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WEST AFRICA: U.S. drone base in Niger?

Plans to base unarmed American surveillance drones in Niger highlight the Obama administration's growing concern about extremist influences in the volatile region. In the short run, a drone base would enable giving France more intelligence against the militants in neighboring Mali. The United States and Niger have signed a "status of forces agreement" spelling out legal protections and obligations of U.S. forces that might operate in Niger.


UKRAINE: Ex-cop convicted of murder

A former police commander was convicted of strangling an investigative journalist and sentenced to life in prison Tuesday. The court has failed to determine who ordered the killing. Heorhiy Gongadze, co-founder of a news website who exposed high-level corruption, was kidnapped in September 2000 and his decapitated body was found in a forest outside Kiev months later. A court in Kiev convicted Olexiy Pukach, former chief of the Ukrainian Interior Ministry's surveillance department, of the murder. Gongadze's widow, Myroslava, who received political asylum in the United States with two daughters, has blamed then-President Leonid Kuchma for her husband's death.


KAZAKHSTAN: Plane crashes in fog, killing 21

A passenger plane crashed in thick fog Tuesday near Almaty, breaking into pieces when it hit the ground and killing all 21 people on board. Rescue teams recovered the plane's flight recorder. The Canadian-built Bombardier Challenger CRJ-200, carrying 16 passengers and five crew, belonged to private Kazakh airline SCAT.


AUSTRALIA: Floods trap drivers; 4 dead

Rescuers helped drivers escape swift floodwaters and used helicopters to pluck stranded people from rooftops Tuesday in the northeast after torrential rains killed four and forced thousands to huddle in shelters. Fast-moving floodwaters in New South Wales prompted 50 rescues, most of drivers stuck in cars swept away by the current.

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