World Briefs

Iran quake kills 180, injures at least 1,300

TEHRAN, Iran – A 6.2-magnitude earthquake leveled villages and damaged homes in northwestern Iran on Saturday, killing at least 180 people and injuring more than 1,350 others, state TV reported.

The quake hit the towns of Ahar, Haris and Varzaqan in East Azerbaijan province at 4:53 p.m. local time, the TV report said. At least six villages were leveled, and 60 others sustained damage ranging from 50 to 80 percent, it said.

The epicenter of the quake was a region between Ahar and Haris, about 300 miles northwest of the capital, Tehran, according to Khalil Saei, local Crisis Committee chief, the report said.

At least 9 aftershocks jolted the same area and were felt in a wide region near the Caspian Sea, causing panic among the population.

Blasts hit Damascus in blow to Assad

DAMASCUS, Syria – Gunmen detonated back-to-back roadside bombs and clashed with police in central Damascus on Saturday in attacks that caused no damage but highlighted the ability of rebels to breach the intense security near President Bashar Assad’s power bases.

The apparently coordinated blasts point to the increasing use of guerrilla-style operations in the capital to undermine the government’s claims of having full control over Damascus. It also suggests that rebel cells have established a Damascus network capable of evading Assad’s intelligence agents and slipping through security cordons.

Assad’s regime, however, has displayed no hesitation on the battlefield despite blows such as Damascus attacks and defections of high-ranking military and political figures, including the prime minister last week.

Afghan policeman kills 10 fellow policemen

KABUL, Afghanistan – An Afghan police officer killed at least 10 of his fellow officers Saturday, a day after six U.S. service members were gunned down by their Afghan partners in summer violence that has both international and Afghan forces questioning who is friend or foe.

Attacks on foreign troops by Afghans working with the alliance are on the rise and, while cases of Afghan security forces killing within their own ranks are less frequent.

The assaults on international service members have stoked fear and mistrust of their Afghan allies, threatening to hamper the U.S.-led coalition’s work to train and professionalize Afghan policemen and soldiers. The attacks also raise questions about the quality of the Afghan forces that have started taking charge of security in many areas as U.S. and NATO combat troops move to withdraw by the end of 2014.

Associated Press