KABUL, Afghanistan

Air strikes kill 14 civilians, including mother, five children

Two NATO air strikes, one in the north of Afghanistan and one in the south, killed 14 civilians, including a mother and five children, Afghan officials said Monday.

Word of the latest civilian fatalities came at a sensitive time, just two weeks before a major NATO summit in Chicago.

At the gathering, the allies are expected to affirm plans to pull most combat troops out of Afghanistan, while pledging to continue training Afghan forces and providing long-term development aid.

In the past, President Hamid Karzai has strongly denounced the Western military over civilian deaths, although the United Nations says the bulk of such fatalities are caused by the Taliban.

The most recent deaths were reported in Badghis province, in the country’s northwest. Officials said an air strike Sunday targeted a group of Taliban fighters, killing three of them — but also eight civilians.


Radical Islamists seen as growing security threat

With their scourge — ousted President Hosni Mubarak — out of the way, the most extreme fringe of Islamists is flexing its muscles, adding a potentially destabilizing layer to Egypt’s multiple political troubles ahead of presidential elections later this month.

The emergence of the militants comes as security remains tenuous 14 months after Mubarak’s fall.

Security officials report thousands of weapons, including rockets, machine guns, rockets and RPGs, flooding the nation from neighboring Libya, and some 4,000 inmates, including convicted militants, are on the run after the mass prison outbreaks of the early days of the anti-Mubarak uprising.

Worries over the radical fringe have risen at a time when tensions are growing between the generals who succeeded Mubarak and other Islamists over a host of issues — including the fate of the military-backed government, a court case looking into the legitimacy of the Islamist-dominated parliament and the selection process for a 100-member panel that will draft a new constitution.


U.S. refuses to negotiate with al-Qaida over captive

U.S. officials Monday reiterated that they would not negotiate with al-Qaida after an American development worker kidnapped last year in Pakistan appeared in a video released by the militant group saying his captors would kill him if President Obama does not meet their demands.

Warren Weinstein, 70, was abducted from his home in an upscale neighborhood of Lahore in August, just days before he was slated to finish his work in Pakistan and leave for the U.S.

In December, Al-Qaida leader Ayman al-Zawahri appeared in a video and stated that his terror network was holding Weinstein.

Pakistani officials have said they believe Weinstein is being held in the country’s volatile tribal region along the Afghan border.

The 2-minute, 40-second video of Weinstein, released Sunday, shows him dressed in a Pakistani tunic as he calmly urges Obama to acquiesce to al-Qaida’s demands.

“If you accept the demands, I live,” Weinstein said in the video, directing his remarks to Obama. “If you don’t accept the demands, then I die.”

CARACAS, Venezuela

Chavez expects to win re-election as president

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he expects to return to Venezuela in the coming days after finishing his latest round of cancer treatment, and is looking ahead to this year’s re-election campaign.

Chavez vowed to win the Oct. 7 presidential vote in a “knockout.”

He also criticized his political rivals, saying they lack organization and a clear political project.

Chavez spoke in a telephone call on state television on Monday for the first time since he traveled to Cuba a week earlier.

During the past week, he instead communicated with supporters through messages on Twitter.

The 57-year-old president has been in Cuba since April 30 undergoing radiation therapy treatment for cancer.