ISRAEL - PALESTINIANS: Palestinians are continuing to cross into Egypt for second day to stock up on food, fuel and household supplies that have been scarce in the Gaza Strip since Israel imposed a blockade on the territory last week. Egyptian border guards are patrolling access roads to the region today, directing traffic and preventing Palestinians from moving beyond the border area markets. Palestinians began pouring into Egyptian town of Rafah Wednesday, after militants detonated a series of explosions and destroyed a border barricade.
PAKISTAN: Pakistani troops backed by helicopters and artillery fire have attacked Islamic militant hideouts near the Afghan border, triggering fierce battles that killed 40 rebels and eight soldiers. The Pakistani army says 30 militants were detained in a two-day operation in the South Waziristan tribal region. The army says 32 soldiers were wounded in the battles to clear three areas, where scores of Taliban and al-Qaida fighters were believed hiding, including an Islamic rebel commander accused of involvement in the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
IRAQ: Iraqi authorities say the police chief of the northern city of Mosul has been killed in a suicide bomb attack as he was touring the site of Wednesday's massive explosion that killed at least 18 people. Officials say the attacker in a police uniform walked up to the police chief and then detonated his explosives vest. The police chief was rushed to a nearby hospital, where he later died. At least two policemen were killed and several other people were wounded in the blast. Meanwhile, rescue teams and police in Mosul are continuing to search for victims in the rubble of buildings and houses flattened by Wednesdays' blast, which occurred after police were tipped off about a weapons cache inside a vacant building.
WORLD ECONOMY: Most Asian markets surged today, while share prices in Europe opened higher, following a dramatic late rally in U.S. markets. On Wednesday, U.S. stocks fell sharply as trading began but then recovered to post strong gains. Earlier this week, worries about a slowing U.S. economy caused world stock prices to plunge. In response, the U.S. Federal Reserve cut a key interest rate (by three-quarters of one percent). The Bush administration and U.S. lawmakers also are considering an economic stimulus plan. Meanwhile, China today reported its economy grew at an 11-point-four percent pace in 2007.
JAPAN - AFGHANISTAN: A Japanese warship is heading to the Indian Ocean to resume the country's mission to support U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. The naval destroyer "Murasame" set sail today from its home base of Yokosuka, south of the capital of Tokyo. The destroyer, along with a support ship that will leave Japan on Friday, will refuel ships participating in the anti-terrorism operation. The Japanese parliament passed legislation earlier this month re-authorizing the mission. It ended in November after the opposition-controlled upper house of parliament refused to extend the mandate.
THAILAND - BIRD FLU:
Agricultural officials in Thailand say they have confirmed an outbreak of the lethal strain of bird flu, the first in that country in nearly a year. The outbreak was detected among chickens on a farm in the northern Thai province of Nakhon Sawan, more than 200 kilometers north of Bangkok. The last detection of the H5N1 strain of the virus among poultry in Thailand occurred in March of last year. The virus has killed 17 Thais since 2003, but no human cases have been detected recently.
BURMA - CENSORSHIP: Authorities in Burma have arrested a prominent poet over a recently published work that contains a hidden message criticizing junta leader Than Shwe. The romantic-themed poem by Saw Wai was published in a popular weekly magazine in advance of next month's Valentine's Day observance. But on closer reading, the first word of each line forms a phrase that calls General Shwe power crazy. Burma's ruling military junta keeps a close watch on all media outlets to snuff out any criticism of its rule.
RUSSIA ELECTION: Russia's Election Commission says it has sufficient grounds to disqualify former prime minister Mikhail Kasyanov from running as an independent in presidential elections in March. Independent candidates must gather at least two million signatures from supporters throughout the country. But the election commission says Kasyanov does not have enough valid signatures. A commission spokesman told the French News Agency that a final decision on the matter is expected in the coming days. Kasyanov was a prime minister during President Vladimir Putin's first term, but was dismissed and later became a critic of the Kremlin.
Former United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan met with Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki today to try to bring an end to the crisis sparked by the nation's disputed presidential election. The talks came one day after Annan met with opposition leader Raila Odinga at a Nairobi hotel. Also on Wednesday, Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni met with Mr. Kibaki at Kenya's State House. The mediators hope to convince Mr. Kibaki and Mr. Odinga to meet face-to-face and reach a deal that will end the post-election violence.
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