Israeli troops arrest 18 in West Bank

JERUSALEM

Israeli forces in the West Bank stepped up operations against suspected Palestinian militants yesterday, invading villages, arresting 18 suspects and clashing with gunmen.

One militant was killed, along with an Israeli soldier.

One of those detained was Mahmoud Hasib, a senior official for Yasser Arafat’s Fatah movement. Hasib, arrested in Ramallah, was an assistant to Marwan Barghouti, the West Bank Fatah leader captured by Israel in April.

Israeli security sources said Hasib recruited young Palestinians to carry out attacks against Israelis and was involved in two fatal shootings.

Five other Palestinians were captured in an Israeli raid on an Islamic Jihad hideout in the northern West Bank village of Saida, the military said. An Israeli soldier and a Palestinian were killed.

Twelve Palestinians were detained in other raids. In Qalqiliya, soldiers stopped a suspicious car and found two bombs inside. Two Palestinians in the car were captured after they were wounded trying to escape.

Arafat, meanwhile, held a second day of consultations about the new position of prime minister. The Palestinian parliament approved the position and delineated its powers on Monday.

Manhunt for bin Laden steps up efforts

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan

As the search intensifies for Osama bin Laden, debate is building about what to do with the world’s most wanted man if he is found: Taking him alive raises the risks of a trial, but his death could make him a martyr.

Since the March 1 arrest of key al-Qaida leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, a manhunt has been under way in a remote 350-mile corridor near where the borders of Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran meet, and officials believe they may be closer than ever to capturing bin Laden.

Sweeps are being made through the rugged tribal belt that separates Pakistan and Afghanistan and in the inhospitable peaks of Afghanistan searching for bin Laden and other terrorists who might attack in the event of war in Iraq. The activity has resulted in reports of operations – and even one report of bin Laden’s capture.

Pakistani and U.S. officials yesterday denied Iran Radio’s report that bin Laden had been arrested in Pakistan but that his capture would not be announced until the outbreak of fighting in Iraq. The Iranian state radio’s external service quoted the deputy leader of the Islamic Awami Tahrik party in Pakistan, Murtaza Poya, who also made the same assertion to The Associated Press.

Fox’s surgery prompts succession confusion

MEXICO CITY

Mexican President Vicente Fox underwent back surgery yesterday, raising the question of who is the government’s second-in-command at a moment when Mexico weighs whether to support war in Iraq.

Mexico, a nonpermanent member of the U.N. Security Council, is under intense U.S. pressure to support the resolution setting a March 17 deadline for Iraq to disarm or face war.

The herniated disk surgery lasted only three hours but it was long enough to cause confusion over Mexico’s line of succession and prompt calls by lawmakers for a constitutional amendment.

Fox left two Cabinet members in charge, giving Interior Secretary Santiago Creel say over national affairs but instructing Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez – less than two months into his post – to carry on with Mexico’s effort to find a compromise to the U.S.-sponsored resolution on Iraq.

Cadets quietly seek help coping with rape

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo.

The U.S. Air Force Academy has had its own rape counseling hot line for seven years. Yet dozens of female cadets have gone outside the system and sought help instead at a civilian rape crisis center.

The role of TESSA, the counseling center in Colorado Springs, illustrates what some say are pervasive fears among academy women that they would be punished or their confidences betrayed if they reported that they had been raped.

“In the majority of these cases, the victims were seeking out a completely confidential resource because they were eager to get the help they need to heal without sharing that information in a way that may influence their military career,” TESSA Executive Director Cari Davis said.

Marriage a factor in interracial relationships

WASHINGTON

Unmarried couples – whether same-sex or opposite-sex – are far more likely than married couples to mix race or ethnicity, Census Bureau data shows.

About 7 percent of the nation’s 54.5 million married couples are mixed racially or ethnically, compared to about 15 percent of the 4.9 million unmarried heterosexual couples. The percentage is only slightly lower for the nation’s nearly 600,000 same-sex couples.

Deva Kyle, a black law student who lives with her white boyfriend, said people in interracial relationships tend to be more liberal so are more apt to share a home without being married.

Kyle, 24, of Alexandria, Va., has no plans to marry her boyfriend of five years. She said they plan a “commitment ceremony” that is not legally binding but still makes a statement for family friends.

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