THE AMERICAS

Argentine Hostage Drama Ends in Death

BUENOS AIRES--A nationally televised hostage drama ended in a barrage of gunfire yesterday, leaving three people dead in a bloody finish to a botched holdup of a rural bank.

Argentine officials promised punishment for policemen who killed two hostages when they riddled a getaway car with bullets at the end of the 20-hour siege. Heavily armed police commandos sprayed the car with bullets and also killed one of the three robbers who were trying to drive away from the bank in the small town of Ramallo, 90 miles northwest of here, using three hostages as shields. The third hostage survived.

The robber killed by gunfire was a former policeman. One of the other two hanged himself in his cell after his arrest.

The standoff dragged on for hours, and all-news television stations in Buenos Aires interrupted regular programming with live coverage of police in camouflage crouching behind cars as distraught relatives of the captives wept or waited in silence.

14 Judges Fired in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela--An aggressive campaign to clean up Venezuela's judicial system intensified with the dismissal of 14 lower court judges for bad judgments and malpractice.

The firings, the latest in President Hugo Chavez's drive to revamp a judiciary he has labeled corrupt and inefficient, follow the removal of eight other judges earlier this month.

Chavez's government has had the court system under close inspection since it came to power in February. More than 3,000 cases of corruption and malpractice are outstanding.

Colombian Journalist Is Gunned Down

BOGOTA, Colombia--A prominent journalist died in a gangland-style killing in northern Colombia in the second attack targeting a Colombian reporter in the past month, authorities said. Police said one or two gunmen pumped eight bullets into Guzman Quintero Torres as he sat outside a hotel in the downtown area of Valledupar, capital of Cesar province, late Thursday.

Quintero, 35, was news editor of Valledupar's El Pilon newspaper and a senior correspondent for the national radio network Caracol.

AFRICA

Algerian Leader Hails Ballot Result

ALGIERS--Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika hailed massive voter approval for his plan to end years of Muslim rebel violence as a victory for internal peace. But he warned the Algerian people in a televised speech that restoring order required more work and effort, saying "we are now only feeling the scent of peace."

"Yes, we achieved a victory, and we are entitled to call it that," he said, but added that despite the ringing approval of his plan in Thursday's referendum, the outcome was only one step toward restoring genuine peace and curing Algeria's economic woes, underscored by a 30 percent unemployment rate.

Interior Minister Abdelmalek Sellal said more than 85 percent of 17.5 million eligible voters cast ballots and nearly 99 percent of them answered yes to the question: "Do you agree with the president's approach to restoring peace and civil concord?"

Zambian Court Sentences 59 to Death

LUSAKA, Zambia--A Zambian court convicted 59 soldiers of treason and sentenced them to death for their role in a failed military coup in 1997, state television reported. Judge Japhet Banda of the Lusaka High Court ordered the soldiers hanged.

On Oct. 28, 1997, junior military officers stormed the state broadcast center and announced a military takeover on state radio.

Their attempt was quickly crushed by troops loyal to President Frederick Chiluba.

Kenyan Acquitted in Tourist's Killing

NAIROBI--A Kenyan game warden was acquitted of the brutal murder 11 years ago of British tourist Julie Ward in the Masai Mara wildlife reserve. Simon Ole Makallah, 49, beamed with joy as he was found not guilty, but John Ward, a British hotelier who led the decade-long search for his daughter's killer, said he wanted a retrial.

Dozens of Makallah's fellow Masai tribesmen, dressed in traditional red shawls and beads, danced and sang outside the courtroom to celebrate the verdict, and defense attorneys said their client now planned to sue John Ward.

Judge Daniel Aganyanya commended Ward for his efforts to find justice in the case but said prosecutors had only offered circumstantial evidence against Makallah.

ASIA

Sri Lankan Rebel Attacks Leave 51 Dead

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka--Suspected Tamil Tiger rebels attacked three villages in eastern Sri Lanka today and killed at least 51 civilians, local police said.

They said the rebels used machetes and swords to hack to death 47 villagers in one of the attacks on the village of Punchisigiriya in Amapara district, some 120 miles east of the capital.

The attack came after rebel accusations the Sri Lankan air force had killed 22 Tamil refugees in air strikes on a northeastern village.

India Arrests 8 Alleged Pakistani Spies

NEW DELHI--India's national security adviser announced Saturday the arrest of eight alleged spies for Pakistan's intelligence services including a Bangladeshi accused of passing on nuclear test secrets. The broadcast, on private Star Plus television, identified the Bangladeshi as Ahmed Ali, and said he had been accused, after interrogation, of passing to Pakistan secrets about an Indian nuclear weapons test-firing range. No details were given about the other seven people arrested in Calcutta.

THE MIDDLE EAST

Iraq Says 187 Civilians Killed in Raids

BAGHDAD, Iraq--Iraq's air force commander was quoted as saying that 187 civilians have been killed and 494 wounded in U.S. and British air raids on Iraq since the end of a large-scale military campaign last December. The official Iraqi news agency quoted the commander as saying that U.S. and British aircraft patrolling northern and southern "no-fly" zones had attacked targets without being provoked by air defense units, rejecting U.S. claims that the planes fire only when threatened. It was the first time that Iraq has given a casualty toll from the strikes which have become an almost daily routine since Baghdad stepped up its defiance of the air exclusion zones.

QUOTE OF THE DAY

"Why try to apply the concept of tolerance to people who are intolerant?"

-- Belgrade political activist Dusan Batakovic, who advocates establishing separate Serbian and ethnic Albanian zones in Kosovo.