KABUL, Afghanistan

Afghan aviation minister killed in gunbattle

Soldiers loyal to a local commander shot and killed
Afghanistan’s aviation minister yesterday in the western city
of Herat, setting off a gunbattle in which as many as 100 people
died in vicious factional fighting, the commander told The
Associated Press.

In Kabul, President Hamid Karzai’s Cabinet convened in
emergency session after the killing of minister Mirwais Sadiq
— a son of Herat’s powerful governor — and
dispatched extra troops to try to calm the city.

Presidential spokesman Khaleeq Ahmed said only that the minister
had been shot in his car and circumstances were unclear.

But a top Herat military commander, Zaher Naib Zada, told AP by
telephone last night that his forces had killed Sadiq in a
confrontation after the minister went to Zada’s home to fire
him.

Afterward, Zada’s forces and soliders loyal to Sadiq began
fighting with machine guns, tanks and rockets for control of the
city’s main military barracks. Zada said between 50 and 100
soldiers were killed in the first hours of the ongoing battle.

 

TAIPEI, Taiwan

Taiwan leader’s re-election comes under
fire

Taiwan’s High Court ordered all ballot boxes sealed
yesterday as thousands of protesters demanded a recount of
President Chen Shui-bian’s re-election, saying it was marred
by voting irregularities and an apparent assassination attempt that
wounded the incumbent.

The court said it was sealing the boxes to preserve evidence,
but it did not order a recount of Saturday’s vote as
requested by challenger Lien Chan. The opposition also said it
would seek to nullify Chen’s narrow victory Saturday, arguing
he unfairly received sympathy votes because of the election-eve
shooting, which remained unexplained.

Chen, who campaigned on a China-bashing platform, and Vice
President Annette Lu were shot and slightly wounded while riding in
an open Jeep on Friday in Chen’s hometown of Tainan. Nobody
has been arrested, and police have not identified any suspects. A
$718,750 reward was offered for information leading to an arrest.
Chen won Saturday’s election with 50.1 percent of the vote
compared to 49.9 percent for Lien — a margin of just 30,000
votes.

 

BAGHDAD, Iraq

Insurgents kill two U.S. soldiers in Iraq

Rebels killed two U.S. soldiers in a rocket attack in western
Iraq, the U.S. military said yesterday, and two Iraqi civilians
died and one American soldier was injured in a rocket attack on
U.S.-led coalition headquarters in Baghdad.

A 1st Infantry Division soldier also was killed yesterday in an
apparent accident during a weapons firing exercise in Samarra,
about 60 miles north of Baghdad, Army spokeswoman Maj. Debra
Stewart said. The incident was under investigation.

One of three rockets fired in Baghdad landed inside the
coalition headquarters but caused no significant damage, a U.S.
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. The injured
soldier was hit by flying glass. Some staffers in the compound took
cover in basements.

 

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia

Islamic party loses election in Malaysia

Malaysians gave their secular prime minister a huge election
victory yesterday, smashing a fundamentalist Muslim party that had
wanted to impose an Islamic state in the Southeast Asian
country.

The results were seen as a personal endorsement for Prime
Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, whose low-key style has proved a
sharp contrasted to his combative predecessor, Mahathir
Mohamad.

Many voters — especially the Chinese and Indian minorities
— had feared Islamic fundamentalism was on the rise in
Malaysia, a country that has detained scores of suspected
terrorists in the past two years, some linked to al-Qaida.

Abdullah’s United Malays National Organization scored huge
gains in two states in the rural north, the stronghold of the
Pan-Malaysian Islamic Party.

 

ELLENSBURG, Wash.

Lesbian minister celebrates victory

The acquittal of a lesbian Methodist pastor charged with
violating church doctrine drew praise and scorn yesterday across a
denomination that may see its divisions over homosexuality laid
bare at a major conference next month.

Saturday’s acquittal of the Rev. Karen Dammann was
celebrated yesterday at the church where she used to preach in
Ellensburg, a small town in Washington.

“I’m very pleased,” said Dodie Haight, a
member of the congregation who sat through Dammann’s trial
about 95 miles away in the Seattle suburb of Bothell. “I
don’t think the jury had an easy task, but I think they gave
it long, thoughtful, prayerful consideration.”

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