Cyclone hits Madagascar

ANTANANARIVO, Madagascar - A powerful cyclone hit the west coast of Madagascar Wednesday, destroying buildings, flooding large areas and cutting off thousands of people, officials said.

Cyclone Fanele made landfall on the African island nation at dawn, said Dia Styvanley Soa of the National Office for Disasters Preparedness. She said there was heavy rain and winds of up to 130 miles per hour.

The western town of Morondava, home to about 30,000 people, was left without water or electricity, Styvanley Soa's office said. Damaged buildings included some schools and churches that had been identified as emergency refuge centers.

Sunni politician escapes bomb

BAGHDAD - A top official of Iraq's biggest Sunni party escaped assassination in a Baghdad car bombing that killed at least two other people Wednesday - only 10 days ahead of an election that could reshape local power bases.

The U.S. military blamed al-Qaida in Iraq for the attack against Ziyad al-Ani, deputy secretary-general of the Iraqi Islamic Party and dean of the Islamic University, a Sunni institution.

Rwandans to watch, not fight

DAKAR, Senegal - Congo's invitation to its longtime enemy Rwanda to deploy up to 2,000 troops marked an extraordinary reversal of alliances, but the Congolese government said Wednesday the Rwandan forces were there only to observe, not to fight Hutu militias.

Some fear the presence of Rwandan soldiers could spark more violence or lead to further destabilization in Congo.

US investigates death claims

KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. military said Wednesday it was investigating claims an operation killed two dozen Afghan civilians - an announcement that seemed aimed at appeasing President Hamid Karzai.

But Afghan officials said a government inquiry found only militants were killed in the Tuesday raid in the Tagab Valley, where insurgents have a strong presence.

The U.S. announcement came just a day after Karzai made his latest plea to troops to avoid killing civilians, a demand he has made repeatedly.