Governor, five U.S. soldiers killed

The governor of the Baghdad region, known for cooperating closely with American troops, was assassinated along with six bodyguards as he drove to work yesterday in yet another bloody day of insurgent attacks that exposed grave security flaws in Iraq with elections less than a month away.

Other assaults yesterday killed five American troops as well as 10 Iraqi commandos, bringing the death toll in the last three days to more than 70. Despite the violence, which U.S. troops and Iraqi security forces have been helpless to prevent, American and Iraqi leaders insist the Jan. 30 vote would go forward.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan acknowledged security “challenges” in Iraq but said the election timetable would not be changed.

“For much of the country, the situation is secure enough to move forward on holding elections,” McClellan said. “There are a few areas that we’re continuing to work to improve the security situation, so those areas will be able to have as full a participation as possible in elections.”

In places like Fallujah, which was bombed to ruins in a U.S.-led campaign in November, and the northern city of Mosul, there has been little headway in preparing for the vote.



Court upholds charges against dictator

Chile’s Supreme Court upheld the indictment and house arrest of former dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet yesterday for nine kidnappings and one homicide allegedly committed during a long regime marked by human rights abuses.

The court’s 3-2 vote cleared the way for Pinochet to be tried on the latest human rights abuse charges stemming from his 1973-1990 rule.

“The sentence that has been appealed has been confirmed,” court secretary Carlos Meneses said, referring to Pinochet’s appeal.

Retired Gen. Luis Cortes, a Pinochet associate, said “what this situation is doing is to accelerate the death of a man who was President of Chile.”


JAKARTA, Indonesia

Restrictions placed to protect children

Fearing child-trafficking gangs will exploit the chaos of the tsunami disaster, Indonesia has placed restrictions on youngsters leaving the country, ordered police commanders to be on the lookout for trafficking and posted special guards in refugee camps.

UNICEF and other child welfare groups warn that the gangs may well be whisking orphaned children into trafficking networks, selling them into forced labor or even sexual slavery in wealthier neighboring countries such as Malaysia and Singapore.

Such trafficking, if confirmed, would vastly deepen the suffering of children already struck hard by the Dec. 26 massive earthquake and tsunami. According to estimates in Indonesia, 35,000 children on Sumatra island’s Aceh province lost one or both parents to the disaster.



Abbas denounces Israel for recent killings

Palestinian presidential candidate Mahmoud Abbas denounced Israel as the “Zionist enemy” yesterday — his harshest language yet on the campaign trail — after Israeli tank shells slammed into a strawberry patch, killing seven Palestinians, many of them children.

Israel insisted its shells hit militants who were firing mortar rounds at Israeli targets, but relatives and witnesses said the dead were children and teenagers, and a senior army commander apologized for civilian casualties. It was the bloodiest strike in Gaza in three months.

Abbas’s rhetoric has grown increasingly hard-line during a four-day campaign swing through Gaza, as he reached out to younger, more militant Palestinians ahead of Sunday’s election.

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