Militant rocket wounds 2 girls

JERUSALEM - Hamas militants fired a rocket into an Israeli border village, wounding two young sisters as they played outside their home. The attack followed Israel airstrikes against Gaza militants and threats of an 'all-front' war on the Islamic group.

The rapid-fire events threatened to escalate into large scale combat that could bury U.S.-led Mideast peace efforts.

Hamas stepped up its rocket barrages at southern Israel for a second day, retaliating for an Israeli strike that killed seven police officers.

Taliban militants declare cease-fire

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan - Taliban militants declared a cease-fire Wednesday in fighting with Pakistani forces, and the government said it was preparing for peace talks with al-Qaida-linked extremists in the lawless tribal area near the border with Afghanistan.

Any deal that allows armed Islamic extremists to operate on Pakistani soil would run counter to U.S. demands for the government to crack down on militants. The Bush administration contends a failed truce last year allowed al-Qaida to expand its reach into this turbulent, nuclear-armed country, and the U.S. has sounded warnings in recent days about a revival of militant strength.

Iraqis start to rebuild mosque

BAGHDAD - Iraqi and U.N. officials toured a bomb-damaged Shiite shrine in northern Iraq on Wednesday as workers took the first steps in a long-delayed reconstruction - nearly two years after the attack on the famed golden dome became a rallying point for Shiite rage.

Crews in blue jumpsuits and orange helmets picked through mounds of rubble spilling from the mosque in Samarra, about 60 miles north of Baghdad, which became the spark for a vicious cycle of sectarian violence after the Feb. 22, 2006, blast blamed on al-Qaida in Iraq.

Canada to ask Parliament to extend Afghan combat mission

TORONTO - Canada's minority Conservative government said Wednesday it will ask Parliament to extend the country's combat mission in Afghanistan, and indicated it might be willing to put itself on the line to make sure the unpopular measure passes.

The government motion will be based on recent recommendations by an independent panel saying that Canada should continue its mission only if another NATO country musters 1,000 troops for Afghanistan's dangerous south.