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US-led forces appeared poised to win one of their most notable victories against the Taliban in Afghanistan. Provincial police said American, Canadian, and Afghan units had killed 50 militants, captured 16 others, and surrounded an estimated 250 more after three days of fighting near Kandahar, the No. 2 city and former Taliban base of power. Hundreds of civilian noncombatants were fleeing the area out of concern for their safety, the police said.

New checkpoints have been set up in northern Iraq to limit the movement of Kurdish separatist rebels and cut supply lines to their hideouts there, the Foreign Ministry said Wednesday. But Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan pointedly accused regional Iraqi leader Massoud Barzani of "aiding and abetting" the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK). Barzani has said he'd defy calls for a crackdown on PKK bases.

Buddhist monks were back on the march in Burma (Myanmar), Wednesday in their first antigovernment demonstration since protests were crushed in September. About 200 monks in the central city of Pakkoku demanded the release of all political prisoners and the rescinding of fuel price hikes. A spokesman said the monks were "not afraid of getting arrested or tortured," but there were no reports of trouble.

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A bomb that may have been carried by a passenger exploded aboard a crowded bus in central Russia at rush hour Wednesday morning, killing eight people and wounding 56 others. The attack in Togliatti, home of the nation's largest automaker, was the second of its type in a Russian city in less than two weeks. Prosecutors declared it an act of terrorism, but some analysts saw it as part of an effort to sow social unrest, with critical elections for a new parliament less than a month away. Above, the heavily damaged bus stands where it was attacked.

Reinforcements will be ordered to southern Thailand because of the ongoing sectarian violence there, the nation's new Army chief said. Gen. Anupong Paojinda said the move would make the Army "better able to take control" of the Muslim separatist insurgency. About 30,000 troops already are deployed across Narathiwat, Yala, and Pattani provinces in an uphill battle against the violence. Bombing attacks on karaoke bars favored by Buddhists in Narathiwat killed one person and wounded four others Tuesday night.

Motorists were forced to hunt for fuel in Beijing Wednesday as China's supply shortage spread to stations in the capital. The problem already limits drivers to as little as a quarter-tank at a time in Guangdong, Fujian, and other southern provinces. Oil companies blame the problem on authorities, who haven't allowed an increase in prices at the pump since May of last year. Most Chinese refiners cannot break even unless the per-barrel price for crude is around $65, but it topped $93 on world markets earlier this week. Above, an attendant at a Beijing station serves a customer.

In a rare appeal for help, North Korean seamen sought medical attention from the crew of a US warship after their cargo vessel had been seized by pirates, reports said Wednesday. The incident occurred off Somalia, an area nagged by piracy. Conflicting reports left it unclear whether the Americans helped to overpower the hijackers. But the North Koreans agreed to be boarded by crewmen from the destroyer James E. Wilson, who treated three casualties on their own ship and then returned them.

A new, private effort to provide drinking water to poor countries was announced by Cirque de Soleil founder Guy Laliberté. He pledged $100 million of his own money to the campaign in 25 annual increments. The Royal Bank of Canada said it would donate $10 million more to the One Drop Foundation. Among its projects will be the rebuilding of damaged wells.

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