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By Compiled from wire service reports by Robert Kilborn / June 20, 2007



At least 78 people died Tuesday when terrorists exploded a truck bomb outside a Shiite mosque (above) in Baghdad. Authorities put the number of wounded at 218 and said damage to other structures in the vicinity was heavy. The blast overshadowed reports of progress by 10,000 US and Iraqi troops in Operation Arrowhead Ripper, a new offensive aimed at clearing militants from areas north and south of the capital.

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Intelligence analysts were looking for significance in another test-firing of a North Korean missile. The missile, aimed at Japan, landed in the sea Tuesday. It was the third such launch in less than a month and came despite signs of progress in halting the North's nuclear-weapons program.

One district in southern Afghanistan has fallen to Taliban fighters and another is threatened, NATO and government spokesmen conceded Tuesday. Casualties, especially among civilians, in fighting over the two areas reportedly have been heavy. The Taliban offensive represents a change in tactics from a recent reliance on suicide and roadside bombings, a NATO commander said.

Amnesty was granted to the leaders, followers, and financiers of the Islamist militia that was ousted from Somalia last December, the BBC reported. But the gesture, seen as an inducement to the Union of Islamic Courts (UIC) to attend next month's national reconciliation conference, does not apply to those with ties to what President Abdullahi Yusuf called "international terrorist" groups. UIC leaders welcomed the amnesty but said they won't participate in the conference if it is run by Yusuf's government and Ethiopian troops remain on Somali soil.

A nationwide general strike in Nigeria will take place as planned Wednesday, organizers said, despite the government's efforts to prevent it by offering to cut in half increases in the gasoline and value-added taxes.Union leaders have demanded that the fuel increase be rescinded completely. Analysts said the strike would be a serious challenge to new President Umaru YarAdua, who still is organizing his administration. The tax hikes were imposed by his prredecesssor, Olusegun Obasanjo, as he left office last month.

Hundreds of nurses in southern Thailand have asked for transfers out of the region because of its growing violence, the Bangkok Post reported. It said hospital administrators were calling on the government to improve morale among medical personnel, who increasingly have to treat victims of attacks by Muslim separatists. Four more people were killed by suspected separatists Tuesday, among them an Army colonel, his driver, and a district chief whose vehicle (below) was hit by a roadside bomb after they'd inspected the site of another school fire.

"In principle," a national election to restore democracy to Fiji can be held 15 months sooner than previously planned, military ruler Frank Bainimarama said. But he said his agreement to a stepped-up timetable – for choosing a new parliament "in the first quarter of 2009" – could be threatened by sanctions imposed by foreign governments that have weakened the economy. Bainimarama originally said it would take until mid-2010 to root out corruption in the government and impose reforms that would make an election possible.

As they did last spring, more than 1,000 leftist activists and teachers set up tents in the main plaza of Oaxaca, Mexico, to begin an indefinite strike aimed at forcing the resignation of Gov. Ulises Ruiz. They also sought the release from jail of the leaders of last year's protest. Ruiz, who survived five months of often-violent unrest in the streets, has refused to step down.

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