Bomb destroys key bridge in western Iraq

BAGHDAD - A suicide bomber driving a dynamite-laden truck destroyed a key bridge Saturday on a highway used by the departing U.S. military, while separate attacks killed nine Iraqis, most of them security force members, police said.

There were no casualties in the blast that destroyed the bridge outside the city of Ramadi, which is about 70 miles west of Baghdad, said a local police officer. The highway is used heavily by the U.S. military to transport equipment out of the country, and is also a major roadway for civilian traffic.

The highway links Iraq to neighboring Syria and Jordan, where many Iraqis fled to escape sectarian violence.

Also Saturday, an attack on an Iraqi army convoy just outside of the city of Fallujah killed four Iraqi soldiers and wounded 14, said a police officer in the city, which is about 40 miles west of Baghdad.

Iran releases Newsweek reporter on bail

TEHRAN, Iran - Iran's state-run media says the government has released an Iranian-Canadian journalist on bail almost four months after he was arrested following the country's disputed presidential election.

The Islamic Republic News Agency said Newsweek reporter Maziar Bahari was freed from Tehran's Evin Prison on Saturday evening after posting bail of 3 billion rials ($300,000), citing the Tehran prosecutor's office.

Newsweek confirmed the release in a statement posted on its Web site.

Bahari is among more than 100 prisoners put on mass trial in August, accused of being part of an opposition plot to help topple Iran's clerical leaders.

Afghan president under pressure over fraud rulings

KABUL - Afghanistan's election crisis deepened Saturday as President Hamid Karzai resisted international pressure to accept fraud rulings that could force him into a runoff with his main challenger.

Three more American service members were reported killed in separate bombings as the U.S. and its international partners sought a way out of Afghanistan's political impasse, a crisis that threatens the legitimacy of the Afghan government and the future of the U.S.-led military mission.

A U.N.-backed panel had been expected to release findings Saturday from its investigation into allegations of widespread fraud - most of it favoring Karzai - in the Aug. 20 election. Preliminary figures showed Karzai won with more than 54 percent of the vote.

Gangs shoot down police chopper, 2 dead

RIO DE JANEIRO - A police helicopter flying over an intense shootout between rival drug gangs in a Rio slum was hit by gunfire Saturday and crashed in a fiery explosion on a football field.

Two officers were killed while the pilot and another officer on board suffered burns but managed to escape, a police spokesman said.

Bullets flying from the Morro dos Macacos ('Monkey Hill' in Portuguese) slum in northern Rio de Janeiro hit the pilot in the leg as he hovered above the clash, causing him to lose control and crash, turning the helicopter into a blackened wreck.

Officials said they did not know if somebody targeted the helicopter or if was hit by stray bullets, but the dramatic downing of the helicopter came only two weeks after Rio won the 2016 Olympic games amid major security concerns.

Pakistan starts critical offensive against Taliban

DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan - Pakistani soldiers attacked militant bases in the main al-Qaida and Taliban stronghold along the Afghan border Saturday as the nuclear-armed country launched its most critical offensive yet against insurgents threatening its stability.

Five soldiers and 11 militants were killed as the more than 30,000 troops deployed to the region met stiff resistance in parts of South Waziristan, a possible hide-out of Osama bin Laden and a base for jihadists bent on overthrowing the U.S-backed government, attacking the West and scuttling the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan

The U.S. has pushed Pakistan to mount the offensive, which follows three unsuccessful campaigns since 2001 in the mountainous, remote region by mostly poorly equipped soldiers trained to fight conventional wars, not counterinsurgency operations.

The assault, which has been planned for several months, comes after a surge in militant attacks killed more than 175 people across Pakistan over the past two weeks.