Britain: Olympics snub

LONDON — British Prime Minister Gordon Brown will skip the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

He became the second major world leader after German Chancellor Angela Merkel to decide to stay away from the opening ceremonies, although Brown's office insisted Wednesday that he was not boycotting the Olympics and would attend the closing ceremony.

Iraq: Children, soldiers killed

BAGHDAD — Errant mortar shells slammed into houses and a funeral tent Wednesday, leaving three children among the dead during clashes in a Shiite militia stronghold under siege by American and Iraqi forces on the fifth anniversary of the U.S. capture of the capital.

The fighting came as the U.S. military announced the deaths of five more soldiers. That raised the number of American troop deaths to 17 since Sunday.

Israel: Hamas buildup seen

JERUSALEM — An Israeli study says Hamas, the militant group that controls Gaza, is engaged in the broadest and most significant military buildup in its history with help from Syria and Iran. It adds that Hamas is restructuring more hierarchically and using more and more powerful weapons, especially longer-range rockets against Israel's southern communities.

The study, by an independent research group with close ties to the Israeli military establishment, says that though the buildup will take some years to complete, it is in an intensive phase that has already led to better infiltration into Israel and a rise in the breadth and precision of rocket fire.

The 52-page study says that after Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip in the summer of 2005, Hamas began a consolidation of power.

Nepal: Election-eve violence

KATMANDU — Violence marred the eve of a historic election designed to bolster peace in this country, as officials on Wednesday confirmed the killings of at least eight people in three separate incidents in Nepal's tense western hill region.

A turning point for a country bled by a decade-long Maoist insurgency, Nepal's 17.6 million voters are to go to the polls today to choose a special assembly that will rewrite the constitution and govern the nation in the meantime.

Pakistan: 7 killed in rioting

KARACHI — A street fight between political rivals spiraled into rioting in Pakistan's biggest city Wednesday, with armed men smashing cars and setting fires. Five people burned to death in one building and two were shot and killed.

It was the worst political violence Pakistan's new government has faced since taking office last month, vowing to curtail the powers of U.S.-allied President Pervez Musharraf and cement democracy after eight years of military rule.

The trouble broke out when pro- and anti-government attorneys punched and beat each other with sticks near the main courts complex in Karachi.