U.S.: Militants held kids in compound

The U.S. military on Monday expressed regret over the deaths of seven Afghan children in an airstrike a day earlier but blamed Islamic insurgents for preventing the youngsters from leaving the compound that was hit.

American officials said U.S.-led coalition forces were unaware of the presence of noncombatants inside the compound in Paktika province, which also contained a mosque and a madrassa, or Islamic seminary.

Seven boys under the age of 16, including at least one as young as 10, were killed in Sunday’s airstrike, according to Afghan officials.

The compound, in the Zargun Shah district of Paktika province, in Afghanistan’s southeast, was believed to have been occupied by militants linked to al-Qaida, the military said in a statement. It said several militants were killed in addition to the young boys.

Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the coalition, said surviving children told authorities they were forcibly kept inside the compound by insurgents.


Raul Castro’s wife dies at age 77

Vilma Espin Guillois, the wife of acting President Raul Castro and one of the communist nation’s most politically powerful women, died Monday, the Cuban government announced. She was 77.

Cuban state television announced that Espin died Monday afternoon after “the long illness she was afflicted with” worsened in recent weeks. Authorities did not disclose the illness.

An official mourning period was declared from 8 p.m. Monday until 10 p.m. today, and the Cuban flag will be lowered to half staff at all public buildings and military bases.

Raul Castro, 76, has been Cuba’s acting president since 80-year-old Fidel ceded power in July after the first of several surgeries from which he is still recovering.

Magdeburg, Germany

Bus plunges after collision, killing 13

A bus carrying senior citizens collided with a truck in eastern Germany on Monday and plunged down an embankment, killing 13 people, authorities said.

Police spokesman Ralf Moritz said 31 other people were injured, many of them seriously, in the accident on the A14 highway between Halle and Magdeburg.

The bus, carrying 48 senior citizens from Hopsten, in northwestern Germany, went off the road at about 1:45 p.m. The bus landed on its roof at the bottom of a roadside embankment.

Moritz said the accident happened when a truck ran into the bus at the site of a previous accident, causing the bus driver to lose control of its steering. The vehicle was traveling slowly at the time.


Monet work sells for $35.6 million

A view of the River Thames painted by Claude Monet sold for almost $36 million at auction Monday, kicking off a week of big-budget sales on the London art market.

“Waterloo Bridge, Temps Couvert” (“Waterloo Bridge, Overcast Weather”) was bought by an anonymous American bidder for $35.6 million including buyer’s premium during a sale at Christie’s auction house.

The price – more than double the work’s pre-sale estimate – is the second-highest ever for a Monet at auction.

The record of $39.7 million was set at Sotheby’s in 1998.


Socialist candidate, spouse separate

Former French presidential candidate Segolene Royal is separating from the father of her four children who is also the leader of her Socialist Party, the couple announced Sunday.

The announcement came as the Socialists did better than expected in parliamentary elections on Sunday, thwarting a landslide victory by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative party.

Royal’s separation from Francois Hollande could complicate their party’s efforts to regroup after her May 6 presidential election loss.

In a country where the standard greeting is kisses on the cheek, Hollande and Royal were photographed shaking hands in March, a snapshot that raised eyebrows.

Hollande also had said before Royal’s election defeat that he would not, if she won, live with her in the presidential palace.

From wire reports

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