Pakistanprime minister tries to calm as hundreds flee

A man carries his elderly mother on his back as a family flees from Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley on Sunday.

Associated Press

A man carries his elderly mother on his back as a family flees from Pakistan’s troubled Swat Valley on Sunday.

Pakistan's prime minister promised a quick solution to the brutal insurgency in the country's former tourism haven Sunday, even as hundreds of residents fled toward newly opened relief camps. Carrying the sick and elderly on their backs, residents of the Swat Valley hurried from fighting that left at least 16 suspected militants, one soldier and 19 civilians dead. Residents say militants now control most of the northwestern valley, less than 100 miles from the capital of Islamabad, despite an army operation that began more than a year ago. The premier tried to dispel fears. "As far as Swat, we have the ability and will to bring peace there," Yousuf Raza Gilani said.

Israel

Israel threatens 'harsh' response to rocket fire

Israel threatened "harsh and disproportionate" retaliation after Gaza militants fired at least 10 rockets and mortar shells across the border Sunday and planes later bombed the area where Hamas smuggles in weapons from Egypt through tunnels. The flare-up raised the risk of intensifying violence in the days leading up to Israel's parliamentary elections on Feb. 10.

A late afternoon mortar barrage on the southern Israeli village of Nahal Oz, next to the Gaza border fence, wounded two soldiers and a civilian, the military and rescue services said. Earlier, a rocket landed near a kindergarten, police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said. Late Sunday, Palestinians reported huge explosions as Israeli planes dropped bombs on the Egypt-Gaza border area, where Hamas operates tunnels to smuggle in weapons and other goods.

Iceland

New Iceland leader takes over amid crisis

A new center-left government took office in Iceland Sunday, headed by the country's first openly gay national leader, Prime Minister Johanna Sigurdardottir. She and her Cabinet were appointed after a tumultuous week that saw the government collapse over the country's economic meltdown. Sigurdardottir, 66, said one of her first acts will be to shake up the central bank. She is the first openly gay national leader of modern times, apart from Per-Kristian Foss, Norwegian prime minister briefly in 2002.

Elsewhere

North Korea: North Korea warned that South Korea's confrontational policies may trigger a war, a message two days after the communist country vowed to abandon all peace agreements with the south.

Mexico: Mexico City shut down a main water pipeline under a new conservation program, cutting service to more than 2 million residents Sunday after some reservoirs dropped to their lowest levels in 16 years. Service will be interrupted for three days every month until the rainy season.

Times wires

Pakistanprime minister tries to calm as hundreds flee 02/01/09 [Last modified: Sunday, February 1, 2009 8:00pm]

    

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