KANDAHAR, Afghanistan

Top U.S. military officer visits region hit by violence

The recent spike in spectacular violence rocking southern Afghanistan has been expected, but it’s not clear yet how the attacks will affect the area’s fragile governments, the top U.S. military officer said Friday as he arrived in the embattled region.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters traveling with him that he plans to talk to Afghan leaders during his visit about the surge in dramatic attacks and political assassinations in the south, and said U.S. officials are working hard to advise them how to improve their own security.

Mullen’s unannounced trip to the region — with late-night talk show host Jon Stewart and others in tow to entertain the troops — comes on the heels of a spate of bombings Thursday in the southern province of Uruzgan that killed at least 19 people, and just days after Kandahar’s mayor was assassinated by a suicide bomber. The mayor was the third southern Afghan leader to be killed in the last three weeks.


Pakistani Taliban militants now on terrorism blacklist

The U.N. announced Friday it has added the Pakistani Taliban to its terrorism blacklist, subjecting it to an asset freeze and arms embargo in a move supported by the United States, Britain and the Pakistani government.

Pakistani Taliban militants have declared war against the Pakistani state and its security establishment and have often targeted government officials and security forces in their quest to topple the U.S.-allied government. The group also claimed responsibility for last year’s failed car bombing in New York’s Times Square.

The Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against al-Qaida said it added Tehrik-E Taliban Pakistan, better known as the Pakistani Taliban or the TTP, to its list of groups subject to an asset freeze and arms embargo. Its top leaders, Hakimullah Mehsud and Wali Ur Rehman, have been on the list since last October and are subject to these sanctions as well as a travel ban.

That means all 193 U.N. member states are required to freeze any assets of the TTP or its leaders, prevent any weapons or ammunition from getting to them, and bar Mehsud and Ur Rehman from entering their countries.

ANKARA, Turkey

Chief military leaders resign in response to officers’ arrests

The chiefs of staff of Turkey’s military stepped down Friday as tensions dramatically increased over the arrest of dozens of officers accused of plotting to overthrow the Islamic-rooted government.

The latest developments weren’t expected to cause political or military instability in the short term. The government has presided over the strengthening of civilian institutions as well as an economic boom, sidelining the military’s political role and reducing the public’s appetite for the intervention of the armed forces in nonmilitary matters.

The government responded by quickly appointing the remaining highest-ranking commander, Gen. Necdet Ozel, as the new land forces commander and the acting chief of staff, the prime minister’s office announced. President Abdullah Gul approved the appointment.

Gen. Isik Kosaner resigned as chief of staff earlier Friday along with the commanders of the navy, the army and the air force.


Police want to ask Gitmo detainees about mistreatment

British police are seeking to interview Guantanamo Bay detainees as part of an investigation into allegations that one of the country’s intelligence officials was complicit in the mistreatment of a terrorism suspect, a television station reported Friday.

Britain’s ITV News reported Friday that London’s Scotland Yard had requested access to detainees being held at the prison camp in Cuba to discuss claims that an officer from MI6, the U.K.’s overseas intelligence agency, witnessed abuse of suspects by U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

Police have been investigating allegations that the MI6 officer was complicit in the mistreatment of a non-British citizen since Sept. 2009, when the agency reported the official to the government’s chief legal adviser. She ruled that detectives should begin an inquiry.

The U.S. State Department did not immediately respond to an inquiry on the subject.


Study: economy, food prices drive up poverty in Mexico

The Mexican government says poverty rose by 1.7 percent between 2008 and 2010 due to the global economic crisis and an increase in food prices.

A study released Friday by the National Council for the Evaluation of Social Development Policy says there were 52 million poor people in 2010 compared to 48.8 million in 2008.

That means about 46 percent of Mexico’s population of 112.7 lives in poverty. Of those, 10.4 percent live in extreme poverty.


At least 12 dead, 21 remain missing after sailboat sinks

Authorities in Haiti say they are looking for survivors from a sailboat that sank off the country’s northern coast, killing at least 12 people.

A Friday statement from Interior Minister Paul-Antoine Bien-Aime says police have rescued at least 19 people. He says at least 21 passengers are still missing after Tuesday’s accident.

Bien-Aime says officials are investigating. It is unclear if the boat was being used for public transportation.

— From news service reports