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News Digest: Appeal for calm after terror attacks

Prime Minister Manuel Valls has urged France to remain calm after a series of terror attacks.

The government has denied any links between three attacks in as many days, including two nearly identical rampages by drivers who ploughed into holiday crowds, but announced plans to further raise security in public spaces.

He said the attacks were unrelated to terrorism. Lamenting "the ravages of propaganda on fragile minds," he urged France to remain calm and avoid overreacting to isolated incidents.

In the western city of Nantes on Monday, a van burst into a Christmas market, injuring 10 people before the driver began stabbing himself. The night before, in the eastern city of Dijon, a driver reportedly shouting "God is great" in Arabic ran down several people, injuring 13 before coming to a stop.

Those incidents came after an attacker knifed three police on Saturday before he was shot dead by one of the officers. The man's brother was arrested the same day in Burundi, their homeland. French counter-terrorism investigators were called in to the case.

"These three events have no link," French president Francois Hollande said.

150 Taliban fighters killed in clashes

At least 150 Taliban fighters have been killed by government forces in Afghanistan during 12 days of fighting near the border with Pakistan, officials said.

More 100 more were wounded in the fighting in Dangam district, according to General Abdul Habib Sayedkhaili, the police chief in Kunar province.

Dangam is less than three miles from the porous border and Gen Sayedkhaili said insurgents can easily cross back and forth to regroup and resupply.

He said 17 foreign fighters were among the dead.

The Taliban denied it had lost so many fighters. Gen Sayedkhaili said there were five dead and 12 wounded among Afghan forces and civilians.

Taliban attacks have escalated since international forces withdrew from Kunar four months ago. Gen Sayedkhaili said the Pakistani Taliban and Lashkar-i-Taiba - responsible for the attack on Mumbai in 2008 in which more than 160 people were killed - took part.

"That 17 foreign fighters that were killed during the battle proves that foreigners are supporting local insurgents in the area," he said.

Archaeological treasures are damaged in civil war

Satellite imagery shows that at least 290 cultural heritage sites have been damaged by Syria's civil war, a UN agency has said.

Syria is home to archaeological treasures that span thousands of years of written history, from the Roman ruins in the desert oasis of Palmyra to the towering Crusader castle known as the Crac des Chevaliers near the Mediterranean coast.

The nation's capital, Damascus, is one of the oldest continually inhabited cities in the world.

Russia in economic accord with ex-Soviet countries

Russia and four other ex-Soviet nations have set up an ambitious new alliance intended to bolster their economic integration.

The Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, comes into existence on January 1.

In addition to free trade, it aims to co-ordinate financial systems and regulate industrial and agricultural policies along with labour markets and transportation networks.

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