ລິ້ງ ສຳຫລັບເຂົ້າຫາ

Pakistani Troops Told to Avoid Civilian Casualties


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 monthly decline.

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 hospitalized. 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 there. 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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