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With the city of Najaf finally calm, residents began the task of digging out from the rubble of three weeks of fighting between Shiite militants and US and Iraqi forces. But although radical cleric Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi militiamen left the city and nearby Kufa, other followers fired on US troops in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, taking heavy casualties in return. Meanwhile, saboteurs again targeted crude oil pipelines near Basra in southern Iraq, setting one on fire Saturday and another Sunday. Earlier pipeline sabotage last Wednesday has cut Iraq's vital exports by half, to 900,000 barrels a day.

A major overhaul of security procedures at Russian airports now will involve the Interior Ministry, and all passengers will be required to show passports when buying tickets, reports said, as terrorism appeared almost certainly to be the cause of two downed commercial flights last week. Investigators found traces of a sophisticated explosive in the wreckage of both planes and were checking the backgrounds of women with Chechen-sounding names who'd been aboard each plane. Several female Chechens have been used as terrorist bombers in recent years.

Another Kremlin-backed candidate, Alu Alkhanov, seemed headed for victory against six rivals in Chechyna's presidential election. But voting was marred by at least one act of violence when guards turned away a man carrying a suspicious package from a polling place near Grozny, the capital. As he ran away, it exploded, killing him. Alkhanov, a policeman, already is marked for death by separatists who assassinated pro-Russian President Akhmad Kadyrov in May. Above, a guard watches a resident of the town of Tolstoy-Yurt scan her ballot as she enters a voting booth.

Nine children and an adult died and 32 others were wounded when a bomb exploded inside a school in southeastern Afghan-istan that offered Islamic studies, although with modern interpretations set by the interim government. Meanwhile, the death of a senior Taliban commander Friday was confirmed. Rozi Khan had attempted to defend the compound in which he was hiding against a raid by US and Afghan forces.

Ending months of speculation, Australian Prime Minister John Howard announced a national election for Oct. 9, although he and his Liberal/National Party coalition trail the opposition Labor Party in the latest opinion polls. Howard, a staunch ally of the US in the counterterrorism fight, didn't need to call the vote until mid-April of next year. Labor leader Mark Latham has suggested that, if elected, he'd pull Australia's troops out of Iraq by Christmas.

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