World digest 02/26/03

Wednesday, February 26, 2003

Yemen identifies alleged leader of tanker attack

SAN'A, Yemen -- Yemeni authorities on Tuesday said they have identified and tried to arrest the suspected mastermind behind a bombing attack last year on a French oil tanker.

Security forces failed to capture Abdul Hakeem Bazeeb in an ambush last month, a government official said on condition of anonymity.

Authorities believe Bazeeb and three accomplices in the Oct. 6 attack are still in Yemen, the ancestral homeland of Osama bin Laden.

The official said the interrogations of five prisoners revealed that Bazeeb -- who authorities believe is linked to bin Laden's al-Qaida terror group -- organized the Limburg attack.

Aftershocks in China bring death toll to 266

KASHGAR, China -- Hundreds of aftershocks rocked western China on Tuesday, claiming more lives a day after a major earthquake crumpled thousands of homes and schools. The death toll rose to at least 266 people, with another 2,000 injured, state media reported.

The latest deaths included rescue workers who were struck by debris as they pulled victims from the rubble during aftershocks, and residents who succumbed to their injuries from Monday's powerful earthquake, the official Xinhua News Agency reported.

More than 500 aftershocks jolted the area overnight, including one before dawn that registered magnitude 5, Xinhua said.

Shootout in Kabul leaves two dead, one wounded

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A British bodyguard killed two Afghan men in a shootout at the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul late Tuesday, police said.

The bodyguard, whose identity was not released, was injured in the clash and hospitalized, but his wounds were not believed to be life-threatening.

Police chief Bashir Salangi said the bodyguard worked for a British security firm and was protecting an American man and his Afghan wife. The couple was not identified.

The shootout occurred at the Intercontinental Hotel, which has mostly foreign guests.

Police, who cordoned off the area, declined to speculate on a motive.

Israel, Lebanon hit by heaviest snow since 1950

JERUSALEM -- A rare snowstorm swept across the Middle East on Tuesday, closing highways and schools in Israel, Lebanon and Jordan, cutting power and blanketing the steeples and palm trees of Jerusalem in wintry white.

Forecasters said the storm would continue through today and is expected to deliver the heaviest snow since 1950. By midmorning Tuesday, a foot had fallen in Jerusalem. Snow also covered northern Israel, the hills of the West Bank and the mountains of Lebanon.

Israelis and Palestinians welcomed the respite from a 29-month-old conflict that has claimed nearly 3,000 lives. Many cherished a rare feeling of normalcy as weather led the news for a change.

"It's a moment of relief for all of us," said an Israeli woman building a snowman in downtown Jerusalem.

North Korea accuses U.S. of aerial intrusion

SEOUL, South Korea -- North Korea said Tuesday that an American reconnaissance plane intruded into its air space on a spying mission.

"This is a premeditated move to find an opportunity to mount a pre-emptive attack on the DPRK," said the North's official Korean Central News Agency. DPRK stands for Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

North Korea regularly makes such accusations, saying the United States is preparing for an invasion. The U.S. military had no comment on the latest claim, but has said in the past its maneuvers are defensive.

In Washington, the Pentagon denied that a spy plane intruded on North Korean airspace.

"There is no truth to these claims," Defense Department spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Jeff Davis said.

-- From wire reports

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