PAKISTAN: Pakistan's army chief has ordered his troops to minimize civilian casualties, even if that means danger for them as they battle the Taliban in the country's northwest. General Ashfaq Kayani ordered the army Wednesday to use "precision strikes" against militants. Military officials say 751 militants have been killed since the operation in the Swat Valley and surrounding area began last week. There is no official word on civilian casualties, but officials say about 800,000 people have fled the fighting. More than one million people are displaced in northwest Pakistan due to violence in the area.
AFGHANISTAN: Afghan officials say a suicide bomb attack has killed seven civilians
outside a U.S. military base in the eastern part of the country.
A provincial official said Wednesday's bomb blast occurred at a gate
where laborers were waiting to enter the base on the outskirts of the
city of Khost. The Afghan interior ministry said 21 people were wounded
in the attack.
Meanwhile, the U.S. military said militants fired rockets at bases in
southeastern Paktika province. In response, U.S. forces launched air
strikes that killed six insurgents and two civilians, as well as
injuring four other civilians.
INDIA - ELECTIONS: Millions of voters in seven Indian states are voting in the fifth and final stage of the country's month-long general elections.
The first exit polls, which are banned during the staggered voting
process, are expected hours after the polls close Wednesday. Officials
will announce the final results Saturday.
Analysts consider the vote a close contest between two main political
parties -- the ruling Congress party and the Hindu nationalist
Bharatiya Janata Party. Neither party is expected to win enough seats
to govern on its own.
Separatists in Indian-controlled Kashmir are holding a two-day strike
to protest the elections in the Muslim-majority Himalayan region.
CHINA - TIANANMEN DISSIDENT: The family of a student protest leader during China's 1989 democracy
protests in Tiananmen Square says he has been arrested on fraud charges.
Zhou Yongjun's family says police told them Wednesday about the
charges, but gave few other details. Zhou is being charged in his
hometown of Suining in China's southwestern Sichuan province.
His family says they do not understand how he could have committed
fraud in China, given his long residence in the United States.
CHINA - ECONOMY: China's retail sales soared nearly 15 percent in April, suggesting a
massive stimulus package enacted by the government is taking hold.
But figures released Wednesday by the government's National Statistics
Bureau also showed China's industrial output rose just 7.3 percent last
month, a full percentage point lower than March's figures.
China's export-driven economy has been severely affected by the global
economic slowdown. The government announced Tuesday that exports in
April plunged 22.6 percent from the year previous, the sixth straight
SWINE FLU: Chinese health officials say a 19-year-old student is the second confirmed case of swine influenza A-H1N1 on the mainland.
In a statement released on its website, the Health Ministry says the
man arrived in Beijing last Friday on a flight from Canada, and
developed a high fever two days later. He traveled by train to the
eastern Shandong provincial city of Jinan, where he was immediately
The first confirmed case of swine influenza A-H1N1 on the Chinese
mainland was a 30-year-old man who was diagnosed after flying in from
the United States via Japan.
SRI LANKA: A doctor in Sri Lanka's northern war zone says at least 35 civilians
died Wednesday when a mortar hit the only remaining medical facility
The attack follows a similiar strike Tuesday, when at least 47 patients were reported killed.
The International Committee of the Red Cross also said one of its
workers along with his mother were killed in shelling Wednesday. The
organization did not say who was responsible for the attack.
POPE - MIDEAST: Pope Benedict has celebrated an outdoor Mass in the West Bank town of Bethlehem, where Christians say Jesus was born.
The head of the Roman Catholic Church, who has pledged support for a
separate Palestinian state alongside Israel, is in Bethlehem Wednesday
for talks with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
Pope Benedict reiterated his approval of a "sovereign Palestinian
homeland" while speaking in front of Mr. Abbas' presidential palace.
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