U.S. warns against travel in northern Mexico

OAXACA, Mexico — The U.S. government warned its citizens Wednesday against traveling to a northern Mexico border state where shoot-outs killed 19 people the previous three days. The alert came a day after assailants stormed a rural town in southern Mexico and killed 13 people.

President Felipe Calderon addressed the surge in violence, using a rare news conference with local news media to hotly deny accusations that his government is favoring one drug cartel over an other.

In Nuevo Laredo, across the border from Laredo, Texas, reports of violence and impending violence have grown so bad that the U.S. Consulate in Monterrey warned American citizens Wednesday to avoid traveling there.

Taliban leader to be sent to Afghanistan

ISLAMABAD — A top Taliban leader picked up in Pakistan as part of a recent crackdown on insurgents will be handed over to Afghanistan, an Afghan government official said Wednesday. Islamabad said, however, that it had received no formal request to turn him over and that he could be tried first in Pakistan.

Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar is one of at least three Afghan Taliban commanders who have been captured in recent weeks in Pakistan, where militants have also sustained blows from suspected U.S. missile strikes, including four killed Wednesday in an al-Qaida and Taliban stronghold in northwest Pakistan, intelligence officials said.

Pakistan has agreed to transfer Baradar to Afghan custody, according to Zemeri Bashary, a spokesman for Afghan Interior Minister Hanif Atmar, who was in Islamabad meeting with FBI and Pakistani officials.