• Image of Asia: Sunny Christmas on Sydney beach

    Updated: Thu, Dec 25, 2014

    In this photo by Rick Rycroft, British traveler Dabriella Quayle rides the waves while celebrating Christmas Day at Bondi Beach in Sydney. Sunny weather and temperatures of 28 degrees Celsius (82.4 Fahrenheit) brought out locals and tourists to Australia's iconic beach, where lifesavers and many surfers donned Santa hats for the occasion.

  • US senator John McCain meets Afghan leaders

    Updated: Thu, Dec 25, 2014

    KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — U.S. senator John McCain is in Kabul for Christmas day. The former presidential candidate met with Afghan president Ashraf Ghani and his chief executive officer Abdullah Abdullah in separate meetings during his visit on Thursday. The vast majority of American and NATO combat troops will withdraw from Afghanistan on Dec. 31, leaving local forces to battle increasingly bold Islamic militants seeking to take advantage of the potential security vacuum. Ghani praised the sacrifices of the U.S. troops during their 13 years in Afghanistan, while McCain emphasized America's long-term support for the country, according to a statement released by the presidency.

  • Afghans hope for change after bloody year

    Updated: Thu, Dec 25, 2014

    KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — When Graeme Smith arrived in Afghanistan in 2005, he drove across the country from Kabul south to the Talban's former capital Kandahar on a newly paved road that cut travelling time from a bone-rattling 14 hours to just six. Today, 13 years after the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban's brutal regime, and after billions of aid dollars flowed into one of the world's poorest countries, making that same 460-kilometer (300-mile) trip would be like signing his own death warrant, said Smith, Afghanistan analyst with the International Crisis Group, an independent conflict resolution organization.

  • 2013 champion has busy Christmas in Hobart race

    Updated: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    SYDNEY (AP) — The crew of the Sydney to Hobart yacht race's defending champion Wild Oats XI spent most of Christmas Day on Sydney Harbour trying to make up for four days of lost preparation ahead of Friday's start. Bob Oatley's super maxi, which is attempting a record eighth line honors win, broke its boom last weekend and skipper Mark Richards said his team had been working around the clock to fix the issue ahead of the traditional Boxing Day start. The boom mishap affected the crew's final week of preparations for a race featuring four other super maxis, including the recently-launched American yacht Comanche. The 117-boat fleet is expected to have a bumpy first night at sea, with southerlies gusting up to 30 knots

  • 10 years after tsunami, Indonesian family reborn

    Updated: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    MEULABOH, Indonesia (AP) — It all started with a dream that led to a chance meeting: A girl who had been swept away by the Indian Ocean tsunami a decade ago. For three nights, the child's uncle said she visited him in his sleep. When he told the girl's mother, Jamaliah, it was hard to believe. The daughter was only 4 when a towering wave ripped her away with her 7-year-old brother, clinging to a board. But the mother had always been convinced both children were still out there and that the family would be reunited. Soon after the dream, the uncle ran into a 14-year-old orphan girl who had survived the disaster and washed up on a remote island with her older brother. They had stayed alive by riding a slab of wood.

  • Pakistan to set up military courts for terrorism

    Updated: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    ISLAMABAD (AP) — Pakistan's prime minister announced Thursday the country will set up special trial courts under the supervision of military officers to prosecute terrorism cases in the wake of the Taliban school massacre. Nawaz Sharif spoke in a nationally televised address after a marathon meeting with all political parties and the country's military leadership to hash out new counter-terrorism policies in the wake of the horrific attack. "The Peshawar attack has shocked the nation. We will not let the blood of our children go in vain," said Sharif. In the wake of the Pakistani Taliban attack on Dec. 16 that killed 149 people the government has scrambled to show that it is getting tough on militancy.

  • Curfew in India state after rebels kill 63

    Updated: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    SHAMUKJULI, India (AP) — Hundreds of survivors of a brutal rebel attack that killed at least 63 people in northeastern India sought shelter Wednesday in a church and school while security forces imposed a curfew in a bid to contain the latest bout of ethnic violence. Long-simmering land and ethnic disputes in Assam state erupted in bloodshed Tuesday when authorities said rebels belonging to a faction of an indigenous separatist group called the National Democratic Front of Bodoland attacked tribal settlers known as Adivasi. Most of the Adivasis, whose ancestors migrated to Assam more than 100 years ago, have worked on tea plantations.

