Voter registration for election begins

Voter registration for Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election began Saturday, with poor security proving to be the main challenge in the crucial process.

Holding a successful vote will be a key test not only for incumbent Hamid Karzai’s government but also for the governments of Western nations — led by the United States — that have spent tens of billions of dollars to try to cement democracy in the country since the Taliban’s ouster in 2001.

The poll, slated for April 5, also will be significant for the country’s political stability, with more than 12 years of conflict having fueled tension among strongmen from different ethnic groups.

The election will coincide with the deadline for all Western combat troops to pull out of the country, which has experienced violence during past presidential and parliamentary polls.

Voter registration will last for two months and will cover about 4 million people nationwide, according to Noor Ahmad Noor, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission.

The process will initially target Kabul and other major cities and will later be expanded to smaller districts, he added.

— Sayed Salahuddin

London attack suspect was arrested in 2010

The suspect in last week’s killing of a British soldier on a southeast London street was arrested in Kenya in 2010 while apparently preparing to train and fight with al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants, a Kenyan anti-terrorism police official said Sunday.

Michael Adebolajo was then handed over to British authorities in the East African country, another Kenyan official said.

The information surfaced as London’s Metropolitan Police said specialist firearms officers arrested another man suspected of conspiring to kill Lee Rigby, the 25-year-old soldier. Police did not provide details about the suspect, saying only that he is 22 years old.

The latest arrest followed the detainment in London late Saturday of three others, ages 21 to 28, also suspected in the case.

Meanwhile, gunmen thought to be al-Qaeda-linked Somali militants killed six people in an overnight attack on police posts near Kenya’s border with Somalia, the Kenyan police chief said Sunday.

David Kimaiyo, inspector general of Kenyan police, said that two of the victims in the Saturday night attack were Kenyan police officers and that six more are missing. Al-Shabab, a Somali militant group linked to al-Qaeda, asserted responsibility in Twitter updates, saying it killed eight people in the cross-border attack and wounded more than a dozen.

— Associated Press

At least 14 reported killed in attacks

A string of attacks killed at least 14 people in Iraq on Sunday, officials said, in the latest violence in what has been a particularly bloody month in the country.

Iraq has been hit by a wave of bloodshed that has killed about 300 people in the past two weeks, raising tensions between the country’s Sunni minority and the Shiite-led government.

The deadliest attack Sunday occurred in the northern city of Mosul, where a car bomb went off at a house early in the morning while a joint army-police unit was conducting door-to-door searches. Three police officers and one soldier were killed, a provincial police officer said. Twenty people, including four civilians, were wounded.

Also in Mosul, police said militants fatally shot a police officer in his car in the city center. Authorities also found a body floating in the Tigris; the victim had been shot at close range and had the hands bound behind the back.

In northern Baghdad’s Kazimiyah district, militants in a speeding car went on a shooting rampage that killed three civilians and wounded another, two police officers said. A police officer was killed in the northern Waziriyah neighborhood when gunmen in two cars fired on his vehicle.

In the capital’s Qahira neighborhood, militants armed with silenced pistols fatally shot a schoolteacher, two police officers said. And in the western province of Anbar, three soldiers were killed and five were wounded in two roadside bombings, police and army officers said.

— Associated Press

At least 14 killed in anti-terror offensive

At least 14 Philippine marines and Abu Sayyaf militants were killed in a clash in a U.S.-backed offensive aimed at rescuing six foreign and Philippine hostages and stopping the al-Qaeda-linked gunmen from staging more kidnappings in southern Philippines, a military commander said Sunday.

Seven marines and seven Abu Sayyaf fighters were killed in the gun battle, which raged for an hour Saturday in a sparsely populated village near the coastal Patikul town in Sulu province. Six marines and about 10 gunmen were wounded, Col. Jose Cenabre said.

Government troops backed by assault helicopters were hunting down the fleeing militants, who were thought to be led by Jul-Aswan Sawadjaan, an Abu Sayyaf commander accused in the kidnappings of a Jordanian journalist and two European bird-watchers who are being held by the militants.

— Associated Press

Saudi death toll from new virus reaches 18: Saudi Arabia’s Health Ministry says a woman has died from a new respiratory virus related to SARS, bringing the total number of deaths in the kingdom to 18. Last week, WHO officials said that at least 22 people have died from the virus worldwide out of 44 cases.

— From news services