KABUL, Afghanistan

Coalition retakes town from Taliban

Hundreds of Taliban fighters fled in trucks and motorbikes yesterday as Afghan and international troops fought their way into the only important town controlled by the hard-line Islamic movement.

Afghan officers reported some militants, possibly al-Qaida, were still resisting in the center of Musa Qala, and said the attacking force controlled the southern town but was moving slowly toward the center because streets were boobytrapped with improvised bombs.

A Taliban spokesman confirmed the insurgents retreated from Musa Qala, which the militants had held since February, and Afghanistan’s president said the successful attack was aided by some local Taliban leaders switching allegiance to his government.

Visiting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown predicted developments in Musa Qala would have positive long-term results, and the success boosted hopes the Afghan government can expand into a key opium producing area where it now wields little influence.


Several killed in hospital attack

Mortar shells slammed into an Interior Ministry prison yesterday, killing at least five inmates and wounding 25, the U.S. military and Iraqi officials said. Separately, a fire broke out at one of Iraq’s main refineries, but the U.S. said it was an industrial accident – not an attack, as Iraqi officials insisted.

Police and hospital officials said seven inmates were killed and 23 wounded when the mortar rounds hit a prison made up of several cellblocks, each containing prisoners accused of terrorism-related crimes or civil offenses. The U.S. military said five inmates died and 25 were injured.

Police said American troops sealed off the area around the main Interior Ministry compound on the east bank of the Tigris River in central Baghdad. The rounds struck about 200 yards from the main ministry building.


Court gives judges more leeway in drug sentencing

Federal judges have broad leeway to impose shorter prison terms for crack cocaine and other crimes, the Supreme Court said yesterday in a pair of cases that bolster arguments for reducing differences in sentences between crack and powder cocaine.

The court, by 7-2 votes in both cases, upheld more lenient sentences imposed by judges who rejected federal sentencing guidelines as too harsh.

The decision was announced ahead of a vote scheduled for tomorrow by the U.S. Sentencing Commission, which sets the guidelines, that could cut prison time for as many as 19,500 federal inmates convicted of crack crimes.


N.J. moves closer to abolishing the death penalty

The state Senate approved legislation yesterday that would make New Jersey the first state to abolish the death penalty since 1976, when the U.S. Supreme Court allowed states to impose the sentence.

The measure to replace the death sentence with life without parole would spare the life of a sex offender whose crimes sparked Megan’s Law. With the support of the Democrat-controlled Assembly and the Democratic governor, the bill is expected to be signed into law within a month.

New Jersey has eight men on death row and hasn’t executed anyone since 1963. It reinstated the death penalty in 1982.

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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