New US rule: No fighting near homes

KABUL - The U.S. commander in Afghanistan will soon order U.S. and NATO forces to break away from fights with militants hiding among villagers, an official said Monday, announcing one of the strongest measures yet to protect Afghan civilians.

The most contentious civilian casualty cases in recent years occurred during battles in Afghan villages when U.S. airstrikes aimed at militants also killed civilians. American commanders say such deaths hurt their mission because they turn average Afghans against the government and international forces.

Attacks kill 33 as violence intensifies

BAGHDAD - Bombings and shootings killed at least 33 people in Baghdad and surrounding areas on Monday, including a group of high school students on a bus headed for final exams, as violence intensified before a planned withdrawal next week of U.S. troops from urban areas.

The bombings, nearly all in Shiite areas of the capital, came just two days after the year's deadliest attack - a truck bombing that killed at least 75 people in northern Iraq.

Overall violence has declined drastically over the past two years, but the recent attacks have raised concerns about the Shiite-dominated government's ability to provide security around the country without the immediate help of the U.S. troops remaining in Iraq. More than 100 people have died in three days of bloodletting, mostly from bombings but also from shootings.

NATO thwarts pirate attack off Somalia

BRUSSELS - Pirates tried to hijack a Singaporean freighter off Somalia on Monday, but they were chased down and captured by a NATO warship, the alliance said.

The MV Maersk Phoenix freighter issued an emergency call when it was attacked by the pirates, who were armed with AK-47 automatic rifles and a rocket-propelled grenade launcher, NATO said.The

The alliance's Portuguese warship Corte-Real gave chase and captured the pirates and their small boat, which also contained two ladders. NATO confiscated the vessel and the weapons, but freed the eight pirates after consultations with Portuguese authorities.

No casualties were reported.