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WORLD IN BRIEF: Saudi king heads to US for medical tests

Saudi king heads to US for medical tests

CAIRO — Saudi Arabia’s 86-year-old king flew Monday to the U.S. for medical treatment and left control of the world’s top oil producer and key American ally in the hands of an 85-year-old half brother who has suffered his own serious health problems.

The smooth transfer of power from one brother to another served as a reminder of the advancing age of the generation of the royal Al Saud family that has ruled the kingdom for the past 60 years. It also revived a long-standing question that may be taking on greater urgency: Can the rulers maintain stability when it comes time to pass the throne to a new generation?

Breakdown delays rescue of NZ miners

GREYMOUTH, New Zealand — The bid to rescue 29 New Zealand coal miners trapped underground by a massive gas explosion for nearly five days hit new problems Tuesday as a mechanical robot broke down inside a tunnel and hard rock layers slowed progress on gas testing.

Police superintendent Gary Knowles said the army robot broke down after it was affected by water, ‘‘and can no longer be used.’’

He said the drilling team boring into the mine tunnel had hit ‘‘very hard rock’’ overnight, further delaying efforts to test if air quality underground is safe enough for rescuers to go in after the 29 trapped miners.

Afghan fighting kills more than 30 insurgents

KABUL, Afghanistan — Bombs and gunbattles across Afghanistan killed more than 30 insurgents, five civilians and two NATO coalition service members, officials said Monday, a round of violence that shows the challenges facing international forces seeking to handover security duties to their local counterparts.

Two children were among four civilians killed Monday in eastern Paktia province when a bomb ripped through the tractor they were riding on, said Ghulam Dastagir, deputy provincial police chief. He said it was unclear whether the bomb was planted on the road or on the vehicle.

In northern Kunduz province, insurgents attacked a checkpoint set up by a local police force, sparking heavy fighting. Two police officers were killed, along with 17 of the attackers, said local police chief Mohammad Ayub Haqyar.