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Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Spasm of violence in Kashmir worst in years

DHAMALA HAKIMWALA, Pakistan (AP): Iram Shazadi was making breakfast for her family when bullets started whizzing through her dusty Pakistani village just a half-kilometre from the Indian-controlled area of disputed Kashmir.

Then a mortar shell fired by Indian forces slammed into her home, killing her two young sons and her husband's mother in the worst spasm of violence in the tense Himalayan region in years. So far, 19 people - 11 on the Pakistani side, eight on the Indian - have died over the past week. Dozens have been injured, and tens of thousands have fled their homes.

"I lost my whole world," Shazadi said Wednesday while recovering from injuries at a military hospital. She sat crying next to her six-year-old son, who narrowly escaped the blast.

Although minor skirmishes in the tense, rocky region are common, the fierce trading of mortar shells and gunfire that began Sunday night marks the most serious violation of a 2003 cease-fire accord brokered between India and Pakistan. Adding to the sense of shock was that the fighting erupted during the Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha, which families normally celebrate with roast goat and parties.

Off-duty officer kills man who fired on him

ST LOUIS (AP): An off-duty police officer fatally shot an 18-year-old man who opened fire during a chase in south St Louis, sparking loud protests in the area, police said Thursday.

St Louis police chief, Colonel Sam Dotson said the 32-year-old officer was patrolling the Shaw neighbourhood for a private security company late Wednesday when the shooting happened.

The officer said three men in the street ran away when they spotted him, Dotson told reporters at a news conference early Thursday.

Lawmakers weigh breaking up Secret Service, yanking it from Homeland Security Department

WASHINGTON (AP): Key members of Congress are weighing dramatic changes to the embattled Secret Service, including moving it out of the Homeland Security Department and breaking up its mission.

The proposals come as lawmakers assess how to improve the agency after a series of scandals, including a White House break-in by a man with a knife last month. The agency's director, Julia Pierson, resigned amid the controversy, but lawmakers are promising they'll continue their focus once Congress reconvenes after the November 4 midterm elections.

One suggestion is to move the Secret Service back into the Treasury Department, where it resided for decades until the creation of the Homeland Security Department following the September 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"Looking at the positioning of the agency, whether it should be in Treasury or be in Homeland Security, is one issue that must be taken up" as part of an independent review, said Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, top Democrat on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, which hosted Pierson at a hearing last week prior to her resignation.

A top committee Republican, Rep. Jason Chaffetz of Utah, said, "I haven't heard anyone make a strong case that it really is working the right way" within Homeland Security.