Iraqis battle gunmen in Shiite neighborhoods

Saturday, July 22, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraqi forces backed by a U.S. helicopter battled Sunni gunmen south of Baghdad on Friday, and at least 11 combatants died. U.S. troops killed five Iraqis -- including two women and a child -- in a separate exchange of fire. An extended ban on vehicles held down violence Friday in Baghdad after one of the most violent weeks in the capital this year, but four people were wounded by a bomb outside a Sunni mosque, police said. The deadly firefight occurred in two mostly Shiite neighborhoods of Mahmoudiya, a town 20 miles south of Baghdad where 50 people were killed in a market this week in an attack by Sunni gunmen.

Train bombing suspects linked to terror networks

BOMBAY, India -- Police investigating the Bombay train bombings arrested three men with links to terror networks across South Asia, the first formal arrests in the attacks that killed 207, authorities said Friday. India dismissed an offer from Pakistan to help the investigation, saying Islamabad has failed to act when presented with evidence of terror networks on its soil. Authorities have "definite evidence" that the three suspects detained Thursday are linked to terrorism, investigator K.P. Raghuvanshi told reporters Friday. "They have connections with groups in Nepal and Bangladesh, which are directly or indirectly connected to Pakistan," said Raghuvanshi, who declined to provide details of the evidence. He said more arrests were expected soon, adding that the July 11 bombing of seven trains, which also wounded more than 800, was "a big conspiracy."

China's tropical storm death toll reaches 482

BEIJING -- China's death toll from tropical storm Bilis more than doubled to 482 after a hard-hit inland province reported a sharp rise in fatalities, state media said Friday. Authorities in Hunan province said 346 people died in floods triggered by the storm, while 89 others were missing, the Xinhua News Agency said. The province had previously reported 92 deaths. Bilis slammed into China's southeastern coast on July 14 and churned inland, triggering flooding and landslides. Nearly 3 million people were forced to flee their homes, the government said. The higher death toll in Hunan included 197 victims in the village of Zixing, where a state television reporter found the local government had underreported the number of deaths, Xinhua said. Phone calls were not answered Friday evening at Zixing's government office or Hunan's flood prevention office.

Lava flows down slopes of Mayon volcano

LEGAZPI, Philippines -- The Mayon volcano oozed lava on Friday just days after authorities asked thousands of farmers and their families to leave the volcano's immediate vicinity. About 7,400 people live inside a 3.7-mile danger zone around the near-perfect cone of the 8,118-foot volcano. The farmers grow vegetables and rice and tend to their livestock near the volcano. Mayon's most violent eruption, in 1814, killed more than 1,200 people and buried a town in mud. A 1993 eruption killed 79 people. The Philippines is in the Pacific "Ring of Fire," where volcanic activity and earthquakes are common. In 1991, Mount Pinatubo exploded in the northern Philippines in one of the world's biggest volcanic eruptions of the 20th century, killing about 800 people.

Nelson Mandela throws annual children's party

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- Former South African president Nelson Mandela calls his annual children's party the favorite part of his weeklong birthday celebrations. The anti-apartheid hero turned 88 on Tuesday. He smiled and chatted with dozens of children Friday who filled the grounds of the Nelson Mandela Children's Fund. Many of the children clutched homemade cards. Mandela cut a huge chocolate birthday cake and was in good spirits despite suffering from swollen ankles. Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years for his anti-apartheid activism. He became South Africa's first democratically elected president in 1994.

-- From wire reports

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