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World

Center-left hands loss to Germany’s Merkel

– Germany’s center-left opposition has won a wafer-thin victory over Chancellor Angela Merkel’s coalition in a major state election – dealing her a setback as she seeks a third term this year.

The opposition coalition of Social Democrats and Greens won a single-seat majority in the state legislature in Lower Saxony, a region of 8 million people in northwestern Germany.

The state has been run for a decade by a coalition of Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union and the pro-market Free Democrats, the same parties that form the national government.

Merkel, 58, will seek another four-year term in a national parliamentary election expected in September.

Malian forces close to retaking town

Backed by French airstrikes, Malian forces appeared close to recapturing a key central town in Mali where bands of al-Qaida-linked fighters had holed up, France’s defense minister said Sunday.

The French military has spent the past nine days helping the West African nation of Mali quash a jihadist rebellion in its vast northern desert. The comments Sunday from Jean-Yves Le Drian, however, appeared to cast some doubt on local military claims that the town of Diabaly had already been recaptured from the Islamists.

The town of 35,000, which hosts an important military camp, was taken over by al-Qaida-linked militants last week.

UN accuses Afghans of continued torture

The United Nations said Sunday that Afghan authorities were still torturing prisoners, a year after the U.N. first documented the abuse and the Afghan government promised detention reform.

The report shows little progress in curbing abuse in Afghan prisons despite a year of effort by the U.N. and international military forces in Afghanistan. The report cites instances where Afghan authorities have tried to hide mistreatment from U.N. monitors.

In multiple detention centers, Afghan authorities leave detainees hanging from the ceiling by their wrists, beat them with cables and wooden sticks, administer electric shocks, twist their genitals and threaten to shove bottles up their anuses or to kill them, the report said.

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