Pakistani troops kill 24 along Afghan border

Wednesday, March 17, 2004

WANA, Pakistan -- Paramilitary troops stormed a fortress-like compound with mortars and machine-gun fire Tuesday, killing 24 suspects in a fierce crackdown on al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives in the rugged tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, the army spokesman said. The operation -- which left at least eight Pakistani troops dead and 15 wounded -- was a stunning message delivered just one day after the military president promised to rid the territory of foreign terrorists. There have been several anti-terror operations in the semiautonomous tribal belt in recent months, but none so bloody.

Investigators continue highway shooter search

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The man wanted by police in a deadly string of highway sniper attacks has a history of mental illness and is believed to have a semiautomatic pistol and ammunition, authorities said Tuesday. Charles A. McCoy Jr., 28, lived with his mother within miles of where the gunman's bullets killed a passenger, shattered windshields, dented school buses and drilled into homes and a school. "McCoy has had mental health issues in the past and is currently not on medication," the Franklin County Sheriff's Office said in a bulletin released to police departments across the country.

23 Taliban suspects leave Guantanamo for home

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Stepping into freedom in new denim jackets and gleaming white sneakers, 23 bearded Taliban and Taliban suspects headed to their homes Tuesday after one of the largest single releases of prisoners from U.S. captivity in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. For most, Tuesday marked the end of more than a year in U.S. military custody. The Pentagon announced the releases on Monday, making 119 one-time terror suspects now freed from Guantanamo, with about 610 still in detention there. Prisoners freed Tuesday included hard-line Taliban who fought to the end as the fundamentalist regime fell in late 2001 under attack from U.S. forces and their Afghan allies.

Airlines want privacy protections in screening

WASHINGTON -- The government must adopt specific privacy protections before implementing a plan to use personal information to rank all airline passengers as potential security threats, the trade group for major U.S. airlines says. The Air Transport Association said it supports the concept of the Computer-Assisted Passenger Prescreening System, or CAPPS II, provided the government follows seven "privacy principles." The list of principles is expected to be unveiled today at a House hearing.

Haiti's prime minister forms unity Cabinet

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Haiti's new prime minister formed a unity government Tuesday, filling 13 Cabinet positions but excluding members of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide's Lavalas Family party. Aides to interim Prime Minister Gerard Latortue circulated a list of names for the new 13-member Cabinet after Latortue met with interim President Boniface Alexandre at the National Palace. Alexandre was to formally announce the Cabinet later. But Leslie Voltaire, a former Aristide Cabinet member, said no Lavalas Party members had been chosen.

Second Oregon county will OK gay marriages

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Benton County, home to Oregon State University, will become the state's second county to begin issuing marriage licenses to gay couples. The county follows in the footsteps of Multnomah County, Oregon's most populous, which has issued over 2,200 licenses to gay couples since March 3. Benton County, about an hour's drive from Portland, is home to Corvallis, known as one of the state's more liberal cities. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, had urged other counties not to follow in Multnomah County's lead.

-- From wire reports

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