World Digest: Oct. 18, 2013

AFGHANISTAN
Insurgents strike in Kabul, provinces

A suicide car bomber attacked a convoy of vehicles Friday near a fortified private residential compound used by hundreds of foreigners on the outskirts of Kabul, killing two passersby, Afghan officials said.

An Interior Ministry spokesman said the bomber attacked two vehicles used “by foreigners” near the Green Village compound. No one in the vehicles was reportedly injured.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid asserted responsibility for the bombing and said Green Village was the attacker’s target.

Meanwhile, a man on a motorcycle loaded with explosives targeted an International Security Assistance Force convoy near Bagram airport, a major facility used by the international coalition 25 miles north of Kabul. No one was wounded, ISAF officials and police said.

That attack was claimed in a telephone call by Hezb-i-Islami. The militant group is headed by 66-year-old former warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister and onetime U.S. ally whom the United States now lists as a terrorist.

Also Friday, a local police commander and three of his bodyguards were killed in an attack in the western province of Farah, an official said.

In Berlin, German Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said his country’s embassy in Kabul has been temporarily closed because of security concerns.

— Associated Press

SYRIA
Activists: Shelling in north kills civilians

Government forces and Syrian rebels fighting for control of a small but strategic town in the northern province of Aleppo have killed at least 20 people, most of them civilians, activists said Friday.

Meanwhile, rebels killed at least 30 Syrian soldiers, including 20 in clashes near the Aleppo town of Khanaser and 10 who were executed after being captured in the eastern town of Deir al-Zour by members of the al-Qaeda-linked Jabhat al-Nusra, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.

The Observatory said the civilians in the town of Tel Aran died in a spate of shelling attacks. The town’s residents are mostly ethnic Kurds whose militias were pushed out by rebels with al-Qaeda’s Islamic State of Iraq and Syria in July. Now they are caught in crossfire between the extremist rebels and Syrian forces.

— Associated Press

RUSSIA
‘Putin’s crane’ found after losing its way

One of the Siberian cranes that Russian President Vladimir Putin helped teach to fly south last year lost its flock along the way but has been found and taken to Moscow.

In September 2012, Putin flew on a motorized hang glider as part of a project to teach the endangered birds, which were raised in captivity, to follow the aircraft on their migration south to Central Asia.

One of the cranes was recently spotted in the Tyumen region of Siberia and identified by a tag on its right leg as belonging to “Putin’s flock.” Flown by plane to Moscow, it will spend the winter in a wildlife reserve.

— Associated Press

India detains crew of U.S. ship carrying weapons: Police in a southern Indian port city arrested eight crew members and 25 security guards aboard a U.S.-owned ship on charges of illegally transporting arms and ammunition in Indian waters. The MV Seaman Guard Ohio, detained Oct. 12 and anchored in Tuticorin, is owned by the Virginia-based security company AdvanFort but is registered in Sierra Leone. The captain told investigators that the firm provides armed escorts to merchant vessels traveling in pirate-infested waters in the Indian Ocean.

Jailed Russian punk-band member to be moved: Pussy Riot punk band member Nadezhda Tolokonnikova will be transferred to another jail following a hunger strike she staged to protest conditions she likened to “slave labor,” authorities said. She and bandmate Maria Alyokhina are serving two-year sentences for an obscenity-laced protest against President Vladimir Putin in a Moscow cathedral.

9 Lebanese held in Syria reported freed: Nine Lebanese citizens held in Syria since May 2012 have been released, Lebanon’s interior minister said. Eleven Lebanese Shiites were seized by a Syrian rebel group while on their way home from a pilgrimage in Iran, their families said. Two were later released. The return of the others raises hopes for the release of two Turkish pilots who were abducted in Beirut in August by the families of the nine Lebanese, who accused Turkey of inaction in the case.

Wildfires ravage Australian state: Nearly 100 wildfires raged across New South Wales, Australia’s most populous state, killing one person, destroying dozens of houses in towns around Sydney and forcing hundreds to evacuate as the nation’s annual fire season got off to an unusually early start. Milder conditions helped firefighters Fri day, but 25 fires remained out of control.

— From news services

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