  • 2 men throw acid on woman in Indian capital

    Updated: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    NEW DELHI (AP) — Two men riding a motorcycle threw acid on a woman in a crowded neighborhood in New Delhi, causing serious injuries, police said Wednesday. The attack was captured on closed-circuit TV and was being investigated, police officer Suresh Chand said. It took place Tuesday when the two masked men rode past the woman in a crowded shopping area and brazenly flung acid at her face. Chand gave few other details, but news reports said the woman suffered serious burns to her face and her right eye. The men also stole her purse before fleeing. The attack, in a busy part of the Indian capital, highlights the attacks and harassment women face in India.

  • Image of Asia: Jakarta church checked before Mass

    Updated: Wed, Dec 24, 2014

    In this photo by Achmad Ibrahim, officers from an Indonesian police bomb squad search for suspicious materials Wednesday ahead of Christmas Eve Mass at the Messiah Cathedral in Jakarta. The cathedral, located across from Jakarta's main Istiqlal mosque, was built in 2008 and is one of the largest churches in the Indonesian capital. Christians account for about 10 percent of the 250 million people in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, while nearly 90 percent of the population is Muslim. Indonesia's constitution guarantees freedom of religion, but there have been reports of violence against religious minorities, including Christians, in recent years. The bomb squad officers were conducting a routine search Wednesday, and th

  • Tsunami: Remembering pain of father who lost all

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    About 230,000 people were killed in the Indian Ocean tsunami set off by a magnitude 9.1 earthquake on Dec. 26, 2004. A dozen countries were hit, from Indonesia to India to Africa's east coast. Scores of Associated Press journalists covered the disaster, and as the 10th anniversary approached, the AP asked 10 of them to describe the images that have stuck with them the most. This is the eighth of their stories, which are being published daily through Dec. 26. ___ Muhammad Farooq, a camera operator based in Karachi, Pakistan, reported on the tsunami from Hambantota, Sri Lanka: I did a story about a man called Hassan, about 30 years old. The tsunami washed away virtually his entire neighborhood. All wood-made houses

  • 2 arrested in Sydney in counterterror operation

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    SYDNEY (AP) — Two men were arrested as part of an ongoing counterterrorism investigation into a group that officials have accused of plotting to kill a random member of the public in Sydney, police said Wednesday, one day after the nation's prime minister warned of heightened terrorist chatter in the aftermath of a deadly siege in a Sydney cafe. Sulayman Khalid, 20, was charged on Tuesday with possession of documents designed to facilitate a terrorist attack, while a 21-year-old was charged with breaching a control order, police said. Australian Federal Police Deputy Commissioner Michael Phelan said there was no specific terrorist threat and the arrests were related to an ongoing counterterrorism operation that led to a ser

  • Rebels in northeast India kill 34

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    NEW DELHI (AP) — Separatist rebels gunned down at least 34 people and wounded a dozen more in India's remote northeast Tuesday in a series of coordinated attacks, police said. At least 30 tribal settlers were killed in north Assam's Sonitpur district, said S.N. Singh, a top local police officer. All those killed were Adivasis who largely work in tea gardens in the region. Four others were shot dead in the western Kokrajhar district. Singh said the death toll may rise as several of the dozen people in hospital were in critical condition. Many others are missing after they fled their homes during the attack. Assam's Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi said rebels of one faction of the National Democratic Front of Bod

  • Myanmar villagers remain in standoff over mine

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    YANGON, Myanmar (AP) — Villagers refusing to leave their homes for the expansion of a Chinese-backed copper mine in northwestern Myanmar remained in a tense standoff with security forces for a second straight day Tuesday, with two reported wounded. The confrontation, which left one woman dead Monday when guards and police fired at the protesting villagers, is the latest in a string of land disputes since a nominally civilian government was elected in 2011 and accelerated opening up the economy to foreign investors. Han Win Aung, an activist, said about 1,000 police and security guards and more than 200 Chinese workers at the Letpadaung mining project have surrounded several villages where residents refused to leave.

