There has been a sharp decline in terrorist violence across Iraq, the Pentagon insisted in a new report, despite the deaths of at least 26 more people in attacks Tuesday. US military officials, however, disputed Iraqi claims that 16 others were killed when a roadside bomb exploded beside a passing bus. The Associated Press reported that the average number of deaths in Iraq has risen from 26 a day in February to 39 so far this month. But a US spokesman said over the weekend that "one week or two weeks' worth of activity" should not be seen as evidence of a "trend of an increase."
Cellphone service providers in Afghanistan are bowing to Taliban demands and shutting down for the night, the BBC reported, after another communications tower was found ablaze late Tuesday. The incident was the 10th of its type in recent weeks, since the Taliban claimed Afghan and NATO forces were using the cellphone systems to track their movements after dark. Cellphones are the only reliable means of communication for many Afghans.
Over the next five years, Turkey's government will spend up to $12 billion on a strategy to lure young Kurds away from militancy, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told The New York Times. In an interview published Wednesday, he said the money will be spent on a jobs program in impoverished and mainly Kurdish southeastern Turkey, on building dams and irrigation canals, removing land mines, and on developing a Kurdish-language channel for the state TV system. A separatist campaign by Kurdish rebels has caused almost 40,000 deaths since 1984.
Leaders of the Greek and Turkish communities on Cyprus will meet for the first time next week on reviving efforts to unite the divided island again, aides said. The talks are scheduled for Friday at UN offices in the buffer zone between the two areas. Peace talks stalled in 2004 when Greek Cypriot voters rejected a UN formula for reunification that Turkish Cypriots had accepted. But newly elected Greek Cypriot President Dimitris Christofias vowed to make a meeting with his Turkish counterpart, Mehmet Ali Talat, one of his earliest priorities.
With hundreds of supporters massing outside Thailand's Supreme Court, former Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra pleaded not guilty Wednesday to charges of corruption against him and his wife. They were filed after an investigation by a panel appointed by the military chiefs who toppled Thaksin in 2006. If convicted, the couple could be sentenced to 10 years each in prison. But analysts said finding witnesses to testify against them in court would be difficult now that Thaksin's party is back in power. Above, news cameramen swarm him as he leaves the courthouse.
Another powerful storm system – the third this week – was battering Britain Wednesday, causing "extremely hazardous" travel advisories. Wind gusts of up to 85 m.p.h. were reported across northern England, northern Wales, and Northern Ireland, and seven flood warnings from the government's Environment Agency were in effect. The storms come as the European Parliament OK'd $242 million in relief payments to areas of England affected by last summer's devastating floods. Above, massive damage to a highway near Manchester dwarfs an inspection crew.
Marine mammal experts in New Zealand were marveling at eyewitness accounts of a dolphin guiding two beached whales back out to sea when it appeared they'd have to be euthanized. Would-be rescuers had tried four times to free a pygmy sperm whale and her calf from a sandbar 300 miles northeast of the capital, Wellington, only to report that they "obviously couldn't find their way back to the sea." At that point, the dolphin appeared and led the whales through a channel to the open Pacific Ocean. Dolphins, said one expert, have "a great capacity for altruistic activity."