One of 23 South Korean hostages was executed by Taliban kidnappers in Afghanistan Wednesday. A spokesman for the militants said the victim was shot because President Hamid Karzai "did not listen to our demand and free our prisoners." The spokesman said a 1 p.m. deadline for releasing the prisoners "is the last" or the remaining hostages also would be killed. Conflicting reports, however, said some of the Koreans already had been freed and were at a US military base.

In what sources said was "the final phase" of military operations, Lebanese troops were pounding fortifications in a Palestinian refugee camp used by Islamist militants. An estimated 100 people remained holed up in the Nahr al-Bared camp near Tripoli, and the sources said they expected it to fall by week's end. At least 246 militants and soldiers have been killed in two months of fighting.

The largest Sunni political bloc in Iraq suspended its participation in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's government, giving him a week to meet a set of demands or lose it as a coalition partner. Analysts said the move by the Accordance Front further weakens Maliki's Shiite-dominated administration at the time it is under mounting pressure from the US Congress to meet benchmarks related to the continued American troop surge.

Ten residents of a city in northwestern Pakistan died and 40 others were wounded before dawn Wednesday when it was rocketed by "terrorists," police said. The incident came one day after a pro-Taliban leader elsewhere in the region took his own life rather than surrender to security forces. Thousands of people were fleeing from the border with Afghanistan before the start of a new Army offensive against the militants that was expected at any time.

An unidentified American university professor and a security guard were hospitalized Wednesday after being shot as violence in Nigeria's oil delta appeared to be spreading again despite the new government's efforts to bring peace to the region. The victims were attending an awards ceremony for a Port Harcourt newspaper when the shooting occurred.

Chaos descended again on Brazil's air travel industry Wed-nesday, and aides to President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva confirmed that he would fire the cabinet minister in charge of aviation. More than half the flights into São Paulo's airport were canceled by TAM, the leading Brazilian carrier, in the aftermath of last week's crash there, which killed 199 people. The airport is Brazil's busiest, and the cancellations caused a ripple effect, inconveniencing thousands of travelers.

The second failed doping test in two days was announced by Tour de France officials, causing its director to demand a "reconquering" of the sport. The start of the 16th stage was delayed a quarter of an hour as riders for eight teams staged a protest over the announcement that the winner of Saturday's trial had tested positive for a banned blood transfusion. Alexandre Vionokourov of Kazakhstan protested his innocence, but his team withdrew from the field. The other failed test was for testosterone, but the rider was not immediately identified.

Emergency crews confronted a huge cleanup operation after a pipeline rupture that spewed crude oil high into the air over a suburb of Vancouver, British Columbia, Tuesday afternoon, blackening houses and streets and flowing into the sea before it could be stopped. Authorities said the pipeline was punctured during a road repair project by workmen who misjudged its location.

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