World Briefs: Pakistan drone go-ahead denied

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- A former Pakistani prime minister strongly denied Thursday that he had quietly authorized U.S. drone strikes inside his country, but he didn't rule out secret deals made without his knowledge.

A day earlier, a Washington Post report detailed how the United States and Pakistan communicated about, and in some cases coordinated, dozens of drone strikes in Pakistan from late 2007 to late 2011. But Yousuf Raza Gilani, who was the country's prime minister from 2008 to 2012, said it was "totally absurd" to suggest that his government had condoned the attacks.

Mr. Gilani said he could not rule out that the two nations had communicated about planned drone strikes during his tenure. But if they did, he said, the parties involved would have been the CIA and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency, under conditions set by Pervez Musharraf, the former military ruler.

In an interview with CNN last year, Mr. Musharraf admitted to authorizing "a few" U.S. drone strikes before he stepped down in 2008. He is now under house arrest in Islamabad.

French troops advance

PARIS -- French soldiers in Mali have begun a major anti-insurgent sweep across the country with Malian forces and U.N. peacekeepers, the Defense Ministry said Thursday, calling it the largest operation to counteract a revival of Islamist militant activity since France intervened early this year.

Col. Gilles Jaron, a French military spokesman, said the operation, named Hydra, had long been planned.

French troops are fighting in a vast stretch of desert in the northeast part of the country on the border with Algeria, where Islamist militants have been struggling to regain control since French forces scattered them last winter.

Kashmir posts attacked

SRINAGAR, India -- India on Wednesday accused Pakistani troops of firing guns and mortars on at least 50 Indian border posts overnight in disputed Kashmir, calling it the most serious cease-fire violation between the nuclear-armed neighbors in a decade.

The attacks began Tuesday night in southern Kashmir after India's home minister visited the region to review security, an Indian official said.

India regularly accuses Pakistan of supporting Kashmiri rebels who have been fighting on the Indian side since 1989 for independence or a merger with Pakistan. Pakistan denies giving any backing to the rebels beyond moral support.

Israeli settlements to grow

JERUSALEM -- A senior Israeli official said Thursday that his country will announce new plans for West Bank settlement construction in the coming months, a day after Israel's leader held lengthy talks with U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry.

The Palestinians consider settlements a major obstacle to establishing a state that includes the West Bank and east Jerusalem, territories Israel captured from Jordan in the 1967 war. Israel has since built dozens of settlements that are now home to about 550,000 Israelis.

Pirates seize 2 Americans

WASHINGTON -- Two U.S. citizens have been kidnapped from an American-flag vessel off the coast of Nigeria in an act of piracy, the State Department said.

The C-Retriever is an offshore supply ship, according to vessel data compiled by Bloomberg. Officials today cited an increase in hijackings off Nigeria, the seventh-biggest producer in the 12-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries in September.



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