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Iraq using barrel bombs, hitting Fallujah hospital: HRW

Iraq's government is dropping barrel bombs and may also be targeting a hospital in its battle with militants in the conflict-hit city of Fallujah, Human Rights Watch alleged Tuesday. The Iraqi authorities denied the claims, which come with Baghdad locked in a months-long standoff with anti-government fighters in Fallujah amid a protracted surge in nationwide bloodshed, all of which is fuelling fears the country is slipping back into the all-out conflict of 2006 and 2007. The New York-based rights watchdog also said abuses committed by the powerful Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant jihadist group -- among the main militant organisations in Fallujah -- likely amounted to crimes against humanity. Iraqi army spokesmen did not respond to AFP requests for comment, but HRW said in its report that the military denied targeting Fallujah's main hospital, and the prime minister's spokesman issued a statement on May 12 denying the use of barrel bombs.

N. Korea says danger of 'catastrophic' clash at truce village

North Korea on Tuesday warned that recent "provocative" activities by US troops at a truce village on the heavily fortified inter-Korean border could lead to a "catastrophic" military clash. The warning came from the head of the North Korean forces stationed in the frontier village of Panmunjom -- where the ceasefire agreement to end fighting in the 1950-53 Korean War was signed. In remarks carried by the North's official KCNA news agency, he particularly cited the construction of a steel watchtower, saying it was being used for "acts of spying" involving sophisticated surveillance equipment. North Korea regularly denounces the US troop presence in the South, but it is unusual for it to focus on activities in Panmunjom -- one of the few avenues of cross-border communication.