Shiite parties form alliance

BAGHDAD — Iraq's two main Shiite parties brought the country a step toward a new religious-based government by forming an alliance just four seats short of a parliamentary majority. The agreement between the parties raised fears that Sunnis could once again be cut out of power, sparking a return to sectarian violence.

Underscoring the religious underpinnings of the new alliance, a senior member said the political bloc will be obliged to follow the guidance of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country's most revered and influential religious figure.

The alliance — announced without a name or a leader — foreshadows a showdown over who would be prime minister.

Taliban bombers attack Afghanistan compound

KABUL — Taliban suicide bombers disguised as police attacked a government compound Wednesday in southwestern Afghanistan in an assault that left 13 people dead, including a provincial council member and all nine attackers, authorities said.

Eight of the bombers blew themselves up and police shot the ninth, President Hamid Karzai's office said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, which came as the provincial council was meeting.