Bomb kills 20 Iraqis; six more U.S. soldiers killed

BAGHDAD, Iraq - A suicide bomber detonated a minibus Wednesday in an outdoor market packed with shoppers ahead of a Muslim festival, killing about 20 people and wounding more than 60 in a Shiite town south of Baghdad. Six U.S. troops were killed, two in a helicopter crash west of the capital.

Also Wednesday, the U.S. command confirmed moves to step up training on how to combat roadside bombs - now the biggest killers of American troops in Iraq. At least 2,034 U.S. military service members have died since the Iraq conflict began in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

Rioting spreads across Ethiopian capital, 23 killed

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia - Riot police deployed across the Ethiopian capital firing guns and lobbing grenades Wednesday to quell a second day of protests over disputed parliamentary elections. At least 23 people were killed and 150 wounded, including children, doctors and hospital workers said.

One man said police broke into his family's housing compound firing guns indiscriminately in their search for stone-throwing demonstrators.

However, government Information Minister Berhan Hailu said the casualty figures had been exaggerated and put the death toll at 11 civilians and one police officer. He said 54 officers and 28 civilians were injured.

Iran's hard-line regime firing 40 ambassadors

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's government announced Wednesday that 40 ambassadors and senior diplomats, including supporters of warmer ties with the West, will be fired, continuing a purge of reformers as the regime takes an increasingly tough stance at home and abroad.

The diplomatic changes are part of a government shake-up by ultraconservative President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that includes putting Islamic hard-liners in key posts at security agencies. Some Iranians think the president will bring back strict social policies.

Ahmadinejad has steered the Persian state into a more confrontational stance in its dealings with other nations, particularly in facing suspicions about whether Iran's nuclear program is illicitly trying to develop nuclear weapons, a charge the regime denies.

Hamas says it won't renew truce with Israel

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The militant group Hamas said Wednesday it would not renew an informal 9-month-old truce, which expires at the end of the year, after Israel killed one of its leading activists in an airstrike in Gaza.

The truce was brokered by Egypt, which is expected to invite militant groups, including Hamas, to Cairo in the coming weeks to discuss extending the agreement.

In the past nine months, violence has dropped sharply, and Hamas refrained from carrying out suicide bombings in Israel. But it has repeatedly fired rockets from Gaza at Israeli towns, in what it said was retaliation for Israeli truce violations, such as airstrikes and deadly arrest raids.

British Cabinet minister resigns for second time

LONDON - British Cabinet minister David Blunkett, who overcame blindness and humble beginnings to reach high office, was forced to resign Wednesday for the second time in less than a year - a major embarrassment for Prime Minister Tony Blair who had strongly backed his scandal-prone friend.

The latest controversy comes only months after Blunkett quit as home secretary in December following a messy love affair with a married American magazine publisher, Kimberly Quinn.

On Wednesday, Blunkett acknowledged he had breached ministerial guidelines by taking lucrative corporate positions during his brief spell out of office, and that his job as work and pensions secretary had become untenable.

Security beefed up at jail where suspected operative escaped

KABUL, Afghanistan - Prison doors and cells have been fortified at the U.S. military jail in Afghanistan, a U.S. official said Wednesday as details emerged of an unprecedented breakout by a suspected al-Qaida leader and three others who picked locks and evaded a mine field.

The Pentagon's belated confirmation of the identity of one of the four who escaped in July, Omar al-Farouq, sparked anger in Southeast Asia where he was one of Osama bin Laden's top lieutenants.

Some officials in Indonesia, where he was captured in 2002 before being handed over to U.S. authorities, accused Washington of failing to inform them of the escape.

- From wire reports