Nation/World Briefly: 50 Taliban killed after three U.S. soldiers die

KABUL — About 50 Taliban militants died in a battle in western Afghanistan after an insurgent ambush killed three U.S. troops, an Afghan official said Sunday.

The fighting took place in a region controlled by militants that has been the site of huge battles in the past, some that have caused high numbers of civilian casualties. In Saturday’s clash, a militant-fired rocket struck a home and killed a woman and a teenage girl, Afghan police said.

The battle followed an insurgent ambush that killed three Americans and seven Afghan troops, said Afghan army spokesman Maj. Abdul Basir Ghori. The ambush involved two roadside bombs, gunfire and rocket-propelled grenades, the U.S. military said Sunday.

Fighting — which included NATO airstrikes — continued for six to eight hours after the ambush, U.S. military spokeswoman Capt. Elizabeth Mathias said. She couldn’t provide casualty figures and no other Afghan officials immediately confirmed the death toll.

Iraq: Man who threw shoes at Bush being released today

The family of the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at former President George W. Bush is preparing a festive welcome for him in anticipation of his release from prison today after nine months behind bars. Muntadhar al-Zeidi, a little-known reporter for a small Iraqi TV station, became an icon for many in the Arab world in a single moment last December. As Bush and Iraq’s prime minister addressed a news conference, the reporter jumped from his seat and hurled his shoes at the American president. Bush was unhurt but forced to duck. Al-Zeidi shouted at him in Arabic, “This is your farewell kiss, you dog!” In March, al-Zeidi was convicted of assault. His three-year prison sentence was reduced to one because he had no prior record and now he is to be released three months early for good behavior.

Contractor killed on U.S. base

A civilian contractor was shot and killed Sunday on the American military base Camp Speicher in Tikrit, and a U.S. soldier has been detained in connection with the incident, the military said. Houston-based KBR confirmed the man killed was one of its employees, 27-year-old Lucas Vinson from Louisiana.

Hong Kong: Six workers die when elevator shaft collapses

A construction platform inside an elevator shaft at the International Commerce Center collapsed Sunday, sending six workers falling about 20 stories to their deaths inside a Hong Kong skyscraper, officials said. The building’s developer, major Hong Kong property company Sun Hung Kai, has agreed to pay each of the victims’ families 1 million Hong Kong dollars ($128,000) on top of normal compensation payments, Hong Kong Labor Secretary Matthew Cheung said.

California: Wildfire won’t be contained until weekend

Officials say the wildfire burning in Southern California’s Angeles National Forest won’t be fully contained until Saturday. The previous containment date was Tuesday. U.S. Forest Service spokesman Tom Debellis says crews Sunday are watching for flare-ups along the 120-mile perimeter of the massive fire north of Los Angeles, which has burned more than 250 square miles. The arson-caused blaze is 84 percent contained.

Gas prices down 5 cents

The average price of regular gasoline in the U.S. is down about a nickel from three weeks ago to $2.59 a gallon, according to the national Lundberg Survey of fuel prices released Sunday in Camarillo. Analyst Trilby Lundberg said the average price for a gallon of mid-grade was $2.72. Premium was at $2.84. St. Louis had the lowest price, $2.26 a gallon for regular. Anchorage, Alaska, was the highest at $3.27.

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