World Briefs: Afghan election official resigns

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KABUL, Afghanistan — A top Afghan election official resigned Monday, heeding the demands of a presidential candidate and offering hope that the fragile electoral process that is underway will not devolve into violence.

Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, the country’s chief election officer, agreed to step down after Abdullah Abdullah — one of two presidential candidates who took part in a runoff vote June 14 — accused him of facilitating electoral fraud on behalf of Ashraf Ghani, Mr. Abdullah’s opponent.

Mr. Abdullah raised questions Sunday about Mr. Amarkhil’s impartiality by playing recorded telephone conversations allegedly of Mr. Amarkhil encouraging election officials to support Mr. Ghani and possibly encouraging ballot stuffing. The authenticity of the recordings could not be verified.

Pakistan primes push

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani forces were preparing for a major ground offensive against Islamist militants in the Taliban stronghold of North Waziristan, officials said Monday after nearly all civilians had fled the north-western region along the Afghan border.

Nearly half a million people have evacuated the battleground tribal district since a military offensive was launched there June 15, a military official said.

The offensive in North Waziristan was launched after years of international pressure on Pakistan to launch a military campaign there. It began a week after militants attacked Karachi’s airport, killing about 40 people.

China crackdown gains

BEIJING — Officials in the western Chinese region of Xinjiang said Monday that an anti-terrorism crackdown that began in late May had resulted in the smashing of 32 terrorist groups and the sentencing of 315 people to prison terms, death row or other punishment, according to state news reports.

The region has a significant ethnic Uighur population that is mostly Muslim and whose members often complain of discrimination and heavy-handed restrictions from the ruling Han, the dominant group in China. Some Uighurs advocate an independent homeland called East Turkestan. The number of clashes has been growing in recent years between Uighurs and Han-led security forces, and increasingly with Han civilians, too.

Fugitive sergeant caught

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean army sergeant who was identified only by his family name, Yim, accused of fleeing his unit on the border with North Korea after killing five fellow soldiers was caught alive with a self-inflicted wound Monday, ending a manhunt that involved a shootout and shocked the country over the weekend.

The episode highlights the challenge South Korea faces in maintaining a largely conscript military, which is on guard against North Korea. The two Koreas are technically at war after the three-year Korean War was halted in 1953 with a truce but not a peace treaty.

Plane search evolves

CANBERRA, Australia — Investigators looking into the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 have concluded in the past few weeks that the plane was probably not seriously damaged and remained in controlled flight until it ran out of fuel over the southern Indian Ocean, according to senior officials involved in the investigation.

Their conclusion, reached in the past few weeks, helped prompt the decision to move the search area hundreds of miles to the southwest.

— Compiled from news services



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