable to agree on how they might form a coalition together. Merkel’s conservative bloc now meets with its other center-left rivals, the Social Democrats, for coalition talks Thursday.

— From news services