BAGHDAD – Iraqi security forces on Sunday battled gunmen who detonated a car bomb before blasting their way into a government compound and killing seven policemen in a one-time Sunni insurgent hotbed, police and local government officials said.
The three-hour standoff between Shiite-dominated security forces and suspected Sunni insurgents in the Anbar province capital of Ramadi marked the first serious gunbattle for Iraqi forces against insurgents without American backup since the U.S. military completed its withdrawal last month.
Violence has surged since American troops left, and Iraq was plunged into a political crisis after the Shiite-dominated government charged Sunni Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi with running death squads, issuing an arrest warrant. On Sunday, a court in Baghdad ruled that al-Hashemi must stand trial on terror charges in Baghdad.
Fuel prices in Nigeria to drop amid strike
Lagos, Nigeria – Nigeria’s president says the nation’s fuel prices will immediately drop amid a paralyzing nationwide strike.
President Goodluck Jonathan made the comments in a speech aired this morning on the state-run Nigerian Television Authority.
Jonathan said fuel prices will drop to about $2.75 a gallon.
The nationwide strike began Jan. 9, paralyzing the nation of more than 160 million people. The root cause remains gasoline prices: Jonathan’s government abandoned subsidies that kept gasoline prices low on Jan. 1, causing prices to spike from $1.70 per gallon to at least $3.50 per gallon. The costs of food and transportation also largely doubled in a nation where most people live on less than $2 a day.
U.S., Israel postpone military exercise
JERUSALEM – The United States and Israel agreed to postpone a large joint military exercise from this spring to late in the year to avoid aggravating an already tense regional situation driven by conflicts with Iran, Israeli media reported Sunday.
The drill, slated for May and named “Austere Challenge,” was announced in November by Andrew Shapiro, U.S. assistant secretary of state for politics-military affairs, at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. The exercise as originally planned would include more than 5,000 U.S. and Israeli forces and, among other things, simulate Israel’s ballistic missile defense.