Posted: Sep 29, 2012 4:00 PM
Updated: Sep 30, 2012 4:01 AM
US military deaths in Afghanistan hit 2,000 after 11 years of war
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) U.S. military deaths in the Afghan war have reached 2,000, a cold reminder of the human cost of an 11-year-old conflict that now garners little public interest at home as the United States prepares to withdraw most of its combat forces by the end of 2014.
The toll has climbed steadily in recent months with a spate of attacks by Afghan army and police supposed allies against American and NATO troops. That has raised troubling questions about whether countries in the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan will achieve their aim of helping the government in Kabul and its forces stand on their own after most foreign troops depart in little more than two years.
On Sunday, a U.S. official confirmed the latest death, saying that an international service member killed in an apparent insider attack by Afghan forces in the east of the country late Saturday was American. A civilian contractor with NATO and at least two Afghan soldiers also died in the attack, according to a coalition statement and Afghan provincial officials. The U.S. official spoke on condition of anonymity because the nationality of those killed had not been formally released. Names of the dead are usually released after their families or next-of-kin are notified, a process that can take several days. The nationality of the civilian was also not disclosed.
In addition to the 2,000 Americans killed since the Afghan war began on Oct. 7, 2001, at least 1,190 more coalition troops from other countries have also died, according to iCasualties.org, an independent organization that tracks the deaths.
According to the Afghanistan index kept by the Washington-based research center Brookings Institution, about 40 percent of the American deaths were caused by improvised explosive devices. The majority of those were after 2009, when President Barack Obama ordered a surge that sent in 33,000 additional troops to combat heightened Taliban activity. The surge brought the total number of American troops to 101,000, the peak for the entire war.
Afghan insider attack kills 2 Americans, at least 2 Afghans; 2,000 US troops dead in war
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) An Afghan soldier turned his gun on American troops at a checkpoint in the country's east, killing two Americans and at least two fellow members of Afghanistan's army in a shooting that marked both the continuance of a disturbing trend of insider attacks and the 2,000th U.S. troop death in the long-running war, officials said Sunday.
The string of insider attacks is one of the greatest threats to NATO's mission in the country, endangering a partnership key to training up Afghan security forces and withdrawing international troops.
Saturday's shooting took place at an Afghan army checkpoint just outside a joint U.S.-Afghan base in Wardak province, said Shahidullah Shahid, a provincial government spokesman.
"Initial reports indicate that a misunderstanding happened between Afghan army soldiers and American soldiers," Shahid said. He said investigators had been sent to the site to try to figure out what happened.
An Afghan official speaking on condition of anonymity said three Afghan soldiers were killed in the clash. It was not clear if the assailant was among the dead.
Car bombs target Shiite areas, security forces in Iraq, killing 19
BAGHDAD (AP) Bombs striking Shiite neighborhoods, security forces and other targets across Iraq killed at least 19 people Sunday, officials said. It was the latest string of coordinated bombings in multiple Iraqi cities, a tactic used by insurgents apparently aimed at rekindling widespread sectarian conflict and undermining public confidence in the beleaguered government.
The deadliest attack came in the town of Taji, a former al-Qaida stronghold just north of Baghdad, where three explosive-rigged cars went off within minutes of each other. Police said eight people died and 28 were injured in the back-to-back blasts that began around 7:15 a.m.
In all, at least 68 people were wounded in the wave of attacks that stretched from the restive but oil-rich city of Kirkuk in Iraq's north to the southern Shiite town of Kut.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the violence, but car bombs are a hallmark of al-Qaida in Iraq. The militant network has vowed to take back areas of the country, like Taji, from which the Sunni insurgent network was pushed before U.S. troops withdrew last December.
Shortly after the Taji attacks, police said a suicide bomber set off his explosives-packed car in the Shiite neighborhood of Shula in northwest Baghdad. One person was killed and seven wounded. Police could not immediately identify the target.
Officials: Angry Muslims torch Buddhist temples, homes in Bangladesh over burned Quran photo
COX'S BAZAR, Bangladesh (AP) Thousands of Bangladeshi Muslims angry over an alleged derogatory photo of the Islamic holy book Quran on Facebook set fires in at least 10 Buddhist temples and 40 homes near the southern border with Myanmar, authorities said Sunday.
The violence began late Saturday and continued until early Sunday, said Nojibul Islam, a police chief in the coastal district of Cox's Bazar.
He said the situation was under control Sunday afternoon after extra security officials were deployed and the government banned public gatherings in the troubled area.
He said at least 20 people were injured in the attacks that followed the posting of a Facebook photo of a burned copy of the Quran. The rioters blamed the photo on a local Buddhist boy, though it was not immediately clear if the boy actually posted the photo.
Bangladesh's popular English-language Daily Star newspaper quoted the boy as saying that the photo was mistakenly tagged on his Facebook profile. The newspaper reported that soon after the violence broke out, the boy's Facebook account was closed and police escorted him and his mother to safety.
Spain crisis transforms Catalans who never supported independence before into separatists
BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Three weeks after a massive Catalan separatist march in Barcelona the biggest since the 1970s the independence flags still flutter from balconies across Spain's second largest city.
Spain's crushing recession has had this divisive consequence: soaring popular sentiment in Catalonia that the affluent region would be better off as separate nation.
On Thursday, regional lawmakers voted to hold a referendum for Catalonia's seven million citizens to decide whether they want to break away from Spain. The Spanish government says that the referendum would be unconstitutional. And it's unclear if the "Yes" vote would win even in these restless times.
