By Hamid Shalizi KUNDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Afghan troops recaptured the center of the strategic northern city of Kunduz on Thursday after fierce clashes with Taliban militants, three days after losing the provincial capital in a humbling defeat for Kabul and its U.S. allies. "There are military helicopters in the sky and government forces everywhere," said Abdul Ahad, a doctor in the city. "Dead Taliban are on the streets, but there are still (militants) in some government buildings fighting Afghan forces."A Taliban spokesman denied the government had retaken all of Kunduz and said insurgent fighters had withdrawn to the edges of the city to avoid being encircled by Afghan and U.S. forces.
By David Lawder and Richard Cowan WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Ending weeks of infighting, the U.S. Congress on Wednesday voted to avert a government shutdown just hours before a midnight deadline, passing a stop-gap measure to extend funding for federal agencies until Dec. 11. The House of Representatives relied heavily on Democrats to secure passage in a 277-151 vote. A large majority of Republicans voted against the measure, which did not meet conservatives' demands to cut off money to women's healthcare provider Planned Parenthood amid an abortion controversy.
By Susan Cornwell WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Republicans in the U.S. House of Representatives will hold leadership elections on Oct. 8, House Speaker John Boehner said on Wednesday, moving speedily to get a new team in place to deal with a series of fiscal challenges ahead. "After consulting with our conference, a large majority of our members have made clear they want these elections held next week. With their considerations in mind, the House leadership elections will take place on Thursday, Oct. 8," Boehner said in an emailed statement. Boehner announced last Friday that he will step down as Speaker and leave Congress effective Oct. 30, after struggling with repeated rebellions by conservatives during a tumultuous five-year reign as the chamber's top Republican.
German auto giant Volkswagen shifted up a gear Wednesday in its plans to recall millions of cars fitted with pollution-cheating software as it boosted efforts to find the masterminds behind the scam. Following the departures of chief executive Martin Winterkorn and sales chief Christian Klingler in VW's deepest-ever crisis that broke 12 days ago, more heads look set to roll after the new CEO Matthias Mueller vowed to be "ruthless" in getting to the bottom of the affair. The steering committee of the carmaker's supervisory board was to meet later on Wednesday to discuss the preliminary findings of the internal investigation into a scam that has rocked the automobile sector and wiped 29 billion euros ($32.5 billion) off VW's market capitalisation.
Russia launched its first air strikes in Syria on Wednesday after President Vladimir Putin won parliamentary permission to use force abroad, the United States said. A US official said the strike was near the city of Homs in what is Moscow's first engagement in a distant theatre of war since the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Russia's deepening engagement in Syria comes as Putin and US President Barack Obama push rival plans on ways to defeat the Islamic State group in Syria and on the future role of the country's embattled leader Bashar al-Assad.