The world in brief: 4 militants killed, says Kashmir police

Indian army soldiers walk at the site of a gunbattle at Nagrota on the Jammu-Srinagar highway in Indian-controlled Kaon Wednesday. (AP/Channi Anand)

4 militants killed, says Kashmir police

NEW DELHI -- Police in Indian-controlled Kashmir said government forces killed four suspected militants in a gunbattle on Wednesday.

A top police officer, Mukesh Singh, said troops intercepted a truck in the outskirts of Jammu city early Wednesday following its "unusual movement" on a highway.

As the troops began searching the truck, gunfire came from inside it, to which the troops retaliated, leading to a gunfight, Singh told reporters.

Police said four suspected militants were killed and authorities recovered at least eight automatic rifles and some ammunition from the truck.

According to police, the driver of the truck escaped and a search was under way to find him. There was no independent confirmation of the alleged gunbattle.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan and both claim the disputed territory in its entirety.

Rebels in the Indian-controlled portion of Kashmir have been fighting New Delhi's rule since 1989. Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebel goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

Bosnia appoints first female premier

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina -- A veteran Bosnian Croat politician received an official mandate to form a new government Wednesday, positioning her to become the first female prime minister in the Balkan country's history.

Borjana Kristo accepted the role of prime minister-designate after 23 lawmakers in the 42-seat lower house of Bosnia's parliament voted to approve the appointment. She has 35 days to form a Cabinet.

Lawmakers from 10 political parties that together won 24 seats during the country's October election agreed, despite their ideological differences, to endorse a multi-ethnic coalition government led by Kristo, who held various legislative and executive posts during almost three decades in politics.

The coalition, as mandated by the Bosnian Constitution, includes representatives of the country's three main ethnic groups -- Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs.

For the first time in over a decade, the governing majority excludes the main Bosniak nationalist party, SDA. It still includes the long-entrenched Croat and Serb nationalist parties, Kristo's HDZ and SNSD, led by staunchly pro-Russian Serb politician Milorad Dodik, respectively.

However, as part of the coalition agreement, the latter two pledged to focus on bread-and-butter issues rather than stoking the ethnic tensions never far from the surface since the end of Bosnia's brutal 1992-95 interethnic war.

In her address to lawmakers before the vote, Kristo pledged to focus on a host of economic and political reforms the country must implement to reach its stated goal of joining the European Union.

Italy to meet with Iran on crackdown

ROME -- Italy's foreign minister on Wednesday summoned Iran's new ambassador to Rome to express his country's concerns over the Iranian authorities' crackdown on anti-government protests that have been underway for over three months.

Conveying Italy's "indignation and worry" over the crackdown, Italian Foreign Minister Antonio Tajani said he hopes that Iran will respond "positively to Italy's request."

The deadly crackdown, he said, "has nothing to do with protecting national security of the country."

Tajani also said Italy was asking that Tehran suspend the death penalty in connection with the protests and immediately halt the executions of prisoners held over the demonstrations.

Tajani added that the Iranian ambassador, Mohammad Reza Saburi, who took up his post on Wednesday, agreed to convey Italy's requests.

Ivory Coast attackers sentenced to life

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- Eleven people were sentenced to life in prison in Ivory Coast on Wednesday after being convicted of carrying out an Islamic extremist attack that killed 19 people and injured dozens more on a tourist beach nearly seven years ago.

The killings in the Grand-Bassam resort area by al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb were the nation's first extremist attack of its kind and one of the bloodiest in the region.

The long-awaited verdict was read by Judge Charles Bini in a packed courtroom in the capital Abidjan where 18 defendants have been on trial since November. Only four of the accused were physically present, each of whom was sentenced to life in prison. Seven of the accused were found innocent, said Bini. The families of the victims were awarded varying compensation of up to $81,000.

Grand-Bassam is linked by highway to Abidjan, Ivory Coast's largest city, and is a popular weekend destination. When gunfire broke out on the beach that Sunday afternoon in March 2016, many holidaymakers initially thought they were hearing fireworks. But when the armed jihadis approached, terrified tourists and workers tried to seek refuge in nearby hotels. Some beachgoers who were in the ocean at the time of the attack swam out beyond the waves to safety.

The victims included 11 Ivorians, four French nationals, one German, one Lebanese, one person from North Macedonia and one from Nigeria.