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WORLD IN BRIEF: Iraq sentences 11 to death for bombings

Iraq sentences 11 to death for bombings

BAGHDAD -- An Iraqi court Thursday sentenced 11 people to death by hanging after convicting them of carrying out the August bombings of two government ministries that killed more than 100 people in the heart of Baghdad.

The attacks -- the deadliest to that point in over a year and a half -- raised questions about the ability of Iraqi forces to protect the country. They came less than two months after the U.S. handed over control of the country's cities to local security forces.

The bombings and two more massive attacks since have shaken Iraqis' confidence in Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who has staked his political reputation on keeping Iraq safe as he seeks to secure a second term.

Suicide bomber kills 20 people in Afghanistan

KABUL -- A suicide bomber killed 20 people -- including three children -- Thursday in a market in central Afghanistan in the deadliest attack against Afghan civilians in more than three months.

Suicide bombings and other attacks have become the No. 1 killer of Afghan civilians in the intensifying war between U.S.-led forces and the Taliban. A United Nations report released this week found that the number of Afghan civilians killed in war-related violence rose last year to its highest level of the 8-year-old war -- with nearly 70 percent of the deaths blamed on the Taliban and their allies.

Taliban chief believed alive after US attack

ISLAMABAD -- The leader of the Pakistani Taliban was apparently targeted in a U.S. missile strike on a meeting of militant commanders close to the Afghan border Thursday, but he escaped unhurt, Pakistani officials and militants said. Twelve insurgents were believed killed.

The death of Hakimullah Mehsud would be a major victory for both Washington and Islamabad in their fight against Islamist militants. Mehsud appeared on a video released last week sitting next to the Jordanian militant who killed seven CIA employees in a suicide attack in December in Afghanistan.

Mehsud's Tehrik-e-Taliban movement has also claimed responsibility for scores of suicide bombings in Pakistan in recent months against military, civilian and government targets.