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WORLD IN BRIEF: Silenced slayings on the rise in Iraq

Silenced slayings on the rise in Iraq

BAGHDAD -- For about $100 at outlaw workshops, gunmen can get what's become the tool of choice in Baghdad these days: silencers for pistols and automatic weapons.

At least 12 slayings in Baghdad in the past two weeks have been linked to gangland-style hits using muffled weapons, including an off-duty policeman killed in a drive-by shooting Monday, officials said.

It's part of a recent wave of targeted attacks on security officials and government workers that has included established insurgent tactics such as roadside bombings and explosives attached to vehicles. The slayings could be an attempt to further disrupt Iraq's Shiite leadership after March elections that have still not produced a government.

North Korea appears to give military rank to Kim son

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korean leader Kim Jong Il promoted Kim Jong Un to the rank of general in the Korean People's Army, the state news agency reported, the clearest signal yet that the younger Kim is on track to succeed his father in ruling the impoverished country.

Kim Jong Il issued an order handing six people -- including son Kim Jong Un -- the rank of general, the Korean Central News Agency reported in a dispatch published early Tuesday. Also promoted was Kim Kyong Hui, which is the name of Kim Jong Il's sister. Her name was listed ahead of Kim Jong Un's in the report.

The Korean-language report came hours ahead of the start of the country's biggest political meeting in three decades and amid intense speculation that Kim Jong Il's youngest son and sister could be given key posts at the gathering.

Petraeus: Taliban have reached out to reconcile

BAGRAM, Afghanistan -- Top Taliban leaders have made overtures to reconcile with the Afghan government, the top commander in Afghanistan said Monday.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai has long said that he will talk to insurgents if they renounce violence, sever ties to terrorists and embrace the Afghan constitution. Publicly, the Taliban have said they won't negotiate until foreign troops leave Afghanistan, yet there are many indications that backdoor discussions have occurred.