Sunni leader against al-Qaida in Iraq assassinated

' BAGHDAD - The assassination Thursday of the leader of the Sunni Arab revolt against al-Qaida militants dealt a setback to one of the few success stories in U.S. efforts to stabilize Iraq, but tribesmen in Anbar province vowed not to be deterred in fighting the terror movement.

American and Iraqi officials hoped the death of Abdul-Sattar Abu Risha would not stall the campaign to drive al-Qaida in Iraq from the vast province spreading west of Baghdad and reconcile Sunnis with the Shiite-led national government.

It was the biggest blow to the Anbar tribal alliance since a suicide bomber killed four anti-al-Qaida sheiks as they met in a Baghdad hotel in June. Abu Risha himself had escaped a suicide attack in February. But those attacks and others did not stop the campaign against al-Qaida.

Suicide bomb kills 15 Pakistan soldiers

' ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - A suicide bomber rammed an explosives-laden vehicle into a mess hall inside a high-security base used by a Pakistani counterterrorism force, killing at least 15 soldiers, officials said.

The militants' ability to penetrate the elite force's headquarters about 60 miles south of the capital was a severe blow to the army. It came hours after visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte met in Islamabad with President Gen. Pervez Musharraf, a key ally in Washington's war on terrorism.

The army reported, meanwhile, that it had killed as many as 50 militants in a battle in the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border.

Quirk of nature sends Indonesian tsunami out to sea

' PADANG, Indonesia - Despite the intensity of the shallow undersea earthquake, no waves lashed the beach and the family shack was undamaged. A quirk of nature sent the full force of the tsunami out to sea, preventing a repeat of the 2004 Indian Ocean disaster that killed more than 230,000

people - most of them on Sumatra.

A series of powerful earthquakes and aftershocks followed over a 24-hour period Wednesday and Thursday, damaging hundreds of homes, mosques and schools, and unleashing a 10-foot-high tsunami. At least 10 people were killed.

But the huge mass of water spawned by the initial 8.4-magnitude quake was pushed to sea rather than land, said Mike Turnbull, a seismologist at Australia's Central Queensland University.

Putin's PM choice meets lawmakers

' MOSCOW - President Vladimir Putin's choice for prime minister said Thursday he would not rule out a run for the presidency, adding to the intrigue following his surprise nomination just months before elections.

Putin nominated Viktor Zubkov on Wednesday after dismissing Mikhail Fradkov, who had headed the Cabinet since 2004. The State Duma, the loyal lower parliament house that often acts as a rubber stamp for Kremlin policies, is expected to approve the choice today.

75 Taliban killed in Afghanistan fights

' KABUL, Afghanistan - Fighting in Afghanistan killed some 75 people as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, including 45 suspected Taliban militants who died in airstrikes and Afghan army gunfire, officials said Thursday.

In the southern province of Uruzgan, insurgents attacked a joint Afghan army and U.S.-led coalition patrol

Wednesday with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, the coalition said in a statement.

Hamas urges Gaza militants not to attack crossings between Gaza, Israel

' GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - The Hamas government urged Gaza militants Thursday not to attack border crossings with Israel in order to ensure the flow of basic goods into Gaza during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Hamas gunmen, along with militants from other groups, have been involved in rocket and mortar attacks on Israeli targets, including border crossings, and the statement Thursday by government spokesman Taher Nunu marked a change of position.

Japanese leader in hospital for stress

' TOKYO - Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe was hospitalized for stress and exhaustion Thursday, a day after announcing his resignation, as his party scrambled to find a replacement amid growing calls for a general election.

Abe, 52, was to remain hospitalized for at least three or four days, his doctors said, leaving the care of his scandal-scarred government with his top deputy, Chief Cabinet Secretary Kaoru Yosano.