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Afghanistan: NATO

KABUL — NATO's new secretary-general pledged Wednesday that the alliance would remain in Afghanistan despite flagging support in many nations from voters anxious over rising deaths among civilians and Western forces.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen flew to Kabul to meet with politicians and military leaders two days after taking control of an alliance that is struggling to maintain its cohesion and relevance as it battles Taliban insurgents thousands of miles from Europe.

"I can assure you and the Afghan people that we will stay and support you for as long as it takes to finish our job," the former Danish prime minister told Afghan President Hamid Karzai at a joint press conference in the capital, Kabul.

Canada: Town saved

VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Firefighters saved a western Canada town from a raging wildfire as they continued Wednesday to battle blazes that have forced more than 5,000 people to flee from their homes in the region.

Firefighters stopped a fire only a few hundred yards from Lillooet, 105 miles northeast of Vancouver, by using a controlled burn to contain the flames. About 2,300 people in Lillooet were forced to evacuate from the Mount McLean fire, which has burned 8,150 acres since July 22.

Firefighters were still working to put out some hot spots in the main fire, and two other fronts of the fire continued to burn heavily, said Gary Horley, fire information officer for the British Columbia Forest Service.

Pakistan: Missile strike

DERA ISMAIL KHAN — A suspected U.S. missile strike killed a wife of Pakistani Taliban chief Baitullah Mehsud at his father-in-law's house Wednesday, Pakistani intelligence and military officials said.

Mehsud associates acknowledged a woman was killed but would not confirm her identity. They said Mehsud was not at the South Waziristan home during the attack, which authorities said also killed a second person.

Venezuela: Tanks

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez said Wednesday his government will buy dozens of Russian tanks because Venezuela feels threatened by a pending deal for the U.S. military to increase its presence in neighboring Colombia.

Chavez announced the plan while condemning Colombia's negotiations on an agreement to let U.S. forces use at least seven of its military bases.

"We're going to buy several battalions of Russian tanks," Chavez said at a news conference, saying the deal is among accords he hopes to conclude during a visit to Russia in September.

Mexico: Bodies found

MEXICO CITY — Five bodies, one of them headless, were found in a van in the border city of Ciudad Juarez on Wednesday, a day when a prominent U.S. senator blocked some aid to Mexico over alleged human rights violations by soldiers and police fighting violent drug cartels.

The killings, along with five on Tuesday and hundreds this year, highlight concerns raised by some U.S. officials that Mexico's military strategy to control drug cartels is failing.

Arturo Sandoval, a spokesman for a regional prosecutor's office in Ciudad Juarez, said the five bodies were piled inside a red Jeep Patriot parked downtown early Wednesday. The severed head of one was wrapped in a black plastic bag.

Tonga: Ferry sinks

Rescue officials searched the South Pacific's waters for 33 people missing after a ferry sank during the night off the coast of Tonga, New Zealand rescue coordinators said Thursday.

The ferry sank fast "but we don't know why," New Zealand Rescue Coordination Center spokesman Neville Blackmore.

He said the ferry was carrying 45 passengers and 30 crew members when it went down about 54 miles northeast of Nuku'alofa.