Nation/world briefs 8/4/04

Wednesday, August 4, 2004

Militants killed near Afghan-Pakistan border

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan and U.S. troops backed by warplanes killed as many as 50 militants in a daylong battle near the Pakistani border, the U.S. military said Tuesday. It was one of the bloodiest clashes since U.S. forces entered Afghanistan. One Afghan soldier was also killed and three others wounded in the fighting which raged all day Monday in Khost province, a former al-Qaida stronghold south of the capital, Kabul, a military statement said.

Saudi gunmen kill Irish citizen in his office

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Armed men shot and killed an Irishman on Tuesday after storming his office in the Saudi capital, the latest killing of a foreigner in the kingdom, a Saudi official said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Judge charges owner in supermarket blaze

ASUNCION, Paraguay -- Authorities filed manslaughter charges Tuesday against an owner of a Paraguayan supermarket that caught fire, killing at least 464 people, local media reported. The indictment in Paraguay's worst disaster in decades came after investigators said a security guard told them that when Sunday's fire broke out, the doors were ordered locked to prevent looting.

NASA launches research Messenger to Mercury

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. -- The spacecraft Messenger rocketed away Tuesday on a long quest to reveal the secrets of mysterious, superhot Mercury, the sun's nearest planet. "A voyage of mythological proportions," a NASA flight controller announced as soon as Messenger shed its final rocket stage hours before dawn. The journey will take 6 1/2 years, covering nearly 5 billion miles. The probe should reach Mercury by March 2011, then spend a year gathering data.

British arrest 13 in anti-terror operation

LONDON -- Police conducted anti-terrorism raids in London and several towns Tuesday, arresting 13 people believed involved in preparing terrorist acts. London's Metropolitan Police said the afternoon and evening arrests were "part of a pre-planned, ongoing intelligence-led operation." The men were detained "on suspicion of being concerned in the commission, preparation or instigation of acts of terrorism."

IRS needs more money to collect unpaid taxes

WASHINGTON -- The Internal Revenue Service needs more money to collect some of the estimated $311 billion a year in unpaid taxes and to counter taxpayers' growing acceptance of cheating, agency overseers said Tuesday. While other analysts have reached the same conclusions before, the report by the IRS Oversight Board -- three of whose seven members were appointed by President Bush -- added weight to those arguing the agency lacks the funds it needs to enforce tax laws.

U.S. sending lawyer to meet deserter Jenkins

TOKYO -- U.S. Army officials in South Korea plan to send a military lawyer to meet with accused U.S. Army deserter Charles Robert Jenkins shortly in Japan, an official said Tuesday. The U.S. military has refrained from formally requesting custody of Jenkins since he arrived at a Tokyo hospital last month. But Washington says it intends to bring him to justice, as soon as he is physically able, for allegedly abandoning his South Korean post in 1965 and defecting to North Korea.

-- From wire reports

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