SOMALIA - AIRSTRIKE: An airstrike in central Somalia has killed the military commander of an Islamist militant group with ties to al-Qaida. A spokesman for the Islamist group al-Shabab told reporters the pre-dawn strike in the town of Dusamareb killed Aden Hashi Ayro and another senior leader. Witnesses said U.S. planes carried out the strike and that at least eight other people were killed. The U.S. military said it launched an attack against an al-Qaida target in Somalia but did not give any details. The U.S. has carried out several airstrikes against suspected terrorists in Somalia over the past year.
IRAQ: Iraqi police say a car bomb has exploded in a Baghdad commercial district, killing nine people and wounding about 20 others. Police say the bomb went off this morning in eastern Baghdad as a U.S. military patrol passed through the area. In other violence, Iraqi officials say fighting in Baghdad's Sadr City district has killed eight people since late Wednesday. Baghdad has seen a rise in violence since late March, when Iraqi and U.S. forces increased operations against Shi'ite militants in Sadr City. The district is a stronghold of radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr.
CHINA - FRANCE - PROTESTS: Hundreds of demonstrators gathered in four Chinese cities today to express support for the upcoming Beijing Olympics and denounce international protests over the crackdown in Tibet. State-run Xinhua news agency says the demonstrations took place outside stores belonging to French retail giant Carrefour in Changsha, capital of the central province of Hunan, as well as the cities of Fuzhou, Chongquin, and Shenyang. The supporters waved Chinese national flags and shouted slogans supporting the Olympics and denouncing Tibetan independence.
CHINA - OLYMPICS -FARROW: U.S. film actress Mia Farrow is in Hong Kong to give a speech about the crisis in the Sudanese region of Darfur and China's ties with Khartoum. Farrow arrived in the Chinese territory today. She was allowed to proceed with her visit after promising authorities she would not disrupt the Olympic torch relay, which is also planned for Friday. Hong Kong has deported several pro-Tibetan protesters and rights activists to prevent a repeat of the chaotic demonstrations in Europe and the United States that marred the international relay of the Beijing Olympic torch.
BURMA: An international human rights group has criticized Burma's plans to hold a constitutional referendum next week, calling it a sham and arguing that conditions for a free and fair vote do not exist in the military-ruled country. U.S.-based Human Rights Watch says today the government's widespread arrests of opposition activists, media censorship and bans on political gatherings have kept the public from even discussing the charter. Burma's military rulers say approval of the constitution will pave the way for general elections in 2010.
TERROR SDBR - EAST ASIA: The United States says the terrorist network Jemaah Islamiya remains a serious threat to Western and regional interests, particularly in Indonesia and the Southern Philippines. The U.S. State Department annual report on global terrorism, released Wednesday, says counter-terrorism efforts helped degrade the network's capabilities by breaking up a number of terrorist cells. But the report says a number of radical leaders remain at large, including key Jemaah Islamiya operative Noordin Mohammad Top in Indonesia. The report says maintaining effective border control is extremely difficult in the region with thousands of islands.
NEPAL - FOOD: Nepal has banned the export of rice and other grains to prevent food shortages and price increases. Government officials announced the ban today, saying the temporary measure is only precautionary. They made the move after India banned rice exports, causing a spike in rice prices in Nepal. Rice prices have soared on key markets worldwide as concerns grow over shortages and higher prices on other food items. Several top rice-producing nations have limited or suspended rice exports. The Thai Rice Exporters Association says there is currently a shortfall of 30 million tons in world rice stockpiles.
US ECONOMY - FED: The U.S. central bank (the Federal Reserve) has cut its main interest rate one quarter of a percentage point to two percent, while hinting that this may be the last rate cut for a while. In a statement accompanying the decision Wednesday, the Fed said tight credit and a slumping housing market will continue to affect growth. It said it is ready to act "as needed." The Fed also warned that uncertainty about inflation remains high, although it expects inflation to moderate as the costs of energy and other commodities level off.
VENEZUELA - STEEL: Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has signed a decree to place the country's top steelmaker under government control. Mr. Chavez signed the order Wednesday to nationalize Sidor. Venezuelan lawmakers passed a law Tuesday declaring Sidor a "public utility." The takeover of Sidor is part of Mr. Chavez's push to increase state control of a host of industries, including oil, electricity and steel. His government has been in talks with Sidor's parent company, Argentine-controlled Ternium, to reach a deal for the company's 60 percent stake in the steelmaker.
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