  • Tsunami survivors recall how mosques stood firm

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    BANDA ACEH, Indonesia (AP) — When a powerful tsunami smashed into this Indonesian city 10 years ago, the only structures left standing in many neighborhoods were mosques. For the hundreds who found refuge within their walls, the buildings' lifesaving role has not been forgotten — and for many, that experience strengthened their faith. Architectural experts say the mosques in Banda Aceh survived because they were sturdily built and had stronger foundations than surrounding structures, many of which were likely constructed of shoddier materials. But many survivors believe the mosques were spared by divine intervention. "It's because the mosque is the house of Allah, the creator of such a tsunami.

  • Image of Asia: Cooking festive meal in Philippines

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    In this photo by Aaron Favila, Filipino workers cook pigs at a roasting pit in suburban Quezon City outside Manila on Tuesday. Roasted pig is popular during celebrations in the Philippines and is traditionally served during a Christmas Eve dinner called "Noche Buena" in the predominantly Roman Catholic nation. The traditional dinner is usually served after the midnight Mass.

  • AP PHOTOS: A look back at the tsunami

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    Friday marks the 10th anniversary of one of the deadliest natural disasters in world history: a tsunami, triggered by a massive earthquake off the Indonesian coast, leaving more than 230,000 people dead in 14 countries and causing about $10 billion in damage. Countries from Indonesia to India to Africa's east coast were hit, leaving shocking scenes of death and destruction.

  • Afghan official: 150 Taliban killed in 12-day fight

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — At least 151 Taliban fighters have been killed by government forces during 12 days of fighting in the volatile east, near the border with Pakistan, the police chief of Kunar province said Tuesday. Gen. Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili said at least another 100 insurgents were wounded in the fighting in Dangam district. He said the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-i-Taiba -- the group responsible for the attacks on Mumbai in 2008 in which more than 160 people were killed -- were also taking part in the battle. "That 17 foreign fighters that were killed during the battle prove that foreigners are supporting local insurgents in the area," he said.

  • India's ruling party makes big gains in Kashmir

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    SRINAGAR, India (AP) — India's ruling Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janta Party emerged Tuesday as an important political player in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir, with vote counting in local elections showing that it made heavy gains in the regional legislature. The party had led an ambitious campaign aiming for a majority in India's only Muslim-majority state, with Prime Minister Narendra Modi visiting and addressing rallies four times. The BJP won 25 seats in the region's 87-strong state legislature, a significant jump from the 11 seats it currently holds. All the BJP's seats continued to be in the Hindu-dominated areas of the Jammu region in Jammu-Kashmir state, with the party failing to make inroads in the Musl

  • War collaborator sentenced to death in Bangladesh

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    DHAKA, Bangladesh (AP) — A special tribunal in Bangladesh has convicted a man of collaborating with the Pakistani army and sentenced him to death for several killings during the nation's 1971 independence war. Judge Obaidul Hasan announced the verdict against Syed Mohammed Kaiser in a packed court room in Dhaka on Tuesday. Bangladesh blames Pakistani soldiers and local collaborators for the deaths of 3 million people during the nine-month war. An estimated 200,000 women were raped and about 10 million people were forced to take shelter in refugee camps in neighboring India. The 73-year-old man, a former Cabinet member under a former military dictator, was in the court for the verdict and sentencing.

  • 3 killed in Sri Lanka floods and mudslides

    Updated: Tue, Dec 23, 2014

    COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Three people died and more than 60,000 had to be evacuated to safer locations due to floods and mudslides caused by heavy rains around Sri Lanka, officials said Tuesday. The Disaster Management Center said that three days of heavy rain in 15 districts also injured two persons and destroyed 1,900 homes. Hospitals and government offices were inundated and some inmates of a prison were transferred to other facilities. It is monsoon season in some parts of Sri Lanka, but many other areas not normally affected are also experiencing non-seasonal rain. Dozens of people were killed in October when mudslides buried homes of tea plantation workers in the country's central hills.