The world at a glance . . . International
Kabul, AfghanistanViolence soars: Deadly violence in Afghanistan rose last year to its highest level since the 2001 U.S. invasion to oust the Taliban, the U.N. said this week. More than 8,000 people, at least 1,500 of them civilians, were killed in 2007. The ongoing insurgency is fueled by foreigners, said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon. “The support of foreign-based networks in providing leadership, planning, training, funding, and equipment clearly remains crucial to its viability,” he said. Ban named no particular foreign country. But most analysts believe that Taliban and al Qaida insurgents get support from allies in Pakistan.
BaghdadU.S. soldiers killed: Eight American soldiers died on a single day this week, the deadliest day for U.S. troops in more than two months. Five were killed in Baghdad, where a suicide bomber detonated himself next to a group of American soldiers at a market. Three others were killed by a roadside bomb in the eastern province of Diyala. Such bombs have claimed about half of the 173 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq since November. In general, “violence is down,” said Lt. Col. Steven Stover. “But it doesn’t make every casualty any easier.” The total number of U.S. military deaths in the Iraq conflict is nearing 4,000.
Lahore, PakistanSpate of suicide bombings: Two suicide bombings killed at least 24 people in Pakistan this week, one of them hitting close to a house owned by Asif Ali Zardari, widower of slain political leader Benazir Bhutto. The attacks, blamed on Taliban and al Qaida militants, came on top of a string of at least seven suicide bombings across Pakistan since the February parliamentary elections. They also came just a day after Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, and Nawaz Sharif, head of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, agreed to try to strip President Pervez Musharraf of his powers. But the parties, which won an anti-Musharraf mandate in the February parliamentary elections, can do nothing until their new parliament is officially convened—and that must be ordered by Musharraf.
ManilaImelda Marcos acquitted: A court in the Philippines has acquitted former first lady Imelda Marcos of 32 counts of stealing public money. Marcos gained notoriety after her husband, Ferdinand, was deposed in a 1986 uprising and she was found to have owned 15 mink coats and more than 1,000 pairs of shoes. The couple was accused of stealing some $10 billion in state funds during 20 years in power, but neither was ever convicted, and very little of the money has been recovered. Ferdinand died in 1989. Imelda, 78, appeared in court this week begowned and bejeweled. “I am so happy,” she said. “This will subtract from the 901 cases that were filed against the Marcoses.”
BeijingA protest-free Olympics? China has mobilized a massive force of 600,000 volunteers to deter protesters during the Beijing Olympic Games in August. “If we see petitioners or protesters carrying a banner, definitely we must stop them,” one volunteer told The New York Times. Chinese authorities this week quashed a protest by Buddhist monks in Tibet. But the protesters from abroad may prove harder to muzzle. Dozens of international groups—protesting everything from China’s poor human-rights record to occupation of Tibet—plan to attend the Games.
BangkokArms baron captured: The world’s most notorious arms dealer was arrested in Thailand last week, in a sting conducted by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency. Victor Bout, a 41-year-old Russian who was once in the Soviet army, is believed to have supplied militias and armies across the world with weaponry, sometimes arming both sides of a conflict using his fleets of cargo planes. Obsessive about secrecy, he rarely used the same cell phone twice. Bout was exposed by two DEA informants posing as buyers for the Colombian rebel group FARC. The DEA was involved because the FARC deals in cocaine. Bout, widely known as the “merchant of death,” has always denied the many charges against him. The U.S is seeking his extradition.