Two bombings kill 26 in Niger

NIAMEY, Niger - Suicide bombers in Niger detonated two car bombs simultaneously on Thursday, one inside a military camp in the city of Agadez and another in the remote town of Arlit at a French-operated uranium mine, killing a total of 26 people and injuring 30, according to officials in Niger and France. A surviving attacker took a group of soldiers hostage, and authorities were attempting to negotiate their release.

The timing of the attacks, which occurred at the same moment more than 100 miles apart, and the fact that the bombers were able to penetrate both a well-guarded military installation and a sensitive, foreign-operated uranium mine, highlight the growing reach and sophistication of the Islamic extremists based in neighboring Mali.

Both attacks were claimed by a spin-off of al-Qaeda, the Movement for Oneness and Jihad in West Africa, or MUJAO, which earlier vowed to avenge the French-led military intervention that ousted it from towns in Mali's north.

The most deaths were in the desert city of Agadez, where the attackers killed 20 soldiers and injured 16 others, said Niger's Minister of Defense Mahamadou Karidjo. - AP

U.N. chief visits embattled city

GOMA, Congo - U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stressed Thursday that security must go hand-in-hand with development in Congo's troubled eastern city of Goma, arriving just hours after a rebel group halted fighting to allow the visit to proceed.

The U.N. chief traveled to Congo, and specifically to Goma, for the first time since the Security Council authorized the creation of a new intervention brigade, which will have an aggressive mandate allowing the peacekeepers to engage the M23 rebels just north of the city.

"The intervention brigade being deployed within the U.N. peacekeeping operation is designed to bring added stability and protect civilians. But that is only one element of a much larger political process. A peace deal must deliver a peace dividend - health, education, jobs, opportunity," he said soon after visiting a hospital for rape victims. - AP

Gay-pride rally banned in Kiev

KIEV, Ukraine - A court on Thursday banned what would have been Ukraine's first-ever gay pride demonstration, upholding a suit by city authorities, who argued the rally would disturb annual Kiev Day celebrations and could spark violence.

While the recognition of gay rights advances in much of the West, antipathy toward homosexuals remains strong in Ukraine and other parts of the former Soviet Union. Homosexuality was a criminal offense in the USSR. - AP