TRIPOLI, Libya

Italy expresses concern about airstrikes, killing of civilians

Possible cracks emerged in NATO’s Libya air campaign Wednesday as Italy expressed concern about the accidental killing of civilians and called for a suspension in hostilities to allow the delivery of humanitarian aid. However, Britain insisted the alliance was “holding strong.”

Skepticism over the military campaign is growing as weeks of airstrikes have failed to unseat Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and outrage rises over allegations that airstrikes have caused civilian casualties.

In Rome, the Italian foreign minister called for a suspension in fighting so aid corridors could be set up.

“The humanitarian end of military operations is essential to allow for immediate aid,” including in areas around Tripoli and the rebel stronghold of Misrata, Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said.

GERMANY

Study says E. coli outbreak caused by mix of two strains

A mix of two dangerous E. coli strains caused the recent deadly food poisoning outbreak in Germany, according to a new study of the bacteria’s DNA.

Scientists said the E. coli outbreak strain combined one that makes a toxin and another that sticks to the gut in a way that potentially speeds up the body’s absorption of the toxin. They described it as “unprecedented” in its lethality.

“It may be that more of the bugs are sticking to the intestines, and that may result in more toxin being produced,” said Hugh Pennington, an emeritus professor of microbiology at the University of Aberdeen, who wrote an accompanying commentary on the research.

GUATEMALA CITY

Clinton vows $300 million to fight mafia, cocaine flow

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton promised Wednesday that the U.S. government would spend nearly $300 million this year helping governments in Central America confront the mafias that smuggle cocaine to American consumers.

“The United States will back you,” she said at a regional summit here. “We know demand for drugs rests mostly in my own country.”

On a visit to El Salvador in March, President Obama said the United States would give $200 million to fight the street gangs and drug traffickers that have given the region the highest homicide rates in the world.

The increase announced by Clinton represents repackaging of money dedicated to other programs as well as heightened concern among U.S. officials that the fragile democracies of Central America are struggling with surging criminality fueled by the movement of drugs north and weapons south.

SANAA, Yemen

Al-Qaida militants escape from prison through tunnel

Nearly 60 suspected al-Qaida militants tunneled their way out of a Yemeni prison in the lawless south on Wednesday, deepening the chaos of a nation where protesters are trying to topple the autocratic regime.

The escape from the Mukalla prison in Hadramout province is the latest sign that Islamic militants are seizing on the mayhem to operate more freely, something the U.S. fears will become an increasing international threat if the impoverished nation grows even more unstable. Hundreds of Islamic militants have also taken control of two southern towns in recent weeks.

Yemeni security officials said the escapees on Wednesday included two Syrians, two Saudis and 16 members of an al-Qaida cell blamed for at least 13 terror attacks.