U.S. troops battle extremists in Iraq

BAGHDAD - U.S. forces said they waged successful battles against both Sunni and Shiite extremists and announced Thursday they had seized two men possibly linked to the capture of three American soldiers earlier this year.

The battles north and south of Baghdad came as the military seeks to take advantage of the improving security situation in Iraq to carry out targeted operations against extremist groups and the foreign-led al-Qaida in Iraq.

In recent weeks, the Americans have been fighting al-Qaida extremists in the area around Muqdadiyah, about 60 miles north of the capital.

Hindu extremists continue to clash with Christians in eastern India

NEW DELHI - Hindu extremists torched nearly a dozen churches and the home of a Christian leader Thursday, defying a curfew imposed to quell three days of religious violence in eastern India. Christians retaliated by setting fire to several homes belonging to Hindus.

Local police have been unsuccessful in halting the attacks and the federal government announced it was sending in a paramilitary force.

About 19 churches have been razed since violence broke out on Christmas Eve when long-standing tensions between the Hindu majority and the small Christian community erupted over conversions to Christianity.

Kenyans go to polls amid claims of vote rigging

NAIROBI, Kenya - Millions turned out Thursday for Kenya's closest-ever presidential race - a contest pitting President Mwai Kibaki against a former ally - in relatively peaceful balloting after a campaign marked by violence and vote-rigging charges.

Lines at polling stations stretched for miles in some areas, a sign Kenyans are increasingly confident their votes count as the continent swings firmly toward democracy.

Israeli, Palistinian leaders agree to move on with talks

JERUSALEM - Israeli and Palestinian leaders agreed Thursday to put aside a dispute over Israeli construction in a Jerusalem neighborhood and get down to work on a final peace agreement, according to participants at the meeting.

The two-hour meeting between Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas appeared to break an impasse that has clouded renewed peacemaking, and cleared the way for a visit by President Bush next month.

It was the first summit between the two leaders since they relaunched peace talks at a U.S.-hosted meeting last month.