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Taliban Compare NATO Withdrawal to Soviet, Vietnam Wars

The Taliban on Wednesday issued an end-of-year review that compared the impending withdrawal of U.S.-led foreign troops to the 1989 Soviet retreat from Afghanistan and the end of the Vietnam war.

The insurgents' emailed statement, entitled a "Quick glance at 2012", said coalition forces had "completely lost their will to fight and practically began the process of withdrawal and retreat".

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C. Africa Rebels Stop Their Advance, Agree to Peace Talks

Rebels in the Central African Republic said Wednesday they were suspending their advance and would hold peace talks with the government, after regional armies sent reinforcements to stop them reaching the capital.

The Seleka rebel coalition's lightning three-week advance from the north of the country to within striking distance of the capital Bangui in the south has raised fears of a spreading crisis and drawn regional calls for negotiations with the government in the Gabonese capital Libreville.

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U.S. School Massacre Survivors Ready for Class

Students at the elementary school where a gunman massacred 26 children and teachers last month were returning to class for the first time Thursday in a new building adapted to look exactly like their old one.

Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut has been closed since the December 14 tragedy in which a 20-year-old local man shot 20 small children and six staff members before committing suicide.

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Iran Claims Shooting Down Two U.S.-Made RQ-11 Drones

Iran on Wednesday said it had shot down two U.S.-made RQ-11 reconnaissance drones in the past 15 months, adding to a ScanEagle drone and RQ-170 Sentinel stealth aircraft it already claims to have captured.

"The army's air defense shot down two... RQ-11 drones," Rear Admiral Amir Rastegari told state television and Fars news agency, adding that the army was carrying out "research" on the downed unmanned aircraft.

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Seven Dead in Farmer-Herder Clashes in Burkina

Clashes between farmers and herders in a town in eastern Burkina Faso have killed seven people, officials said Wednesday, the latest such violence in a country where the two groups often compete for land.

"Communal clashes broke out over the weekend... between farmers from the Bissa ethnic group and Fula herders. There were seven deaths," regional governor Allahidi Diallo told AFP, saying the clashes had taken place at the weekend in the town of Zabre, 170 kilometers (110 miles) southeast of the west African nation's capital Ouagadougou.

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French Magazine Prints Comic Book on Prophet Mohammed's Life

A French satirical magazine whose offices were firebombed after it published cartoons mocking the prophet Mohammed on Wednesday published a comic book biography of Islam's founder.

The editor of Charlie Hebdo weekly has insisted that the new book, titled "The Life of Mohammed", is a properly researched and educational work prepared by a Franco-Tunisian sociologist.

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Afghan Warlord Hekmatyar Vows Fresh Attacks on NATO Troops

Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar vowed in an interview published Wednesday to kill as many Western soldiers as possible before NATO combat forces withdraw from the country in 2014.

Hekmatyar, a former prime minister who leads Afghanistan's second largest militant group Hezb-i-Islami, told Britain's Daily Telegraph newspaper that fresh attacks would send a warning to "others waiting to invade Afghanistan".

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Thai Arrested over Death of Briton at New Year Party

Police in Thailand said Wednesday they had arrested a Thai man over the death of a British tourist shot during New Year celebrations at one of the Southeast Asian nation's most popular islands.

The 26-year-old suspect is alleged to have opened fire during an argument with a group of other Thai men at a bar on the southern resort of Koh Phangan, killing holidaymaker Stephen Ashton who was dancing on the beach.

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Afghan Refugees Shiver at Another Deadly Winter

Hundreds of families living in makeshift shelters around the Afghan capital collected blankets, charcoal and other supplies on Wednesday as authorities struggle to avoid a repeat of last year's deaths.

With temperatures dropping to -10 Celsius (14 Fahrenheit) at night in Kabul, the 35,000 refugees who live in snow-covered camps face a battle to survive dire conditions protected only by plastic sheeting.

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Bashir Agrees to Friday Summit with S. Sudan

Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has agreed to attend a summit on Friday with his South Sudanese counterpart to push stalled economic and security deals, official media say.

The meeting, which the SUNA news agency said is slated for the Ethiopian capital, would be the first since Bashir and South Sudan's President Salva Kiir late September signed the deals which they hailed as ending the conflict but which have not been put into effect.

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