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Pakistan launches attacks on Taliban

– Pakistan launched a major military offensive Sunday in the restive tribal region that borders Afghanistan, targeting radical Islamist fighters affiliated with the Pakistani Taliban and other militant groups.

The military said 105 militants were killed as Pakistani jets pounded the hideouts of foreign and local fighters in North Waziristan.

After the airstrikes, the Pakistan army swept into the area, sealing off at least two towns in an attempt to cripple an insurgency that has been blamed for the deaths of 50,000 Pakistanis over the past decade.

“A decisive war has begun against the terrorists,” Khwaja Muhammed Asif, Pakistan’s defense minister, said in a televised interview with Dunya News.

Afghanistan voters maimed, killed

Insurgents cut the fingers off nearly a dozen voters and killed 11 other people, including four election workers, to punish them for voting in this weekend’s presidential runoff, officials said Sunday.

The Taliban had warned people not to participate in Saturday’s vote. The two candidates, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have both vowed to improve ties with the West and sign a long-delayed security pact allowing nearly 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in the country for two more years.

Afghanistan was relatively quiet the day after the second round of voting as the process of counting the votes began. Official preliminary results were to be announced on July 2, with final results released on July 22.

Colombia president wins re-election

Juan Manuel Santos convincingly won re-election Sunday after Colombia’s tightest presidential contest in years, an endorsement of his 18-month-old peace talks to end the Western Hemisphere’s longest-running conflict.

Santos got 53 percent of the vote to 47 percent for right-wing challenger Oscar Ivan Zuluaga, the hand-picked candidate of former two-term President Alvaro Uribe, whom many considered the true challenger.

They accused Santos of selling Colombia out in slow-slogging negotiations in Cuba, and said Zuluaga would halt the talks unless the rebel Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, known as the FARC, ceased all hostilities and some of its leaders accepted jail time.

Santos said the win affirmed his claim to be ably steering Colombia through a historic moment – out of a crippling conflict that has claimed more than 200,000 lives, mostly civilians.

Pope to visit Albania in September

Pope Francis will make a one-day trip to Albania in September to encourage a country that “long suffered” under a Communist dictatorship which tried to isolate its citizens from the world.

Tens of thousands of impoverished Albanians fled to Italy in the 1990s, crossing the Adriatic Sea in crammed ferries and fishing boats as the regime in Tirana crumbled. Many of the migrants have since integrated into Italian life.

Francis told faithful Sunday in St. Peter’s Square in Vatican City that he would also use his Sept. 21 visit to express support for Albania’s tiny minority Catholic community.