Iraqi prime minister seals Syria border crossing
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- The Iraqi prime minister sealed the northern border crossing into Syria on Saturday after complaints the neighboring country was not doing enough to stop crossings by foreign fighters, and he imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew in the region around the Rabiaa frontier post. The decree closed the border to all transportation except for vehicles with special permission from the Interior Ministry. Jabr said the closure was in effect until further notice.
Plane crash in Republic of Congo kills 13 people
BRAZZAVILLE, Republic of Congo -- A plane crashed north of the Republic of Congo capital, killing 13 people, officials said Saturday. The Ukrainian-built Antonov 26, registered by Air Kasai in neighboring Congo, went down 30 miles north of Brazzaville on Friday afternoon, government spokesman Alain Akoula said. Rescue workers found 13 bodies, including those of the four-person Ukrainian crew, he said. The cause of the crash was unknown.
Baghdad airport reopens after 24-hour hiatus
BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Baghdad International Airport -- Iraq's only reliable and relatively safe link to the outside world -- reopened early Saturday after being closed for a day in a payment dispute between the government and a British security firm. London-based Global Strategies Group has been providing security at the airport 12 miles from downtown Baghdad since last year. On Friday, Global suspended operations claiming the ministry, which which owns the airport, was six months behind in payments.
Iraqi, U.S. troops move on Tal Afar near Syria
TAL AFAR, Iraq -- More than 5,000 Iraqi army and paramilitary troops backed by U.S. soldiers swept into this insurgent stronghold near the Syrian border Saturday, conducting house-to-house searches and battering down stone walls in the narrow, winding streets of the old city. While several hundred insurgents using small arms initially put up stiff resistance in the city's ancient Sarai district, Iraqi forces reported only two men wounded in the day's fighting. The U.S. military issued no casualty report for the 3,500 Americans in the operation. Interior Minister Bayan Jabr said 48 insurgents had been captured.
-- From wire reports
Israel pledges harsh reaction to post-withdrawal attacks from Gaza
JERUSALEM -- Israel threatened Saturday to deliver an unprecedentedly harsh response to any attacks from Gaza after Israeli troops quit the territory next week and hand it over to the Palestinians. Egypt, meanwhile, deployed the first of 750 soldiers assigned to police the volatile Gaza border to prevent arms smuggling and illicit crossings after the Israelis end their 38-year occupation. While Israel has in the past used airstrikes and tank assaults against militants, it declared a policy of relative restraint after a February cease-fire. The last Israeli soldiers will leave Gaza on Monday, or a day later if the Israeli Cabinet decides to raze more than two dozen synagogues still standing in demolished settlements. The Cabinet is to vote on the emotionally charged matter today.