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Surgery separates Peruvian girl's legs

Published September 8, 2006

LIMA, Peru - Peru's "miracle baby" on Thursday underwent a successful second operation to fully separate her legs and allow her to walk unassisted, according to the lead doctor on the eight-person team performing the surgery.

"We have finished with the final part of the thighs. After recovery from this operation, she probably will be able to walk in better conditions," Dr. Luis Rubio said.

Milagros Cerron, whose first name means "miracles" in Spanish, was born with a rare congenital defect known as sirenomelia, or "mermaid syndrome," which left her legs connected from her heels to her groin.

Doctors successfully performed risky surgery in June 2005 to separate her legs to above her knees. Thursday's operation was to separate the remaining four inches of fused tissue just below the groin.

Milagros, now 2 years and 4 months old, waved and blew kisses to well-wishers before her surgery.

Her parents, medical personnel and journalists watched the procedure on a screen in an adjoining room. When the operation ended, Rubio lifted up Milagros to show that her legs were fully separated.

The girl, affectionately called the Little Mermaid by Peruvians, had developed the ability to stand alone without help and take small assisted steps before Thursday's surgery.

According to Rubio, Milagros will need at least 16 more operations in the next decade to reconstruct and repair her digestive, urinary and sexual organs.

NATO commander asks for more troops in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan - NATO's top military commander said Thursday that he needs more troops to fight the Taliban in southern Afghanistan, where a widening insurgency has left hundreds dead.

U.S. Gen. James L. Jones acknowledged NATO had been surprised by the "level of intensity" of Taliban attacks since the alliance took over from coalition forces in the south in August.

In the latest violence, some 21 suspected Taliban militants were killed Thursday in Kandahar province's Panjwayi district, the scene of a NATO-led campaign, dubbed Operation Medusa, that began Saturday.

Elsewhere ...

mine fire: A fire broke out Thursday in a gold and metals mine in Siberia, Russia, leaving 33 miners underground fighting the blaze or struggling to escape through long underground tunnels, officials said. Their fate remained unknown as dawn approached today.

fire on nuclear sub: A short-circuit sparked a fire aboard a Russian nuclear submarine in the Barents Sea, killing two seamen and injuring one other, officials said Thursday. There was no radiation leak and the vessel, the St. Daniil Moskovsky, also known as B-414, returned safely to its Arctic home base, officials said.

khan to have surgery: Abdul Qadeer Khan, Pakistan's former top nuclear scientist who confessed to leaking weapons technology to Iran, North Korea and Libya, was admitted Thursday night to a hospital for prostate cancer surgery, officials said. Khan, 70, was expected to undergo tests Friday and have surgery over the weekend, a government statement said.

Mexico landslide: A landslide buried buses and cars on a highway in the central state of Puebla and killed at least four travelers Thursday, a day after a separate avalanche left 10 villagers dead in northern Mexico.

[Last modified September 8, 2006, 02:27:45]

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