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Forty-one Taliban militants, among them a senior commander, were killed in fighting with coalition forces near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, reports said, although NATO could not immediately confirm them. The Taliban, however, claimed responsibility for a car-bomb attack in which at least eight civilians died and 35 other people were hurt near the airport in Kabul, the capital. The attack had targeted a US military convoy, but no one in it was seriously injured.

A car bomb exploded in central Baghdad Thursday, killing at least 18 people and wounding 57 others, extending the latest wave of terrorist attacks after months of calm following the US troop surge. In another incident, Roman Catholic officials in Iraq reported the death of Chaldean Archbishop Paulos Faraj Rahho, who'd been kidnapped last month after completing a mass in Mosul. His remains were found in a shallow grave outside the city.

More than a dozen rockets fired from the Gaza Strip fell on the Israeli border town of Sderot Thursday, and Islamic Jihad claimed responsibility. No one was reported hurt in the salvo, which the Palestinian militant group said was in retaliation for the killing of four of its members Wednesday night in the West Bank. Israeli jets responded with a strike against a rocket launcher in Gaza, which apparently resulted in no casualties.

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"Heavily armed columns" of mercenaries crossed the border between Sudan's Darfur region and Chad, the latter's government said Thursday. It accused Sudan of responsibility, although there was no independent confirmation of such a movement. Chad often accuses its neighbor of backing rebels bent on toppling President Idriss Déby. Déby and Sudan's Omar al-Bashir were scheduled to sign a peace accord Thursday in neutral Senegal after Bashir failed to show up for the ceremony Wednesday.

More than 100 Tibetan exiles began a hunger strike Thursday after police in northern India halted their high-profile protest march against this summer's Olympic Games. The march, which was planned to take six months, had covered 31 miles before the police moved in, charging them with "threatening the region's peace and tranquility." Analysts said India worries that the protest would embarrass the Chinese government. Below, one of the marchers clutches a poster of Mohandas Gandhi as police drag him to a waiting bus.

Police in northern Mexico caught an alleged senior member of a major drug cartel for whom the US government was offering a $2 million reward. Gustavo Rivera Martinez, a US citizen, was to be handed over immediately, reports said. He is believed to have assumed the leadership of the Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix cartel after the arrests and imprisonment of the two brothers who headed it.

Less than an hour after their team forged a 1-1 tie with the US, five of Cuba's best soccer players defected and will seek political asylum, news outlets in Florida reported late Wednesday. The game was played in Tampa as part of a regional tournament to qualify for the Olympic Summer Games. The defections left the Cuban team shorthanded for its next game in the tournament, the reports said.

Senior leaders in Malawi's government issued the first birth certificates Thursday under a new policy to combat child-trafficking and reduce confusion in adoption cases. Until now, the African nation of 12 million people has not required that births be registered or deaths recorded. Officials say they hope the measure will help make children less vulnerable to the sex trade or to exploitation as laborers. The adoption issue came to a head in 2006 when the singer Madonna gained custody of a baby from a Malawian orphanage, only to discover that his father was still living.

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