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7 killed as al-Qaida attacks strategic town

SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- Yemeni military officials say al-Qaida fighters trying to take control of a key southern town launched two attacks on residents, leaving a total of seven people dead.

Officials say clashes in the city of Lawder killed two al-Qaida militants and an armed civilian fighting back.

Also on Sunday, a suicide bomber drove his car through a civilian checkpoint west of Lawder, killing three people who were stationed there. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with military regulations.

The militants want control of Lawder, a town of about 30,000 people, which lies on a key road linking two provinces. Clashes over the last week have left at least 200 militants and 20 civilians dead.

Many of the civilians in Lawder took up arms to protect their town against al-Qaida.


2 election officials get bail in corruption case

BAGHDAD (AP) -- Two Iraqi election officials facing corruption charges said Sunday that they have been released on bail after a three-day detention that they said was designed to pressure the independent electoral body.

The detention of the two election officials has fueled concerns that Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is seeking to consolidate power and bring independent officials and government bodies under his control.

The officials, Faraj al-Haidari and Karim al-Tamimi, were detained Thursday after a decision to reinvestigate old corruption charges against the commission. Both officials vehemently denied the allegations and described their detentions as an attempt to pressure the panel. A spokesman for al-Maliki has denied any government pressure, saying the issue is with the courts.

Al-Haidari, who heads the electoral commission, said by phone that he and al-Tamimi were released Sunday. He said that the judge who released them found that the two did not violate the law but did not indicate whether the case would continue. Bail of about $12,500 was posted by each of them.

Al-Tamimi confirmed that he had also been set free.


Nearly 400 prisoners freed in Taliban raid

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan (AP) -- Taliban militants armed with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades battled their way into a prison in northwest Pakistan on Sunday, freeing nearly 400 prisoners, including at least 20 described by police as "very dangerous" insurgents.

The raid by more than 100 fighters was a dramatic display of the strength of the insurgency gripping the nuclear-armed country. The escaped prisoners may now rejoin the fight, giving momentum and a propaganda boost to a movement that has killed thousands of Pakistani officials and citizens since 2007.

The attackers stormed the prison before dawn in the city of Bannu in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province close to the Afghan border, said Shafique Khan, a police officer. They used explosives and hand grenades to knock down the main gates and two walls, according to Bannu's prison superintendent, Zahid Khan.

Once inside the building, the attackers fought with guards for around two hours, setting part of the prison on fire before freeing the 380 inmates, including at least 20 "very dangerous Taliban militants," said Shafique.

The prison in Bannu housed 944 inmates. The government used the prison as the main facility to detain scores of Taliban militants.


Political meeting held amid premier's arrest

BISSAU, Guinea-Bissau (AP) -- Political parties met with Guinea-Bissau's military junta Sunday in an attempt to reach a political solution days after soldiers arrested the prime minister in the tiny West African nation.

Opposition coalition spokesman Fernando Vaz said Sunday that the military group met with political parties for the third day in an attempt to reach an agreement before a military contingent from West African regional bloc ECOWAS arrives today.

Vaz said the parties are inviting the one headed by detained prime minister to join talks, but it isn't clear whether the offer will be accepted. Prime Minister Carlos Gomes Jr. was the front-runner in a presidential poll scheduled April 29.

The group was considering two proposals, Vaz said. One is a constitutional solution, he said, but one that would exclude Gomes. The other, he said, would be "to opt for a radical change." He did not give details.

Gomes was unpopular with soldiers because of his efforts to reform the military by downsizing the bloated, top-heavy army, strengthening the police and fighting the cocaine-trafficking business in which some senior officers and politicians are believed to be embroiled.