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Afghan ambush kills U.S. soldier, wounds 2

By wire services
Published May 18, 2004

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Suspected Taliban fighters ambushed a U.S. patrol in southern Afghanistan, killing one soldier, the military said Sunday.

U.S. troops defused a bomb targeting a bridge, not far from where the patrol was attacked Saturday in Helmand province, a district police chief said.

Lt. Col. Michele DeWerth, U.S. military spokeswoman in the capital, Kabul, said one American soldier was killed and two wounded in the attack on the patrol near Girishk in Helmand. The two wounded returned to duty after medical treatment.

At least 122 U.S. troops have died, including 53 killed in action, since the start of Operation Enduring Freedom in late 2001 to topple the Taliban regime for harboring al-Qaida. About one-third of the fatalities have occurred during counterterrorism operations in countries other than Afghanistan.

Israel seals off Gaza camp, kills 7 Arabs

RAFAH, Gaza Strip - Israeli tanks cut off the Rafah refugee camp from the rest of Gaza on Monday, sending panicked residents fleeing amid fears of a major military operation. Helicopters fired missiles at the camp hours later, killing at least seven people and wounding two dozen, residents said.

Early today, Palestinians said Israeli tanks and troops began digging a trench to separate one quarter of the camp from the rest. Soldiers, backed by dozens of military vehicles, searched house to house.

Israel wants to widen a military patrol road between Rafah and the Egyptian border after Palestinians blew up an armored vehicle there last week, killing five soldiers assigned to destroy arms-smuggling tunnels.

The gunships attacked twice after midnight. Palestinians said that around dawn, two missiles killed at least four people as they left a mosque after morning prayers. They said 17 were wounded and part of the mosque set on fire. Hamas said that three of the dead were members of the group.

A few hours earlier, a helicopter fired three missiles, killing three people and wounding seven. Doctors said at least two of the dead were fighters.

The Israeli military said both airstrikes were aimed at groups of fighters.

Dominican president concedes his defeat

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic - President Hipolito Mejia conceded defeat late Sunday in an election marked by an outpouring of public anger over the Dominican Republic's worst economic crisis in decades.

Mejia made the announcement to reporters at his party command center, with only about 3 percent of the results officially released.

"After this first bulletin I am conceding defeat. Leonel has won," he said of his top challenger, former President Leonel Fernandez.

Dominicans desperate for relief from a severe economic crisis turned out in huge numbers Sunday for a vote marred by a polling station shooting that left three dead.

The violence broke out in a line of voters outside a school in the southwestern town of Barahona, when a supporter of Mejia and a backer of his leading rival pulled guns and opened fire during an argument, observers said.

The two men were killed, as was another Mejia supporter.

Polio offensive picks up momentum in Africa

LAGOS, Nigeria - African leaders approved an emergency strategy Monday to immunize 74-million children for polio in 21 nations, U.N. officials said.

The approval came amid signs that a Muslim state in Nigeria is ready to abandon its boycott of the vaccine, which allowed the disease to mushroom.

Kano, in northern Nigeria, has been the global epicenter of a polio resurgence since it refused last October to allow children to be innoculated because of persistent rumors the vaccines are part of a U.S.-led plot to spread AIDS or infertility among Muslims.

Kano has finalized a deal to import polio vaccines from a company in Indonesia, Kano government spokesman Sule Ya'u Sule said. State officials hope to permit children to be immunized in coming weeks once Kano government scientists approve the vaccines' safety, he added.

Prison fire kills 103, injures 25 in Honduras

SAN PEDRO SULA, Honduras - An early morning fire at an overcrowded prison in northern Honduras on Monday consumed a cellblock housing gang members, killing 103, many as they slept, and injuring 25.

The 1:30 a.m. fire was sparked by an air conditioner short-circuit in a cellblock occupied by 186 prisoners, police Commissioner Wilmer Torres said. Some prisoners burned to death while others died from smoke inhalation.

Elsewhere . . .

CHINA-TAIWAN: The Chinese government warned Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian today to pull back from a "dangerous lurch toward independence" or face "destruction." But it also offered economic, diplomatic and other benefits if he acknowledges Taiwan is part of "one China." Chen, who narrowly won re-election in March, says Taiwan is independent.

ALTERED FOOD: In its strongest endorsement yet of genetically modified food, the United Nations' food agency said Monday that enhanced crops are helping poor farmers and have so far been found to be safe. But most developing countries are missing out on the benefits because private research is concentrated on four lucrative cash crops and not the staples needed to feed the hungry.

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