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story.lead_photo.caption Afghan President Ashraf Ghani (back) watches as (from front left) Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi, Afghan Foreign Affairs Minister Salahuddin Rabbani and Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi sign an agreement Saturday in Kabul, Afghanistan.

China gets Afghans, Pakistanis together

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The foreign ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China met Saturday in Kabul to discuss trade, development and ways to end Afghanistan's 17-year war.

The prickly relationship between Pakistan and Afghanistan dominated the talks, with all three countries agreeing that a peaceful end to the war would have economic and trade benefits for the entire region.

Pakistan and Afghanistan have long accused each other of failing to combat the Taliban and other militant groups that operate along their porous border. China, which has hosted Taliban leaders in an effort to get the warring sides to the negotiating table, sees an end to the war as critical to its "One Belt, One Road" policy of expanding trade links across Asia.

In a news conference after Saturday's talks, Afghan Foreign Minister Salahuddin Rabbani said that Kabul had yet to see "tangible progress" from Pakistan "in the fight against terrorism."

Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Islamabad wanted a fresh start in its relationship with Afghanistan.

"The time has come to move on, to stop pointing fingers, join hands for a future," said Qureshi. "If you want Pakistan to act for reconciliation then stop pointing fingers at Pakistan."

Town taken but ISIS still puts up fight

BEIRUT -- Fighting against the Islamic State group in its last enclave in eastern Syria "is going very well," a U.S. official said Saturday as U.S.-backed Syrian fighters battled the extremists on the edge of the largest urban area they still hold.

The comments by Col. Sean Ryan, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition, came a day after the U.S.-backed Syrian Democratic Forces captured the town of Hajin.

Ryan said that the "end days" of the Islamic State in the enclave are getting closer; however, "they still have the capability for coordinated attacks, and the fight is not over."

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a war monitor, said Syrian Democratic Forces fighters are removing explosives in Hajin and fortifying their positions as fighting continues on the eastern outskirts of the town.

The Syrian Democratic Forces have been trying to take the enclave since it opened an offensive on Sept. 10.

Nigeria relents, ends UNICEF's timeout

ABUJA, Nigeria -- Nigeria's military has lifted a suspension of UNICEF's work in the extremist-threatened northeast just hours after it accused the U.N. agency of training people for "clandestine activities."

The military statement issued overnight said the reversal came after an emergency meeting with UNICEF representatives. The military says it "admonished" UNICEF against activities that could undermine its efforts against extremist groups like Boko Haram.

Military spokesman Onyema Nwachukwu on Friday accused UNICEF of harming counterterror efforts through "spurious and unconfirmed allegations" of human-rights abuses by the military. The spokesman said the alleged training was carried out in the past week in Maiduguri, the Borno state capital and birthplace of Boko Haram.

UNICEF, which focuses on aid to children trapped in one of the world's worst humanitarian crises, has not commented publicly.

Nigeria's military is highly sensitive to repeated allegations of rights abuses raised by multiple organizations over the years. In a statement overnight, Amnesty International Nigeria called the military's accusations "absurd" and described the UNICEF suspension as part of a wider effort to intimidate international aid groups.

Civilians, rebels, soldier die in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India -- At least seven civilians were killed and more than three dozen injured Saturday when government forces fired at anti-India protesters in disputed Kashmir after a gunbattle that left three rebels and a soldier dead, police and residents said.

Indian troops surrounded a village in the southern Pulwama area on a tip that militants were hiding there, said Muneer Ahmed Khan, a top police officer. As the soldiers began a search operation, militants fired at soldiers and counterinsurgency police, Khan said.

Three rebels and a soldier were killed in the exchange of gunfire, and one soldier was wounded, he said.

The gunbattle sparked protests, with hundreds of people chanting pro-militant slogans and calling for an end to Indian rule over the Himalayan region. The protesters threw stones at troops to help the militants escape while government forces fired bullets, shotgun pellets and tear gas to stop them, killing seven and injuring at least 40 others, nine of them critically, police said.

Police said in a statement later Saturday that they regretted the killings, and that the protesters had come "dangerously close" to the gunbattle site.

Two police officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the civilians died in the anti-India protests. However, residents said at least two civilians, including a teenage boy, were killed away from the gunbattle site.

-- Compiled by Democrat-Gazette staff from wire reports

An Indian paramilitary soldier fires tear-gas shells at protesters Saturday in Srinagar in the Indian-controlled region of Kashmir.

A Section on 12/16/2018

Print Headline: Town taken but ISIS still puts up fight China gets Afghans, Pakistanis together Nigeria relents, ends UNICEF's timeout Civilians, rebels, soldier die in Kashmir


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