Afghan and international forces laid a security ring around Kabul yesterday as dignitaries traveled from around the world for the inauguration of Hamid Karzai as Afghanistan's first popularly elected president. \nIn their biggest operation since the October election, which Karzai won in a landslide, police and troops cordoned off the route from the city's battle-scarred airport to the presidential palace, where the US-backed leader was to be sworn in today. \nTrucks and cars with license plates from beyond Kabul were turned away at the city limits. NATO armored vehicles mounted extra patrols, and US helicopters scoured the mountains that encircle the capital. \nKarzai's installation will crown a three-year drive to stabilize Afghanistan since a US bombing campaign drove out the former ruling Taliban for harboring al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. \nInsurgents continue to harass US and Afghan forces across a broad swath of the south and east. US commanders say they expect to keep their force strength at about 18,000 at least until after parliamentary elections slated for the spring. \nBut Karzai has said the country's booming drug economy, which accounts for an estimated one-third of national income, is now a bigger threat, and will be the top priority of his fresh five-year term. \nAfter rebels failed to make good on a threat to seriously disrupt the Oct. 9 vote, and US and Afghan officials offered many an amnesty, there is speculation that Taliban-linked figures may resurface in the new government. \nHowever, officials remain on guard against what US commanders describe as a "strategic surprise" in the shape of a spectacular attack by militant die-hards or al-Qaeda cells on today's ceremony. Kabul has seen four deadly suicide attacks this year. \nNerves will be particularly taut because of the expected presence of a US delegation led by Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
China has possibly committed “genocide” in its treatment of Uighurs and other minority Muslims in its western region of Xinjiang, the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China said in a report on Thursday. The bipartisan commission said that new evidence had last year emerged that “crimes against humanity — and possibly genocide — are occurring” in Xinjiang. It also accused China of harassing Uighurs in the US. China has been widely condemned for setting up complexes in Xinjiang that it describes as “vocational training centers” to stamp out extremism and give people new skills, which others have called concentration camps. The UN says that
A racing pigeon has survived an extraordinary 13,000km Pacific Ocean crossing from the US to find a new home in Australia. Now authorities consider the bird a quarantine risk and plan to kill it. Kevin Celli-Bird yesterday said he discovered that the exhausted bird that arrived in his Melbourne backyard on Dec. 26 last year had disappeared from a race in the US state of Oregon on Oct. 29. Experts suspect the pigeon that Celli-Bird has named Joe — after US president-elect Joe Biden — hitched a ride on a cargo ship to cross the Pacific. Joe’s feat has attracted the attention
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