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Pakistani Troops Battling Taliban for Main Swat City


PAKISTAN: Pakistani security forces are going street-to-street in the main city of the Swat Valley in what the army describes as fierce fighting. The army made its push into Mingora Saturday, targeting Taliban insurgents in the city of up to 20,000 people. Army spokesman Major-General Athar Abbas said the operation to retake the city will be "painfully slow" and that he fears the Taliban would try to use civilians in Mingora as human shields. So far, the army reports that 17 militants, including a top commander, have been killed. Pakistani troops have been advancing toward the town for days. Thousands of civilians began fleeing Mingora last week in anticipation of intense fighting. The United Nations says the fighting in northwest Pakistan has caused the greatest displacement of people the world has seen in two decades, with nearly two million people on the run.

SOMALIA:A suicide bomber killed three security officers and wounded at least four Sunday in Somalia's capital, Mogadishu, where Islamic insurgents are fighting government forces. Officials say the suicide bomber drove his car to a military base where he detonated the explosion. Fierce battles between government forces and Islamic insurgents in Somalia has forced thousands of people to flee. The United Nations said Sunday up to 8,000 fled the city Friday, bringing the number of displaced residents up to 57,000.

SRI LANKA:Sri Lanka's government says it will not allow aid workers complete access to crowded displacement camps, until it separates rebels suspected of hiding among the civilians. President Mahinda Rajapaksa said Sunday that as conditions improve, especially security, "there would be no objections to such assistance." The president's statement came in response to U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's appeal for unrestricted access for aid agencies. Mr. Ban visited the north's largest displacement camp (Manik Farm) Saturday, home to about two-thirds of the 300,000 civilians displaced by the country's recently ended civil war. The U.N. chief vowed to "work hard" to ensure refugees are resettled by the end of the year, as promised by the government.

MOROCCO STAMPEDE: Moroccan police say thousands of people stampeded at a concert in the capital, Rabat, killing at least 11 spectators and injuring 30 others. Officials said those killed after the Saturday night concert were five women, four men and two minors. They added that a fence appeared to have collapsed when the crowd of people in the stadium surged toward it. Some 70,000 people attended the concert by Moroccan musician Abdelaziz Stati at the Hay Nahda stadium. It is not clear what caused the stampede.

BURMA – SUU KYI:Lawyers for Burmese opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi say they will begin presenting her defense this week. The Nobel Prize laureate has pleaded not guilty to charges that she violated the terms of her house arrest. The charges -- formally accepted by the court Friday -- stem from an incident earlier this month in which an American man swam to her lakeside residence and stayed there for two days. Aung San Suu Kyi's lawyers say she asked him to leave, but that he was too exhausted and ill to swim back.

MONGOLIA ELECTION: Voters in Mongolia are casting ballots Sunday to elect a new president. Incumbent Nambaryn Enkhbayar of the ruling Mongolian People's Revolutionary Party (MPRP) is challenged by opposition leader Tsakhia Elbegdorj of the Democratic Party. Mr. Enkhbayar has pledged in his campaign to boost the country's economy by developing the mineral sector and rural areas. Mr. Elbegdorj says he will reduce poverty and work against corruption. He says he will ensure that all Mongolians benefit from the country's vast natural resources. Mongolia is rich in mineral resources, including copper, gold, uranium, lead and zinc. About 50 international observers are monitoring the elections. Video cameras have been installed in more than 300 polling stations. Mongolia's president is elected for a four-year term.

NEPAL:Nepal's parliament has chosen a moderate Communist leader as prime minister in an attempt to end weeks of political turmoil. Madhav Kumar Nepal was unopposed during the vote Saturday in Kathmandu which took place just hours after a bomb blast at a church south of the capital killed two people.
Mr. Nepal leads (the Communist Party of Nepal/United Marxist Leninist or CPN/UML- ) one of Nepal's several communist parties. He replaces Maoist leader Pushpa Kamal Dahal, known as Prachanda, who resigned this month in a dispute with Nepal's president.

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