Iraqi troops make arrests, raise tension

BAGHDAD - Iraqi troops arrested the mayor of the southern city of Amarah on Thursday, raising tensions with followers of anti-U.S. cleric Muqtada al-Sadr as a third Iraqi military operation against Shiite militias in recent months got under way.

U.S.-backed Iraqi soldiers and police fanned out across the city of about 450,000, a Sadrist stronghold and hub of smuggler networks bringing in weapons from Iran to Shiite extremists. There was no resistance, and some gunmen avoided arrest by tossing weapons into the streets or irrigation canals.

Forces push Taliban militants from villages

ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan - Afghan and NATO troops backed by warplanes drove Taliban militants from villages within striking distance of southern Afghanistan's main city Thursday, killing 56 of them, Afghan officials said.

NATO said the 24-hour operation in Arghandab was a swift success that banished any threat to Kandahar and would help reassure Afghans appalled at the embarrassing mass escape of Taliban prisoners from a city jail last week.

Shell closes Nigerian oil field following attack

LAGOS, Nigeria - Militants in speedboats raided an oil installation off Nigeria's southern coastline Thursday, forcing Royal Dutch Shell to slash production and exposing Africa's biggest oil industry as vulnerable even on the high seas.

The attack by fighters of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta, about 85 miles into the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea, was the militant group's farthest-ever attack in the open ocean.

Opposition reports deaths ahead of vote

HARARE, Zimbabwe - Zimbabwe's opposition party said Thursday it was facing escalating violence as it tries to campaign in the last days before a presidential runoff pitting its leader against longtime President Robert Mugabe.

In recent weeks, party activists have been burned alive or have turned up dead after being spirited away in trucks, the Movement for Democratic Change said. Their rallies have been banned and police have blocked campaign stops.

The violence, restrictions on opposition campaigning and the arrest of a top opposition leader have raised concerns that the June 27 elections will not be free and fair, leading some in the region to wonder whether the vote should be scrapped in favor of a power-sharing arrangement.