Air Algerie plane crashes after takeoff, killing 102

Friday, March 7, 2003

ALGIERS, Algeria -- An Air Algerie passenger jet, one of its engines ablaze, crashed shortly after takeoff deep in the Sahara Desert on Thursday, and 102 people were killed, officials said. A young soldier survived.

The Boeing 737, flight 6289, crashed after taking off from Tamanrasset bound for the Algerian capital, Algiers, 1,000 miles to the north.

Terrorism was not suspected, said an airline spokesman, Hamid Hamdi.

"There was a mechanical problem on takeoff," he said. "There is no element that leads us to think there was a terrorist attack."

Witnesses at the Tamanrasset airport and airline officials said one of the plane's two jet engines caught fire as it was taking off.

U.S. military prepares new ward at Guantanamo

GUANTANAMO BAY NAVAL BASE, Cuba -- The U.S. military is opening a new ward for terror suspects with mental problems at Guantanamo Bay following a rash of suicide attempts by detainees, including one that left a man with serious brain damage.

The mission commander, Army Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller, also said he has recommended some detainees be freed, but he would not say how many.

"The decision on transferring these enemy combatants back to their home countries will be made by the highest levels of our government," Miller said Thursday. "They may be there for weeks or months."

The psychiatric wing of about 35 cells will open this month with a staff of psychiatrists, psychologists and nurses, Miller said in an interview with The Associated Press.

Sixteen prisoners have made 20 attempts to kill themselves at the U.S. base in eastern Cuba, most using sheets or pieces of clothing to try to hang themselves.

Teen arrested in London park killing of U.S. artist

LONDON -- Police arrested then released an 18-year-old man Thursday in connection with the slaying of an American jogger in an east London park.

Police apprehended the suspect at his home in the Hackney neighborhood near Victoria Park, where the killing occurred, but released him about 10 hours later. He was ordered to report back to authorities next month. Police said their investigation continued.

The teen was not charged, and police did not release his name.

Scotland Yard declined to say whether his arrest resulted from their Monday reconstruction of the crime scene in the park at the time of 27-year-old Margaret Muller's death.

Muller, a native of Falls Church, Va., moved to Britain in 1998, and studied and taught at the prestigious Slade School of Fine Art in London.

Her killing generated widespread news coverage because of the rarity of the crime -- she was attacked in daylight in a busy park -- and because she was a promising young artist.

Armenian president gets re-election, criticism

YEREVAN, Armenia -- President Robert Kocharian was re-elected in a second-round landslide, election officials said Thursday, but the opposition charged the vote was riddled with fraud and vowed not to recognize it.

International monitors also criticized the vote and the campaign period leading up to it as falling short of recognized standards for open elections.

Complete preliminary results showed Kocharian had 67.5 percent and challenger Stepan Demirchian had 32.5 percent, election officials said. Nearly two-thirds of registered voters cast ballots.

But instead of celebrating victory Kocharian faced the immediate task of preserving political stability, finding common cause with the defeated and angry opposition and mending the nation's damaged democratic image.

--From wire reports

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