World briefs: Panel confirms Afghan torture

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KABUL, Afghanistan -- An Afghan government panel Monday acknowledged widespread torture of detainees, after a two-week investigation of a U.N. report citing rampant abuses.

Abdul Qadir Adalatkhwa, the panel's director, said its inquiry confirmed evidence that nearly half of the 284 prisoners interviewed had been tortured and that many of the detainees never had access to legal defense. But Mr. Adalatkhwa insisted there was no evidence of "systematic torture."

The findings were the first formal acknowledgment by the government of a widespread problem with abuse, after initial denials by Afghan officials when the U.N. report was released Jan. 20.

U.S. withdrawal begins

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The United States began its withdrawal from Afghanistan in earnest, officials said Monday, sending the first of what will be tens of thousands of containers home through a once-blocked land route through Pakistan.

The shipment of 50 containers came as a new U.S. commander took control of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan to guide the coalition through the end stages of a war that has so far lasted more than 11 years.

The containers were in the first convoys to cross into Pakistan as part of the Afghan pullout, said Marcus Spade, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Anniversary protests

CAIRO -- Thousands of Egyptians rallied Monday against President Mohamed Morsi on the second anniversary of the ouster of his predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Security forces beefed up their presence outside the presidential complex where dozens of demonstrators hurled stones in the direction of the water cannon, the state-run Middle East News Agency reported.

Demonstrators chanted slogans against Mr. Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood. Hundreds more joined protests in the coastal city of Alexandria, MENA said.

Shackleton's journey

WELLINGTON, New Zealand -- It's been lauded as one of the greatest survival stories of all-time.

Nearly 100 years later, a group of British and Australian adventurers have discovered why. They re-enacted Ernest Shackleton's journey to save his crew when their ship got stuck and sank in Antarctica's icy waters.

Tim Jarvis and Barry "Baz" Gray reached an old whaling station on remote South Georgia Island Monday, 19 days after leaving Elephant Island. Just as Shackleton did in 1916, Mr. Jarvis and his team sailed 800 nautical miles across the Southern Ocean in a lifeboat and then climbed over crevasse-filled mountains in South Georgia.

The modern-day team of six used similar equipment and clothes. But the harsh conditions forced several of them to abandon their attempt along the way.

Mr. Jarvis was suffering some frostbite in his right foot, but today he planned to hike to the grave site of Shackleton, who was buried on the island years after his journey.

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