Using car bombs and a man with explosives strapped to his body, insurgents killed more than 60 people in three Iraqi cities Wednesday as hundreds of US troops pushed through a lawless region near the Syrian frontier in an offensive aimed at followers of Iraq's most wanted terrorist. Insurgents kidnapped the provincial governor in the western border region as a bargaining chip Tuesday. As many as 100 insurgents were killed in the first 48 hours of the offensive, which began late Saturday. At least three Marines were reported killed and 20 wounded during the first four days of the offensive, the biggest US operation since Fallujah was taken from militants six months ago.

Former Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani ended weeks of uncertainty Tuesday by announcing he'd run for the post he held for two terms from 1989 to 1997. The moderate cleric known for trying to improve US-Iran ties expressed a desire to save the Islamic state from the grip of extremists and "build international confidence." Although unofficial opinion polls show him with a clear lead over his nearest rival, skeptics point out he was favored before the 2000 parliamentary elections, in which he was forced to withdraw his candidacy to be an MP because of lack of support. Above, Rafsanjani registers as a presidential candidate in Tehran.

Police and US troops opened fire in an eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad Wednesday to control hundreds of students rioting over the alleged desecration of Islam's holy book at the US prison in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. At least two protesters were killed and more than 50 injured, officials said. Mobs also attacked the Pakistani consulate and the office of a Swedish relief organization. No foreigners were reported hurt.

The US Secret Service is investigating the discovery of an inactive hand grenade 100 feet from where President Bush spoke in Tblisi, Georgia, earlier this week, the White House said Wednesday. Bush wasn't aware of the grenade report until he was flying back to Washington.

North Korea said Wednesday it has completed removing spent fuel rods from an atomic reactor, enabling it to harvest more weapons-grade plutonium. It was the communist state's latest provocation amid deadlocked talks over Pyongyang's nuclear program. North Korea kicked out international nuclear inspectors in late 2002, making it impossible to verify the claim.

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