Thirteen Executed in China for Piracy

BEIJING--China executed 13 convicted pirates yesterday, including an Indonesian man, for clubbing 23 seamen to death and tossing their weighted bodies overboard in China's worst ship hijacking in 50 years.

The executions came as China faced international criticism for not doing enough to combat sea piracy. The Supreme People's Court ordered the executions Friday in the southern city of Shanwei in Guangdong province after a lower court turned down the men's appeal, the official New China News Agency said.

The November 1998 attack on the Hong Kong-owned cargo ship Cheung Son occurred as it was sailing down the eastern coast of China, headed to Malaysia from Shanghai. Posing as anti-smuggling police, the pirates fired shots in the air as they pulled up on a barge. The Chinese crew tried to escape, but the pirates climbed on board, handcuffed the sailors and kept them in a cabin while they searched for valuables.

God's Army Battles Burmese Forces

BAW WI, Thailand--The Burmese rebel group led by 12-year-old twin boys fought back against stronger Burmese government forces that had overrun the rebels' jungle headquarters the previous day.

As fighting continued along the Burmese-Thai border, Thai officials said Burmese troops were facing resistance not just from the rebel God's Army but also from other ethnic Karen rebels.

God's Army, a Christian rebel group, is battling the military government of predominantly Buddhist Burma. Members of the group, estimated to have 100 fighters, believe the 12-year-old leaders, Johnny and Luther Htoo, have magical powers that protect them from harm.

The loss of the camp was the second blow this week for the God's Army. On Monday, 10 gunmen from God's Army and another group seized a Thai hospital and trapped hundreds of hostages in a bid to secure a retreat to Thailand. But Thai commandos ended the siege Tuesday and killed all the gunmen.

Mosque Bombing in Pakistan Kills 4

KARACHI, Pakistan--A bomb shattered a mosque as worshipers knelt in prayer in this southern port city, killing four people and wounding 28. The blast came minutes after a bomb hidden in a motorcycle exploded outside a court building in another part of the city, injuring four people, police said.

Pakistan said India had sent intelligence agents across the border to plant the explosives. There was no immediate reaction from New Delhi, and no claim of responsibility for either bombing. The two nuclear-armed neighbors routinely accuse each other of terrorist acts. The explosions were the latest in a wave of bombings in Pakistan in recent weeks.


Kohl Advisor Quits Party in Germany

BERLIN--The man who allegedly managed a web of slush funds for ex-chancellor Helmut Kohl has quit Germany's scandal-ridden Christian Democratic Union, apparently in protest at being blamed for financial irregularities.

The leader of the Christian Democrats said that Horst Weyrauch resigned because he "feels we are giving no consideration" to his services as tax advisor since the 1970s.

Weyrauch, 67, is well placed to implicate Kohl further in the scandal set off by the former chancellor's admission last month that he had solicited $1 million in anonymous cash donations and kept them off the books. Parliament intends to call Weyrauch as the first witness next month in its probe into whether political donations prompted favors by Kohl's 16-year conservative government.

Ally of Serbian Nationalist Shot

BELGRADE--A top aide and longtime bodyguard of Serbia's vice premier was shot and seriously wounded in another high-profile gun attack in this crime-ridden country.

Petar Panic, 33, a security advisor and close associate of Vojislav Seselj, was shot near his home in Belgrade's suburb Surcin. He was in critical condition, the Beta news agency said.

The attack came about two weeks after the slaying of Zeljko Raznatovic, known as Arkan, the country's top paramilitary leader and ultranationalist figure. It may indicate a showdown in Serbia's complex underworld of political, paramilitary and mob leaders.


More Mideast Peace Talks Set

RAMALLAH, West Bank--Israel and the Palestinians will hold 10 days of talks in southern Israel to hammer out a framework for a peace treaty, a senior Palestinian official said.

The official, who declined to be identified, said the talks would begin in earnest after the arrival on Wednesday of U.S. Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross. The talks are to be held in the Red Sea resort city of Eilat. The sides have set a Feb. 13 deadline for the framework accord.

Second American Kidnapped in Yemen

SANAA, Yemen--Tribesmen have kidnapped another American, the second U.S. citizen abducted since Wednesday, a Western diplomat and a tribal source said. The American was not identified and the identity of the kidnappers or their demands was not clear.

On Wednesday, an American identified as Kenneth White was kidnapped by members of the Fahaid tribe in the eastern Marib province and taken to a mountainous area. Police and army troops, assisted by helicopters, were searching for White, who works for the Dallas-based company Halliburton Co.


Colombian Rebel Leader Reported Dead

BOGOTA, Colombia--The head of a small leftist rebel group responsible for a long-running campaign of banditry and terror across Colombia's northern Santander province died two weeks ago after being wounded in combat, authorities said.

Gen. Martin Orlando Carreno, commander of the 5th Army Brigade, said Hugo Carvajal, chief of the Maoist-inspired People's Liberation Army, died on Jan. 13 from injuries suffered in a clash with government forces on New Year's Eve.

In a separate incident, gunmen killed 11 people in northern Colombia, the latest multiple killing by one of the country's right-wing death squads, authorities said. The killings occurred in a rural village in Cesar province where leftist rebels and ultra-right paramilitary gangs have fought a long-running battle for control.


"Even if the contributions are embarrassing, they didn't determine the outcome of the election. Looking back, this wasn't what in sport they call a smart penalty. This was an unnecessary penalty."

--Nahum Barnea, Israeli political commentator, on the campaign financing scandal plaguing Prime Minister Ehud Barak.