ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

Troops may have found al-Qaida’s No. 2

Pakistani forces believe they have cornered and perhaps wounded
Osama bin Laden’s deputy, Ayman al-Zawahri, in a major battle
near the Afghan border, an area where many believe the
world’s most wanted terrorist has been hiding, three senior
Pakistani officials said yesterday.

Pakistan President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said a “high
value” target was believed trapped in South Waziristan, a
semi-autonamous tribal belt that has resisted outside intervention
for centuries.

Hundreds of troops and paramilitary rangers pounded several
fortress-like mud-brick compounds with artillery and fired on them
from helicopter gunships, as entrenched suspects fought back hard.
An intelligence official said “dozens” were killed
yesterday. At least 41 people — 15 soldiers and 26 suspected
militants — were killed earlier this week in fighting in the
area.

The officials said intelligence indicated the forces had
surrounded the Egyptian-born al-Zawahri in an operation that began
Tuesday, the first major break in the world’s most intense
manhunt in more than a year.

 

SEOUL, South Korea

S. Korea will not send troops to city in Iraq

South Korea yesterday scrubbed plans to send troops to the
northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk, citing U.S. pressure to participate
in “offensive operations,” but it said the promised
3,600 forces will be sent to a different location to help rebuild
the country.

The dispatch, making South Korea the biggest coalition partner
after the United States and Britain, had been scheduled to come as
early as next month. But yesterday’s decision means the
mission might be delayed.

The move comes as other Iraq coalition allies reconsider their
contributions.

South Korea’s Defense Ministry said the “United
States cited inevitability for offensive operations to keep
security in order in the Kirkuk area, and proposed that a certain
number of U.S. troops would remain in Kirkuk to continue to conduct
stabilization operations under the tactical control of South
Korea.”

The South Korean side said the U.S. proposal does not jibe with
its intention to “keep its own independent operational
command system and conduct peaceful reconstruction.”

The Pentagon had no immediate comment on South Korea’s
decision.

 

BRUSSELS, Belgium

EU plans to sanction Microsoft in ruling

The European Union announced its intention yesterday to sanction
Microsoft Corp. after the software giant balked at demands that
could have prevented it from adding new features to future versions
of Windows — a restriction it avoided in the landmark U.S.
antitrust case.

Frenzied settlement talks that accelerated this week with the
arrival of Microsoft chief executive Steve Ballmer in Brussels
collapsed over the EU’s insistence on a broad deal in
exchange for allowing Microsoft to avoid being found guilty of
monopolistic behavior.

EU Competition Commissioner Mario Monti said he would now
proceed with a precedent-setting ruling against the world’s
largest software company on Wednesday. The EU also plans to hit
Microsoft with a fine expected to reach hundreds of millions of
dollars.

 

JERUSALEM

Palestinians protest construction of wall

Hundreds of Palestinians protested yesterday at a site where
Israel is building its West Bank barrier, calling for a complete
stop to the project after the Supreme Court halted construction at
a nearby location.

A 12-year-old boy was seriously wounded by soldiers firing tear
gas and rubber-coated steel bullets to disperse stone-throwers in
the crowd.

Protesters have focused in recent weeks on a particularly
contentious section northwest of Jerusalem that would cut off eight
Palestinian villages and disrupt the lives of 30,000 people. The
high court on Wednesday froze construction of that 15-mile stretch
after retired Israeli army officers argued that Israel could have
drawn a much less intrusive route.

 

WASHINGTON

Study: Possible mass extinction under way

A detailed survey of birds and butterflies in Britain shows a
population decline of 54 to 71 percent, a finding that suggests the
world may be undergoing another major extinction.

Researchers said the study helps support the theory that the
sixth big extinction in Earth’s history is under way, and
this one is caused by humans.

In a series of population surveys that combed virtually every
square yard of England, Scotland and Wales over 40 years, more than
20,000 volunteers counted each bird, butterfly and native plant
they could find. An analysis of the findings appears this week in
the journal Science.

 

— Compiled from Daily wire reports.

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