4 Afghans die in blast outside U.S. Embassy
KABUL, Afghanistan: A suicide car bomb targeting a convoy of foreign troops exploded about 200 yards outside the U.S. Embassy in Kabul yesterday, killing at least four Afghan bystanders as people entered the compound for a Thanksgiving Day race. At least 18 others were wounded in the morning attack, said Abdullah Fahim, a Health Ministry spokesman. Police officer Abdul Manan said the explosion was set off by a suicide bomber in a Toyota Corolla. No U.S. Embassy personnel were killed or injured in the blast, an embassy statement said. The Interior Ministry said the bombing targeted a convoy of foreign troops, but it had no additional information. The blast happened on the last day of a visit by a U.N. Security Council delegation. The U.N. had warned its staff of possible terrorist attacks coinciding with the visit.
2 dead, 5 missing after jetliner plunges into sea
PARIS: An Airbus A320 passenger plane crashed off France's southern coast during a maintenance flight yesterday, killing two people and leaving the five others on board missing, authorities said. The airplane had undergone checks at the EAS Industries aircraft maintenance center in the French city of Perpignan, near the border with Spain. The plane was being leased by German charter airline XL Airways and was due to return to service for Air New Zealand next month, officials from those companies said. The jet plunged into the Mediterranean as it was approaching the Perpignan airport, from which it had taken off on a circular flight an hour earlier, France's civil aviation accident investigation bureau said. French and German investigators, as well as civil aviation officials and Airbus experts, were heading to the crash site about 13 miles off the coast, it said. Two bodies were recovered at sea, the local government said. Five boats, two helicopters and a patrol airplane were searching choppy seas for the other five people. .
Taliban are stockpiling opium, U.N. reports
UNITED NATIONS: Afghanistan has produced so much opium in recent years that the Taliban are cutting back poppy cultivation and stockpiling raw opium in an effort to support prices and preserve a major source of financing for the insurgency, said Antonio Maria Costa, head of the U.N. drug office. Costa made his remarks to reporters last week as his office prepared to release its latest survey of Afghanistan's opium crop. Issued yesterday, the survey showed that poppy cultivation had retreated in much of the country and was now overwhelmingly concentrated in the seven of 34 provinces where the insurgency remains strong, most of those in the south. The result was a 19 percent reduction in the amount of land devoted to opium in Afghanistan, the United Nations found, even though the total tonnage of opium produced dropped by just 6 percent.
Flood victims in Brazil wade back into homes
ITAJAI, Brazil: Flood victims waded through waist-deep water into mud-filled houses yesterday in a devastated part of southern Brazil where neighbors set up patrols to keep looters away and lined up by the thousands for government food handouts. As waters from torrential rains receded after causing at least 99 deaths, returning residents hurled soaked furniture and damaged electronic goods into the streets of this coastal city at the mouth of the swollen Itajai-Acu River. Hunger and thirst were so widespread in the city of 170,000 that police were ordered to let residents take food and water from stores because they were "driven by despair to steal," said state public safety spokesman Joao Carlos Santos. Officers instead targeted thieves who paddled rickety canoes to loot abandoned homes. The official death toll from the rains in Santa Catarina state rose yesterday to 99 from 97 a day earlier. Mudslides killed most of the victims, and 19 people were officially missing. Authorities said the toll eventually could climb to 150.
Livni calls on Olmert to step down immediately
JERUSALEM: Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni called on embattled Prime Minister Ehud Olmert yesterday to step down immediately in light of growing signs that he will soon be indicted on corruption charges. The announcement came a day after Israel's attorney general said he was considering filing charges against Olmert, accusing him of double billing Jewish groups for trips abroad. Olmert, who resigned in September, remains head of the interim government until a new prime minister is sworn in after elections in February. But at a meeting of the ruling Kadima party, Livni said he should go before that. His departure would clear the way for Livni, who succeeded him as leader of Kadima, to become acting prime minister until the election. Olmert's office did not react but has said he plans to stay in office until the elections.