Afghan militants’ bomb use surges
WASHINGTON – Insurgent use of roadside bombs in Afghanistan has surged 80 percent this year, a NATO official said Thursday.
The increase since the same period last year includes bombs that detonated or were found by troops before they could explode, said Canadian Brig. Gen. Richard Blanchette, a spokesman for NATO’s International Security Assistance Force.
Last year, improvised devices and other roadside explosives killed 172 U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan. At least 31 American soldiers have been killed by roadside bombs this year, according to the Defense Department.
NATO reports that roadside bombs have caused 60 percent of the deaths in Afghanistan and severely wounded thousands of troops.
Obama chooses envoy to Mexico
MEXICO CITY – President Barack Obama will nominate Carlos Pascual, a Cuban-born U.S. diplomat, as ambassador to Mexico, the State Department said Thursday.
Reports have circulated for more than two months that Pascual, now director of foreign policy studies at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., would be named to the important post.
Pascual, an expert in “failed states,” would take over one of the biggest U.S. embassies and a list of complex bilateral issues, from trade and energy to border issues and the battle against drug cartels. His nomination requires Senate approval.
Fire on bus kills two dozen
BEIJING – A fire aboard a public bus killed 24 people and left another 44 hospitalized this morning in southwestern China, state media reported.
Another 10 people escaped the blaze in the city of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan province, the Xinhua News Agency said.
A Web site run by the provincial government’s propaganda department said 44 people were hospitalized, with 27 suffering severe injuries.
Neither report gave any indication of the cause of the fire, which broke out on a city bus at about 8:30 a.m.
State broadcaster CCTV cited witnesses as saying the sealed, air-conditioned bus caught fire without there having been an explosion, and then burned rapidly. Like many vehicles in Chengdu, the bus ran on natural gas rather than gasoline.