Pentagon chief Panetta meets pope
VATICAN CITY - U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, the leader of the world's largest military, met Pope Benedict XVI, the world's best-known advocate for peace, at the Vatican on Wednesday.
Panetta was in the front row at Wednesday's weekly general audience in the Vatican auditorium. About 1,000 people were crowded into the room.
After the pope addressed the gathering, Panetta and several staff members lined up to meet the pontiff, who gave them rosaries.
Panetta kissed the pope's ring, and the pope said, "Thank you for helping to protect the world."
The Pentagon boss responded, "Pray for me."
Panetta, a staunch Catholic, is in Rome as part of a weeklong swing across Europe, meeting with defense ministers to talk about ongoing conflicts in Afghanistan and Mali.
26 killed, 130 injured in series of bombings
BAGHDAD - At least 26 people were killed and 130 wounded in a series of bombings Wednesday in Iraq, security officials said. The bombings apparently targeted Kurds.
Fifteen people, including eight Kurdish security personnel, were killed and 100 wounded in a car bombing at a complex housing the Kurdistan Democratic Party and non-governmental organizations in the northern oil-rich city of Kirkuk. Three civilians died in a second car bombing targeting a nearby Kurdish security building.
Kirkuk is at the center of a dispute between the semi-autonomous Kurdish region in Iraq and the Baghdad government.
London chopper crash leaves 2 dead, 13 hurt
LONDON - A helicopter crashed into a crane and fell on a crowded street in central London during rush hour Wednesday, sending flames and black plumes of smoke into the air. The pilot and one person on the ground were killed and 13 others injured, officials said.
The helicopter crashed in misty weather just south of the River Thames near the Underground and mainline train station at Vauxhall, and close to the headquarters of spy agency MI6.
Suicide bombers attack spy agency
KABUL - A team of suicide bombers attacked a compound belonging to Afghanistan's spy agency Wednesday, killing at least one guard and injuring 33 civilians in a brazen strike at the heavily fortified heart of Kabul, the capital, officials said.
One of the attackers detonated a minivan packed with explosives at the entrance to the National Directorate of Security, said agency spokesman Shafiqullah Tahiri. Five others in suicide vests drove up in a separate van and were killed in an exchange of fire with security forces, he told a news conference. Their vehicle was also rigged to explode. Security forces deactivated the device with three minutes left on the timer, Tahiri said.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the midday attack.
Olympic racewalker dies after shooting
MEXICO CITY - A Mexican racewalker who won a silver medal in the 20-kilometer men's walk at the 2000 Sydney Olympic games died about two weeks after being shot in the head while at a bar in Mexico City.
Racewalker Noe Hernandez had been recovering at home since the Dec. 30 shooting, which cost him his eyesight.
Hernandez was 35. After the shooting, he told reporters the attack appeared to have been premeditated.