World briefs 12/12/04

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Love letters cleared away at 'Juliet's house' in Italy

ROME -- For decades, amorous visitors to Verona have pinned up their love letters for posterity outside the house where legend has it Romeo wooed Juliet under her balcony. Now, those tender messages are being dumped in the trash. Many of the notes are attached with chewing gum, a hazard for the medieval stucco walls. The cleaning operation, which started last month, is due to finish in February.

U.S. begins winter offensive in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Some 18,000 American troops have started a winter offensive against Taliban rebels in Afghanistan, vowing to eliminate insurgents who could threaten parliamentary elections slated for the spring. The U.S. military said Saturday that it hoped the new push, dubbed Lightning Freedom, would persuade insurgents to accept an amnesty that could stabilize the country and allow foreign troops to pull back.

Pakistan catches militant leader of kidnapping group

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A man who launched a militant Islamic group to fight U.S. forces in Afghanistan has been arrested in connection with the kidnapping of three U.N. workers there in October, a senior Pakistani Cabinet minister said Saturday. Syed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander in Afghanistan who later founded Army of Muslims, was captured in the southern city of Karachi this week, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. "We have arrested the mastermind of the kidnapping of the U.N. workers in Afghanistan," Ahmed said.

Somali parliament votes against prime minister

NAIROBI, Kenya -- Somalia's parliament passed a motion of no-confidence against the new prime minister and his Cabinet on Saturday, an official said, effectively sacking a government that had been expected to restore order to the country after 13 years of anarchy and war. The deputy speaker of the 275-member transitional parliament, Dalhar Omar, said 153 members voted against Prime Minister Ali Mohammed Gedi, accusing him of failing to respect power-sharing arrangements reached in complex talks involving warlords and leaders of the country's main clans. Somali President Abdulahi Yusuf Ahmed plans to dispute the no-confidence vote, his spokesman Yusuf Mohamed Ismail said. But the president does not have final authority.

-- From wire reports

Pakistan arrests 14 involved in blast that killed 11

QUETTA, Pakistan -- Police on Saturday said they arrested 14 alleged members of a nationalist group following a bomb attack in southwestern Pakistan that killed 11 people. As many as 26 people were also wounded when a powerful bomb went off next to an army truck parked at a crowded market in Quetta on Friday in Baluchistan province. Hours after the blast, a little-known militant group, the Baluchistan National Army, claimed responsibility, but said it had not meant to kill civilians. Two of the dead were soldiers. On Saturday, Pervez Rafi Bhatti, a senior police officer, said 14 men were captured in overnight raids in different parts of the province by police acting on intelligence reports.

-- From wire reports

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