15 Iraqi civilians killed in U.S. raid

BAGHDAD - A U.S. attack killed 19 insurgents and 15 civilians, including nine children, northwest of the capital Thursday - one of the heaviest civilian death tolls in an American operation in recent months. The military said it was targeting senior leaders of al-Qaida in Iraq.

American forces have applied fierce and determined pressure on militants since the full contingent of additional U.S. troops arrived June 15. But Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has recently confronted top American commander Gen. David Petraeus about what he sees as overly aggressive U.S. tactics that harm innocent civilians, according to Iraqi officials.

Afghan officials crack down on security firms

KABUL, Afghanistan - Echoing a growing problem in Iraq, Afghan authorities are cracking down on lucrative but largely unregulated security firms, some of which are suspected of murder.

Two private Afghan security companies were raided and shut down this week, and a dozen or so more contractors - including some protecting embassies - would be closed soon, police and Western officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

The government is proposing new rules to tighten control over such firms, according to a draft policy document obtained by the AP.

Southern Sudan party pulls out of government

JUBA, Sudan - Southern Sudan's former rebels on Thursday suspended participation in the central government, accusing it of failing to abide by a peace deal in a dispute that threatens a rare success in the troubled nation.

U.S. officials and other international observers have warned that a 2005 peace agreement between Sudan's north and south was in danger of unraveling, threatening a new civil war that could also dash hopes for ending a separate con flict in western Darfur.

The Sudan People's Liberation Movement said it was withdrawing its 18 Cabinet ministers, including the foreign minister and the vice president, and three advisers.

Study: Abortion just as likely where it's illegal

LONDON - Women are just as likely to get an abortion in countries where it is outlawed as they are in countries where it is legal, according to research published Friday.

In a study examining abortion trends from 1995 to 2003, experts also found that abortion rates are virtually equal in rich and poor countries, and that half of all abortions worldwide are unsafe.