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At Least 18 Killed in Bus Blast in Sri Lanka


SRI LANKA - BLAST: Sri Lanka's military says an explosion on a civilian bus in the central part of the country has killed at least 18 people and wounded 50 others. The blast occurred today in the the town of Dambulla, located about 150 kilometers north of the capital of Colombo. The bus was carrying at least 100 passengers to the northern city of Anuradhapura to attend a religious ceremony. Authorities initially said about 20 people had been killed in the attack. There has been no claim of responsibility, but authorities say they suspect Tamil Tiger rebels.

IRAQ: Iraqi authorities have raised the death toll from Friday's suicide bombings in two popular Baghdad pet markets to 99, making it the deadliest day in the capital in several months. Authorities say the two blasts, which occurred 20 minutes apart, were carried out by two women strapped with explosives set off by remote control. They say both of the women were mentally disabled. About 150 people were wounded in the twin attacks. The U.S military says al-Qaida in Iraq was responsible for the bombings.

CHAD UNREST: Heavy fighting has broken out between Chadian rebels and government forces inside Chad's capital, N'Djamena. Witnesses say rebels entered the capital early today and have been battling army units near the presidential palace. An exiled rebel spokesman (Makaila Nguebla) who has been in contact with rebels on the ground says Chad's army has offered little resistance. The rebels, who began their advance from bases in western Sudan on Monday, say their aim is to overthrow President Idriss Deby if he will not accept a power-sharing government.

CHINA - WEATHER: Weather forecasters in China warn that more snow and sleet will spread across regions of the country already hard-hit by unusually severe winter weather. The National Meteorological Center in Beijing said late Friday that most parts of southern China will receive moderate to heavy snowfall today and Sunday. At least 60 people have died from weather-related causes while millions are stranded in train stations, airports and ice-covered highways. More than a million people have been evacuated from their homes.

INDONESIA - WEATHER: Indonesia officials say flooding from torrential rain has killed three people in the capital of Jakarta and left nearly 15-hundred people homeless. Authorities say the rain stopped today, but much of Jakarta remains flooded. Officials temporarily closed Indonesia's main international airport Friday, as torrential downpours forced the cancellation of more than 40 flights. A spokesman for Jakarta's Sukarno-Hatta International Airport said the runway was not flooded, but rain and fog blurred visibility, forcing the airport to close for several hours.

VIETNAM - CATHOLICS: Vietnamese Catholic leaders say demonstrators have ended more than a month of protests in a land dispute, after the communist government signaled it would return seized church property. At issue is slightly less than a hectare of Vatican land in Hanoi that Vietnam seized after it won independence from France in 1954. Archbishop Joseph Ngo Quang Kiet of Hanoi announced Friday that after meeting with Vietnamese officials, the government promised to give back the land.

KENYA: Kenya's government and main opposition party have agreed to take steps to try to end the post-election violence that has killed some 850 people. Former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said Friday the sides agreed on a framework for the talks he is leading in the Kenyan capital, Nairobi. Annan said the sides would discuss stopping the violence, the delivery of humanitarian aid and ending the political impasse. According to Annan, the sides believe they can deal with those items within 15 days.

PAKISTAN - UNREST: Pakistani authorities say three policemen were killed during a raid on a suspected Islamic militant hideout today in the northwestern part of the country. The incident took place in the town of Mardan, located about 40 kilometers northeast of Peshawar, the capital of North West Frontier Province. A local police spokesman says the militants opened fire after they refused to surrender. At least one militant was killed in the shootout. Violence has intensified in northwestern Pakistan oduring the past year, as pro-Taliban and al-Qaida forces have taken refuge in the region after crossing the border from Afghanistan.

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