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Afghanistan: NATO Airstrike Kills Civilians


AFGHANISTAN: The Afghan government says a NATO airstrike has killed 27 civilians in southern Afghanistan. The Council of Ministers released a statement Monday condemning the incident as "unjustifiable." The government also revised the death toll from an earlier figure of 33.
In a statement, NATO said its forces were targeting insurgents in Uruzgan province, and that an air strike accidentally killed and wounded civilians. It did not say how many. The U.S. commander of the international force, Stanley McChrystal, expressed regret for the incident, saying killing or injuring civilians undermines the Afghan people's trust in NATO's mission.
Uruzgan is just northeast of Helmand province, where NATO and Afghan forces are engaged in a major operation against Taliban insurgents.
IRAN - NUCLEAR: Iran says it is planning to begin building two new uranium enrichment facilities. Iranian state media quote the head of Iran's nuclear program, Ali Akbar Salehi, saying Monday that construction should start in the next Iranian year, which begins in March. Iran announced plans in November to build 10 new enrichment plants in addition to its existing facility in Natanz as the country continues to defy international calls to halt enrichment. The United States and other world powers fear Iran's increased enrichment work could be aimed at creating a nuclear weapon. Tehran insists its nuclear program is for peaceful purposes only. Washington has been leading efforts to impose a fourth round of U.N. sanctions against Iran for its nuclear activities. On Sunday, U.S. General David Petraeus said the United States will increase pressure on Iran, saying it has given Tehran every opportunity to resolve the dispute through diplomacy.
PHILIPPINES UNREST: Philippine military officials say a top commander in the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf group was killed in fighting in the restive south early Sunday. Lieutenant General Benjamin Dolorfino told reporters that the military has confirmed that Albader Parad was among six militants killed in a firefight on Jolo Island. Parad led the abduction of three Red Cross workers last year. They were eventually freed. Dolorfino said killing Parad was a "big accomplishment" for the armed forces. Other military officials said the brother of Umbra Jumdail, a core Abu Sayyaf leader, was also killed. The military said three government soldiers were wounded in the clash. On Friday, officials announced that they had arrested a suspected Islamic insurgent accused of the kidnapping of three American tourists nine years ago. The military said Jumadail Arad was captured Thursday at a Manila seaport.
US - TAIWAN MILITARY: A U.S. Defense Department report says Taiwan's fleet of fighter jets could not withstand an attack from China because of age and maintenance problems. The report, released in Taiwan by the U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency, said that although the island has almost 400 combat aircraft in its inventory, far fewer "are operationally capable." Ordered by the U.S. Congress, the report comes amid continuing Taiwanese efforts to obtain 66 relatively advanced F-16 jet fighters from the United States.
China reacted angrily last month after U.S. President Barack Obama's administration unveiled its first arms package for Taiwan but did not include F-16 fighters,
BURMA - MONKS: Military authorities in Burma are reported ready to introduce new rules that will tighten controls on Buddhist monks in the country ahead of upcoming elections. The state-run newspaper Myanma Ahlin reported that Ashin Kumara, the chairman of a government-controlled sangha, or monks' committee will call a meeting of senior abbots, at which the new guidelines will be announced.
Since the monk-led mass demonstrations of September, 2007, monks throughout the country have come under intense scrutiny from the military government. Observers say it is clear Burma's military government is attempting to control possible opposition to the election by monks.
The government has said elections are to be held later this year to transform the country into a democracy, but has not given a date.
HAITI: Haiti's president says the death toll from last month's devastating earthquake could reach 300,000 once all the bodies buried under collapsed buildings are recovered. President Ren Preval said Sunday that more than 200,000 bodies have been collected from Haiti's streets, but that the remains of many other victims are believed to be still under the rubble.
Addressing a regional meeting of Latin American and Caribbean leaders in Mexico, Mr. Preval said Haiti's most urgent need is for emergency shelter.
About 1.5 million Haitians are still living in crowded tent camps, and aid workers say their conditions could lead to outbreaks of disease when the rainy season begins in March. The January 12 earthquake left Haiti's capital, Port-au-Prince, and surrounding areas in ruins.

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