But it looks more likely than ever that Catalonia may ask to go its own way.
"I have a big Catalan flag on the balcony. I put it up a week before the demonstration on Sept. 11 and it is still hanging there," said Gemma Mondon, 46, a mother of two. "I think we would be better off if we can manage our money. I think we would do much better."
2,200 hospitals face Medicare penalties averaging $125K for patients returning with problems
WASHINGTON (AP) If you or an elderly relative have been hospitalized recently and noticed extra attention when the time came to be discharged, there's more to it than good customer service.
Starting Monday, Medicare will fine hospitals that have too many patients readmitted within 30 days of discharge due to complications. The penalties are part of a broader push under President Barack Obama's health care law to improve quality while also trying to cut costs.
About two-thirds of the hospitals serving Medicare patients, or some 2,200 facilities, will be hit with penalties averaging around $125,000 per facility this coming year, according to government estimates.
Data to assess the penalties have been collected and crunched, and Medicare has shared the results with individual hospitals. Medicare plans to post details online later and people can look up how their community hospitals performed.
It adds up to a new way of doing business for hospitals, and they have scrambled to prepare for well over a year. They are working on ways to improve communication with rehabilitation centers and doctors who follow patients after they're released, as well as connecting individually with patients.
After clashes, plight of segregated Muslims is a challenge to Myanmar democracy hopes
SITTWE, Myanmar (AP) There are no Muslim faithful in most of this crumbling town's main mosques anymore, no Muslim students at its university.
They're gone from the market, missing from the port, too terrified to walk on just about any street downtown.
Three-and-a-half months after some of the bloodiest clashes in a generation between Myanmar's ethnic Rakhine Buddhists and stateless Muslims known as Rohingya left the western town of Sittwe in flames, nobody is quite sure when or even if the Rohingya will be allowed to resume the lives they once lived here.
The conflict has fundamentally altered the demographic landscape of this coastal state capital, giving way to a disturbing policy of government-backed segregation that contrasts starkly with the democratic reforms Myanmar's leadership has promised the world since half a century of military rule ended last year.
While the Rakhine can move freely, some 75,000 Rohingya have effectively been confined to a series of rural displaced camps outside Sittwe and a single downtown district they dare not leave for fear of being attacked.
Afghan police, soldiers dying alongside NATO partners in insider attacks
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) Afghan Army Sgt. Habibullah Hayar didn't know it, but he had been sleeping with his enemy for weeks.
Twenty days ago, one of his roommates was arrested for allegedly plotting an insider attack against their unit, which is partnered with NATO forces in eastern Paktia province.
Afghan soldiers and policemen or militants in their uniforms have gunned down more than 50 foreign troops so far this year, eroding the trust between coalition forces and their Afghan partners. An equal number of Afghan policemen and soldiers also died in these attacks, giving them reason as well to be suspicious of possible infiltrators within their ranks.
"It's not only foreigners. They are targeting Afghan security forces too," said the 21-year-old Hayar, who was in Kabul on leave. "Sometimes, I think what kind of situation is this that a Muslim cannot trust a Muslim even a brother cannot trust a brother. It's so confused. Nobody knows what's going on."
The U.S.-led coalition said a NATO service member and an international civilian contractor were killed on Saturday in the latest such insider attack. The coalition said in a statement on Sunday that Afghan soldiers were also killed or wounded, but provided no other details about the attack in eastern Afghanistan.
Minor quake, aftershock rattle suburb of Dallas, Texas; no major damages or injuries reported
DALLAS (AP) A minor earthquake and an aftershock minutes later rattled the western suburbs of Dallas overnight, but authorities reported no damages or injuries and a major airport close to the epicenter continued with normal flight operations.
An initial quake measuring a preliminary magnitude of 3.4 struck at 11:05 p.m. CDT Saturday and was centered about 2 miles north of the Dallas suburb of Irving, the US Geological Survey's national earthquake monitoring center in Golden, Colo., reported. USGS Geophysicist Randy Baldwin told The Associated Press from Colorado that the initial quake lasted several seconds and appeared strong enough to be felt up to 15 or 20 miles away.
He said a smaller aftershock at an estimated 3.1 magnitude occurred about four minutes later, just a few miles from the first temblor in an area west of Dallas.
The Colorado center's online reporting system received more than 1,200 online responses from people who felt the ground shudder. "Of all the reports we've received there were no intensities of a damaging nature. We haven't heard of any kind of damage and it's probably too small for that," Baldwin added.
Authorities in Irving said they were still checking their area early Sunday but had no immediate reports of any significant impact.
Poulter carries Europe to 2 late wins, cuts US lead to 10-6 going into final day at Ryder Cup
MEDINAH, Ill. (AP) Europe sure didn't look like a team trailing by four points in the Ryder Cup.
Under a darkening sky, there was still enough light to see the whites of Ian Poulter's bulging eyes and his golf ball disappear into the cup for a fifth straight birdie and another crucial point Saturday. There was no mistaking the smile of captain Jose Maria Olazabal, who waited from sunrise to sunset at Medinah for hope that this cup was still within reach.
Right when it looked like the Americans were a lock to win it back, Poulter came through with a performance so remarkable that it was the only match Europe won when it trailed on the back nine. Right before him, Luke Donald matched a clutch shot by Tiger Woods with one that was even better and it kept Woods winless for the first time going into Sunday singles.
Those two matches gave Europe a load of momentum going into the final day, even if all it really changed was the size of the deficit.
The Americans still had a big lead, 10-6. Europe at least had hope.