World briefs 12/26/03

Friday, December 26, 2003

Three killed in Middle East suicide bombing

JERUSALEM -- A Palestinian suicide bombing at a bus stop outside Tel Aviv killed three people Thursday just minutes after an Israeli helicopter fired missiles at a car in Gaza, killing a senior Islamic Jihad commander and four others. The attacks were the first of their kind in more than two months and were likely to lead to a wave of retaliatory violence and damage new efforts to restart the Israel-Palestinian peace process.

Plane crashes in Benin; 82 reported dead

COTONOU, Benin -- A jetliner carrying Lebanese workers home for the holidays crashed into the sea shortly after takeoff in the West African nation of Benin on Thursday, killing at least 82 people, witnesses said. As many as 200 passengers and crew were on United Transit Airlines Flight 141 bound for Beirut from Cotonou, Benin's commercial capital, when the plane went down at 2:55 p.m., said Jerome Dandjinou, an airport security official.

Gas well accident in China kills 191

BEIJING -- A burst natural gas well, possibly pierced in a drilling mistake, spewed out toxic fumes, killing at least 191 people in southwest China and forcing 31,000 people to flee their homes, state media said Thursday. As residents in a 3-mile radius were evacuated, technicians tried to stop the deadly leak of natural gas and hydrogen sulfide that erupted Tuesday night from the gas field at the town of Gaoqiao, the state-run Xinhua news agency reported.

Basque militants planned Christmas Eve attacks

MADRID, Spain -- Two suspected Basque militants arrested for plotting to bomb a Madrid train station on Christmas Eve had also intended to attack a railway line in northeast Spain, part of a plot to spread panic during the holiday, media reported Thursday. Police arrested the two men Wednesday, uncovering a 44-pound bomb already set on a train heading from San Sebastian to Madrid, set to explode in the capital's bustling Chamartin station.

Pilot jailed in Vietnam for hijacking plane in stunt

RAYONG, Thailand -- A Vietnamese-American pilot was sentenced Thursday to seven years and four months in jail for hijacking a small plane in Thailand and flying illegally over Vietnam to scatter anti-communist leaflets. Ly Tong, a former bomber pilot in South Vietnam's air force who has staged similar stunts, was originally sentenced to 11 years but Judge Pairath Noonpradej of the Rayong Provincial Court reduced the punishment to reward his cooperation in the trial. Ly Tong was arrested in November 2000 after he returned from his audacious mission to drop the leaflets over Ho Chi Minh City.

-- From wire reports

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