US military blames al-Qaida for car bombing

BAGHDAD - The U.S. military blamed al-Qaida in Iraq on Saturday for a suicide car bombing in the northern Iraqi town of Tal Afar, while an Iraqi official said the death toll in the attack had risen to 25.

An Iraqi security official, meanwhile, said the attacker was a Sunni Turkoman who had been detained by the U.S. military but was released four months ago under an Iraqi amnesty law.

The bomber may have avoided detection at a checkpoint leading to the busy market by having a man ride with him in the passenger seat, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media. The passenger got off soon after the car passed the checkpoint, he added, citing witness reports and forensic tests.

Suicide car bombers are known to ride alone in most cases, so having a passenger next to them could help them avoid detection. Tal Afar, a frequent target of suicide bombings over the past five years, bans men from driving alone.

Syria bars repeat visit by UN nuclear experts

DAMASCUS, Syria - Syria said Saturday it would bar U.N. nuclear investigators from revisiting a site bombed by Israeli jets on suspicion it was a secretly built atomic reactor.

The move dealt a blow to International Atomic Energy Agency efforts to follow up on intelligence indicating Syria was hiding a nuclear program that could be used to make weapons.

Syria denies it has hidden nuclear facilities.

Justifying its decision, a Foreign Ministry official told reporters Syria's agreement with the U.N. nuclear watchdog - which already inspected the site in June - allowed only one visit. The official, who was not authorized to speak to the media, spoke on condition of anonymity.

Georgia in 'state of war' over South Ossetia

OUTSIDE TSKHINVALI, Georgia - Russia and small, U.S.-allied Georgia headed toward a wider war Saturday as Russian tanks rumbled into the contested province of South Ossetia and Russian aircraft bombed a Georgian town, escalating a conflict that already has left hundreds dead.

Georgia's Foreign Ministry said the country was 'in a state of war' and accused Russia of beginning a 'massive military aggression.' The Georgian parliament approved a state of martial law, mobilizing reservists and ordering government authorities to work round-the-clock.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow sent troops into South Ossetia to force Georgia into a cease-fire and prevent Georgia from retaking control of its breakaway region after it launched a major offensive there overnight Friday.

Afghan official says 20 militants killed in west

KABUL, Afghanistan - About 20 Taliban fighters were killed in a battle with Afghan and U.S.-led forces near a key military supply route in western Afghanistan, a provincial official said Saturday.

Younus Rasouli, deputy governor of Farah province, said police attacked a village in Bala Buluk district Friday after being informed that Taliban militants had ordered residents out and taken it over to use as a base. The police called in air support from the U.S.-led coalition during the battle, Rasouli said.

Coalition spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry confirmed that fighter aircraft engaged in combat in Bala Buluk on Friday for about an hour. He said there were no coalition casualties but did not provide further details.

US volleyball coach's in-lawkilled in stabbing

BEIJING - A person briefed on the incident said the victims of a deadly stabbing attack at a tourist site in Beijing on the first day of the Olympic Games were the in-laws of the U.S. men's volleyball coach.

The person told The Associated Press that Todd Bachman, the father of former Olympian Elisabeth Bachman, was killed. His wife, Barbara, was hospitalized.

Elisabeth Bachman is married to U.S. men's volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.

The attacker committed suicide.

Explosions rock restive Chinese region; no reports of casualties

BEIJING - A news agency said several explosions have rocked a county in a restive Muslim region of western China, but no casualties have been reported.

The official Xinhua News Agency said the explosions took place early this morning in Kuqa county in the Xinjiang region.

The agency cited witnesses as saying they saw flashes of fire and heard gun shots following the explosions.