World briefs 2/28/05

Monday, February 28, 2005

Tajikistan holds elections despite possible instability

DUSHANBE, Tajikistan -- Voters cast ballots Sunday in Tajikistan's parliamentary elections that pitted a fledgling opposition against the powerful ruling party of strongman President Emomali Rakhmonov. Critics accuse Rakhmonov, who came to power during the ex-Soviet country's civil war of the 1990s, of stifling dissent. They say recent steps -- such as a referendum two years ago giving Rakhmonov the right to seek re-election until 2020 -- threaten the country's stability and hopes for democracy.

Nepal violence leads to 14 deaths

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Suspected communist rebels in southern Nepal ambushed an army truck, shot a police chief and attacked villagers Sunday, killing at least 14 people a day after lifting a highway blockade that crippled the flow of essential supplies in protest of the king's recent power grab. The rebels ambushed an army truck carrying soldiers on patrol near Patlaiya, about 160 miles south of Katmandu, killing eight of them, police said. Another 10 soldiers were injured and taken to hospitals, a spokesman at the army headquarters in Katmandu said. In nearby Butwal, suspected rebels fatally shot the town's police chief and his assistant before escaping.

Togo residents continue protests against president

LOME, Togo -- Demonstrators protested against Togo's new president on Sunday, lighting flaming barricades in the capital's streets and throwing rocks at riot police who fired tear gas to keep crowds from moving toward government buildings. Hundreds of demonstrators marched toward central Lome's administrative offices from the opposition stronghold of Be, where burning truck tires closed roads. Security forces turned the marchers back with tear gas when they began throwing stones. Unlike earlier demonstrations in the country's three-week crisis, no gunfire was heard. There was no immediate word of casualties.

Afghan army hits 20,000 mark under U.S. training

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The number of troops in Afghani-stan's new army topped 20,000 Sunday, as the United States steps up training of a force that is supposed to relieve Americans on the front lines against Taliban-led militants. The 853 soldiers and officers of the 31st Battalion graduated Sunday morning in a joyful ceremony in the capital, Kabul. The Afghan National Army, or ANA, now numbers 20,694 and has another 3,000 to 4,000 soldiers in training.

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