Top Asian News 4:17 a.m. GMT

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — At least 33 soldiers were killed and about 20 others wounded Thursday in a car bomb attack on a paramilitary convoy along a key highway in Indian-controlled Kashmir, security officials said. It was one of the deadliest car bombings in the disputed region's history. Officials said a local Kashmiri militant rammed an explosive-laden van into the convoy, targeting a bus carrying at least 35 soldiers. Senior police officer Muneer Ahmed Khan said the attack occurred as the convoy reached southern Lethpora town on the outskirts of the main city of Srinagar. He said the bus was destroyed and at least five other vehicles were damaged by the blast.

BEIJING (AP) — Sweden's ambassador to China is under internal investigation over a meeting she arranged between the daughter of a detained Swedish publisher and two Chinese businessmen who she says threatened her father. Ambassador Anna Lindstedt returned to Stockholm on Wednesday to meet with officials from the foreign affairs ministry, the Swedish Embassy in Beijing said by phone. Lindstedt is not under criminal investigation. The ministry later confirmed that Lindstedt's departure was related to meetings she arranged between Angela Gui, the daughter of detained Swedish book publisher Gui Minhai, and the two businessmen. "The ambassador has acted incorrectly in the sense that the foreign ministry had no knowledge that the meetings took place," spokeswoman Catherine Johnsson told The Associated Press.

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — The head of a Philippine online news site who was arrested on a libel complaint accused President Rodrigo Duterte's administration of acting like a dictatorship and using the law as a weapon to muzzle dissent. "What we're seeing ... is a level of impunity that I frankly haven't seen, and I've been a journalist for more than 30 some odd years," Maria Ressa told The Associated Press on Thursday after posting bail in a Manila court. Ressa, who was selected by Time magazine as one of its Persons of the Year last year, is the head of Rappler Inc., which has aggressively covered Duterte's administration.

MOSCOW (AP) — When the last Soviet tanks rumbled back home across a bridge on the border with Afghanistan 30 years ago, the withdrawal was hailed as a much-anticipated end to a bloody quagmire. Since then, Moscow's view of the war has changed radically. As Russia prepares to mark Friday's anniversary of the Soviet withdrawal, many see the 10-year Soviet war in Afghanistan as a necessary and largely successful endeavor. Just like the ongoing Russian campaign in Syria, the Afghan war is widely perceived as a legitimate action against U.S.-backed militants. And in a twist of history, Russia also has emerged as an influential power broker in Afghanistan, mediating between feuding factions as it jockeys with Washington for influence in a country where a U.S.-led coalition has been fighting for more than 17 years.

BANGKOK (AP) — As Pinit Ngarmpring, he was a CEO and sports promoter, well known in the world of Thai soccer. Now, under her preferred new name of Pauline Ngarmpring, she's pursuing a bid to become the country's first transgender prime minister. The 52-year-old is one of three candidates put forward by a political party for the post in next month's general election. She says she wants her nomination to bring hope to the marginalized and to open up political space for future generations of LGBT people. With over a month to go before the March 24 polling day, she campaigned this week in one of Bangkok's more infamous nightlife areas.

Young Buddhist novices attend a dance festival as part of Tibetan New Year celebrations in Kathmandu, Nepal. In other images from the Asia-Pacific region this week, South Korean high school seniors clad in traditional attire bow during a joint graduation and coming-of-age ceremony in Seoul. Thousands of students and faculty from the Catholic-run St. Scholastica's College in Manila, Philippines, flash No. 1 sign at the end of a mass dance performance as part of a campaign to combat violence against women and children on Valentine's Day. ___ This gallery was curated by Associated Press photo editor Masayo Yoshida in Tokyo. ___ Visit the AP Images blog: http://apimagesblog.com Visit AP Images online: http://www.apimages.com

JAKARTA, Indonesia (AP) — Indonesian plantation companies fined for burning huge areas of land since 2009 have failed to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in penalties meant to hold them accountable for actions that took a devastating environmental and human toll. The palm oil and pulp wood companies involved in fires owe more than $220 million in fines and the figure for unpaid penalties for environmental destruction swells to $1.3 billion when an illegal logging case from 2013 is included, according to separate summaries of the cases compiled by Greenpeace and the Ministry of Environment and Forestry. Indonesia's annual dry season fires were particularly disastrous in 2015, burning 2.6 million hectares (10,000 square miles) of land and spreading health-damaging haze across Indonesia, Singapore, southern Thailand and Malaysia.

NAMPO, North Korea (AP) — Power-strapped North Korea is exploring two ambitious alternative energy sources — tidal power and coal-based synthetic fuels — that could greatly improve living standards and reduce its reliance on oil imports and vulnerability to sanctions. Finding a lasting energy source that isn't vulnerable to sanctions has long been a top priority for North Korean officials. Leader Kim Jong Un used his New Year's address last month to call on the country to "radically increase the production of electricity" and singled out the coal-mining industry as a "primary front in developing the self-supporting economy." For the longer-term, he stressed the importance of atomic, wind and tidal power.

NEW DELHI (AP) — Ex-Maldives President Mohamed Nasheed said Thursday that the country is seeking to reduce the more than $3 billion he estimates it could owe China, some of which he said came in the form of "ill-gotten wealth" for the previous government of President Yameen Abdul Gayoom. A close adviser to President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih and candidate for parliamentary elections in April, Nasheed spoke to The Associated Press at a climate change lecture in New Delhi, a day after Maldives' top prosecutor charged Yameen with money laundering. The charges are linked to $1 million allegedly found in Yameen's bank account from a shady government deal to lease islands for tourist development in the Maldives, which is famous for its luxury resorts.

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — A Papua New Guinea police superintendent on Thursday was hot on the trail of one of the many high-end cars he's trying to recover after an international summit. About 275 cars are missing or overdue in the impoverished Pacific nation since it hosted the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit in November. Many denounced the country at the time for buying 40 expensive Maseratis to ferry around world leaders, cars which it later planned to sell. Although the Maseratis are accounted for, other cars are not. When The Associated Press spoke to police superintendent Dennis Corcoran by phone, he said he was heading to pick up one of the missing cars, which somebody had tried to sell.