World

Sixteen thousand US and Iraqi troops opened a new offensive against extremists north of Baghdad Tuesday, but not before a truck bomb exploded on a strategic bridge north of the capital – the second time it has been targeted in three months. At least 10 people were killed in the blast, which caused heavy damage to the span, which links Baghdad and the key northern city of Mosul.

Although market conditions are "progressively [returning] to normal," the European Central Bank made a fourth straight infusion of money – $10.5 billion – available to its members Tuesday to allay concerns over a credit crunch. The new sum ups the total loaned to commercial banks since last Thursday to $288 billion due to defaults on subprime mortgage loans in the US. The ECB intervention is greater than in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Conservative former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu appeared assured of reelection as members of the opposition Likud Party voted for a new leadership slate. But he faced a challenge from West Bank settler Moshe Feiglin, and analysts said a showing of 30 percent or better by the latter could damage Netanyahu's hopes of attracting centrists if Israelis are called to an early national election. Recent opinion surveys give Netanyahu (l., casting his ballot Tuesday) a commanding 28-point lead over Prime Minister Ehud Olmert.

Pledging "to protect secularism," Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul made his candidacy for president official Tuesday by submitting an application to parliament. The move had been considered all but certain, even though his first try for the office triggered a political crisis when opposition parties boycotted the voting in April and again in May out of concern over Gul's Islamist history. The main secular opposition party said it would do so again when parliament votes Aug. 28.

Severe flooding caused by "unceasing" rains has affected tens of thousands of acres of farmland in North Korea, and hundreds of people are dead or missing, the government said Tuesday. In a rare move, official state TV showed footage of swollen rivers, waist-deep water in the streets of the capital, Pyongyang, and other signs of damage. UN World Food Program officials said they'd received "a preliminary request" from the government for help, but rival South Korea's Unification Ministry reported no such appeal so far.

An act of terrorism was being blamed for the derailment late Monday of an express train between Moscow and St. Petersburg, Russia, and suspicion quickly fell on Chechen extremists. Authorities said a "homemade" bomb exploded on the tracks as the train was about to cross a 100-foot-high bridge. Sixty people were hurt. The casualty count probably would have been far higher, authorities said, except that the train managed to cross the bridge before leaving the rails. Above, a passenger carries his belongings from the scene.

A new 140-foot-high bridge collapsed in central China Monday, two weeks before it was due to open. The span, in a popular tourist area, fell as workmen were removing scaffolding around its four arches. Emergency crews rescued 86 people from the rubble, but at least 29 others died, 22 more were hurt, and dozens were reported missing. The accident happened as the government announced plans to repair or rebuild more than 6,000 bridges nationwide over the next three years.

Destruction of the Amazon rain forest fell by 25 percent to its lowest rate so far this century, Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva told his weekly radio audience. The shift was measured between August 2005 and July 2006, he said, crediting his government's environmental policies – such as those that target illegal logging. Conservationists welcomed the figures but warned that rising prices for corn and soybeans could cause deforestation to increase again.

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