With song-and-dance performances (one of them above) and a "fun run" around Beijing by thousands of people, China started the 100-day countdown to the Olympic Summer Games. Beijing has spent almost $40 million on infrastructure improvements for the Games. But ominously, the festivities took place in a pall of smog, which Olympics officials have said could cause postponement of some outdoor events if it persists into August.
Suspected Taliban militants blew up their own hideout in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday rather than surrender to government forces. Seven people died in the explosion, two of them civilians. The militants reportedly were linked to last Sunday's failed assassination attempt against President Hamid Karzai. In southern Helmand Province, newly deployed US marines were solidifying their hold on a key town seized from Taliban fighters. Garmsir had been assaulted numerous times before by coalition forces but had withstood capture.
Senior government officials in Georgia appealed to the Kremlin not to provoke a full-blown conflict, saying the latter's announced plan to reinforce troops in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia "worries us very much." Russia's Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the reinforcements were necessary because Georgian forces were planning to attack. NATO conceded that Russia was "technically entitled" to the buildup but said the situation "is raising tensions."
Two battalions of peacekeepers will join the African Union (AU) mission in Darfur in June, its chief said Wednesday. Rodolhe Adada told journalists the troops will come from Ethiopia and Egypt. Four months into its mission, the AU force in the lawless region is only at one-third of its planned strength and has struggled to prevent further violence that impairs the world's largest humanitarian relief operation.
Ten more members of the US diplomatic mission to Belarus were given 72 hours to leave. The move will leave five American diplomats in Minsk, the capital. US Ambassador Karen Stewart also was pressured to leave last month. The US is a fierce critic of hard-line President Alexander Lukashenko.
One of the world's most-wanted cocaine traffickers was killed in a raid by police in Colombia Tuesday, although authorities at first misidentified him. Victor Mejia was carrying documents belonging to his brother, Miguel, when he died. The US has been seeking their extradition since 2004, offering a $5 million reward. The extradition request accuses them of smuggling almost 70 tons of the drug in less than two years. Miguel Mejia remains at large, reports said.
"All technical and professional means available" will be used for an international public relations campaign to repair Austria's image in the aftermath of the second sexual abuse scandal in less than three years, Chancellor Alfred Gusenbauer said. In his first public comment on the case, he called it "unfathomable" but "isolated" and said, "We won't allow the whole country to be held hostage" by it. DNA testing has confirmed that a suspect imprisoned his own daughter for 24 years and fathered seven children with her. He is in custody, pending criminal charges. Above, police remove bags of evidence from the family's residence.
The world's third-largest supermarket chain, Tesco, has begun in-store tests of a program of carbon-labeling on items ranging from potatoes to laundry detergent, reports said. The program is aimed at identifying which products are considered less damaging to the environment. Tesco is Britain's No. 1 retailer, operating 2,000 stores, plus 1,200 more overseas.