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WORLD IN BRIEF: Libyan rebels seize two mountain towns

TRIPOLI, Libya -- Rebel fighters in western Libya seized two mountain towns from government troops Wednesday as their counterparts east of the capital Tripoli suffered heavy losses in intense fighting with government troops.

Meanwhile, the embattled regime of Moammar Gadhafi sought to show it remains in control of the country, laying out plans to try rebel leaders for treason in court next week.

In the eastern rebel stronghold of Benghazi, tens of thousands of rebel supporters poured into the city's main square for a rally aimed at sustaining momentum for their nearly five-month-old uprising. Fighting began in February when a popular movement against Gadhafi quickly escalated into armed conflict.

Amnesty: Syrian crackdown on town 'disturbing'

BEIRUT -- The rights group Amnesty International said Wednesday that Syrian security forces may have committed crimes against humanity during a deadly siege of an opposition town in May, citing witness accounts of deaths in custody, torture and arbitrary detention.

The Amnesty report focused on a crackdown in Talkalakh, a town near the Lebanese border that was overrun by army tank units, security forces and pro-regime gunmen after weeks of protests calling for the ouster of President Bashar Assad. Some activists place the Talkalakh death toll as high as 36. Thousands of people also fled to Lebanon to escape the offensive.

The report by the London-based group could boost international pressure on Assad's regime as it presses attacks on various fronts against a four-month-old uprising.

US pullout from Afghanistan starting slowly

WASHINGTON -- The pullout of major U.S. combat units from Afghanistan may not start until the peak fighting season ends in late fall, U.S. military officials said Wednesday, although 800 National Guard soldiers will go home this month.

Details of the U.S. drawdown are still being worked out, but thus far the only major combat unit designated to depart Afghanistan and not be replaced is a Marine infantry battalion set to leave in late fall, officials said. That means the military could retain virtually all its current combat power until the fighting goes into a seasonal lull and still meet President Barack Obama's order to reduce the force by 10,000 by year's end.