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story.lead_photo.caption Indian soldiers keep vigil during the fourth consecutive day of curfew in Jammu, the winter capital of Jammu and Kashmir state, India, on Monday.

9 people killed in Kashmir village clash

SRINAGAR, India -- Tensions escalated in the aftermath of a suicide attack in disputed Kashmir, with nine people killed Monday in a gunbattle that broke out as Indian soldiers scoured the area for militants.

Government forces surrounded a village in the southern Pulwama area on a tip that militants were hiding there, security officials said. As troops began conducting searches, they came under heavy gunfire, leading to a clash that killed four soldiers, three suspected militants, a police official and a civilian.

Three army officers, a senior police officer and three other soldiers were wounded in the operation, which follows a Thursday suicide attack on a paramilitary convoy that killed at least 40 soldiers, the worst attack against Indian government forces in Kashmir's history.

India blamed the attack on Pakistan and promised a "jaw-breaking response." Pakistan has warned India against linking it to the attack without an investigation.

U.S. waging economic war, Iranian says

TEHRAN, Iran -- Iran's president on Monday described U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran as an economic war being waged on his country and stressed that "economic war is more difficult than military war."

Hassan Rouhani spoke as he inaugurated the third and final phase of the sprawling Persian Gulf Star refinery built in the port city of Bandar Abbas. Construction of the refinery began in 2006 and it now has the capacity of 400,000 barrels a day, which amounts to about 20 percent of Iran's 2.1 million barrels of daily refining capacity.

Rouhani praised the inauguration, saying in a televised speech that it comes despite America's "imposing the harshest sanctions" on Iran.

President Donald Trump's administration last year pulled the U.S. out of Iran's nuclear deal with world powers and reimposed sanctions on Iran, targeting its vital oil sector.

Also Monday, a spokesman for Iran's Foreign Ministry dismissed U.S. reports of a former U.S. Air Force counterintelligence specialist who defected to Iran despite warnings from the FBI. Monica Elfriede Witt, 39, has been charged with revealing classified information to the Tehran government, including the code name and secret mission of a Pentagon program.

Arrest of ex-Maldives president ordered

MALE, Maldives -- A Maldives court ordered the arrest and detention of former President Yameen Abdul Gayoom on Monday on charges of money laundering.

The criminal court in Male, the capital, ordered Yameen held in custody after prosecutors argued at a hearing that he could attempt to influence witnesses if he were free.

Yameen was charged with money laundering in the embezzlement of Maldives Marketing and Public Relations Corp. funds.

Police say investigators found $1 million in Yameen's bank account believed to be linked to a deal to lease public islands for tourism development in the Maldives, an Indian Ocean archipelago famous for its luxury resorts.

President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih also suspended two Cabinet ministers -- Ahmed Maloof and Akram Kamaludeen -- over $33,000 that investigators say was found in each of their accounts from the same resort development deal.

State lawyer Aishath Mohamed said documents showed that Yameen had attempted to influence witnesses and had offered them money to change their statements.

Yameen lost his bid for re-election in September after a five-year term during which he was accused of corruption and misrule. The election, only the third since multiparty democracy was restored in 2008, resulted in a surprise upset by Solih, who campaigned on a promise to investigate allegations of corruption by Yameen's government.

U.N.: Pull forces from Yemen ports now

UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations said Monday that it hopes Yemen's warring parties will immediately carry out an agreement to pull their forces out of the key port of Hodeida and two smaller ports, as well as a U.N. facility holding enough grain to feed 3.7 million people for a month.

U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq told reporters that implementation is key at Hodeida, which handles about 70 percent of Yemen's imports; the two other ports; and the Red Sea Mills, where the U.N. humanitarian chief has implored Houthi Shiite rebels to facilitate access.

The two sides reached agreement at U.N.-brokered talks Sunday on the first phase of a mutual pullout from the port areas agreed to in Sweden in December, which was seen as a key step in attempts to end the conflict.

On Sunday, Haq said government and Houthi representatives also reached "some tentative agreements" on a second phase of additional withdrawals, and are going back to discuss the results with their leadership.

U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock said in a statement on Feb. 7 that the U.N. and its humanitarian partners are scaling up to reach 12 million people in Yemen with emergency food, a 50 percent increase over 2018 targets.

-- COMPILED BY DEMOCRAT-GAZETTE STAFF FROM WIRE REPORTS

Photo by AP/SALVATORE ALLEGRA
Smoke billows from Mount Etna, the largest of Italy’s three active volcanoes, as seen from Nicolosi, a village near the Sicilian town of Catania, on Monday.

A Section on 02/19/2019

Print Headline: U.S. waging economic war, Iranian says Arrest of ex-Maldives president ordered 9 people killed in Kashmir gunbattle 9 people killed in Kashmir village clash U.N.: Pull forces from Yemen ports now

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