THE MIDDLE EAST

Yemenis Investigate Terror Plot

SANAA, Yemen -- Two Islamic militants, in custody for allegedly killing three American Christian missionaries and a senior leftist Yemeni politician, had plans to attack other foreigners, journalists and Yemeni political leaders, security officials said yesterday.

The suspects, Ali al-Jarallah and Abdul-Razzaq al-Kamil, gave police a list of eight targets during interrogation, the officials said on condition of anonymity.

The two men are among 30 people detained so far in connection with killing of the three missionaries and the wounding of a fourth at a Baptist hospital in southern Yemen on Monday, and the slaying of Jarallah Omar, deputy leader of Yemen's Socialist Party, last week.

Police arrested five suspected militants yesterday. No charges have been filed yet, and it was unclear how many detainees were believed to be directly linked to the alleged plans for future attacks.

The officials did not release the full list of alleged targets or name anyone believed to be included on the list.

But they said one target was a guesthouse used by Ismaili Muslims in Sanaa, the capital.

Some Sunni Muslim extremists consider Ismailism -- a form of the Shiite branch of Islam -- heretical.

Associated Press

Turkish Cypriot Leader Faulted

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's ruling party leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has come out in opposition to his country's long-standing hard-line policy on Cyprus and criticized the Turkish Cypriot leader for dragging his feet in reunification talks, news reports said.

The Turkish Cypriot leader, Rauf Denktash, has recently come under fire from many Turkish Cypriots who accuse him of blocking an agreement with Greek Cypriots.

"I'm not in favor of the continuation of the policy that has been maintained in Cyprus over the past 30-40 years," the Anatolia news agency quoted Erdogan as telling a television station late Wednesday. "We will do whatever falls on us. This is not Mr. Denktash's private matter."

Last week, about 30,000 demonstrators demanded Denktash's resignation in the largest pro-European Union rally ever held in the northern, Turkish part of Cyprus.

Erdogan, the head of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party, said the demonstration was a warning to leaders.

"This is not an ordinary event. You can't push aside the views of the public. A decision should be taken with the largest public participation and should be implemented," he said.

Turkish and Greek Cypriots failed to iron out their differences at the European Union summit in Copenhagen in December. During the summit, the EU invited Cyprus to join the economic bloc by 2004 and asked both sides to reach an agreement by Feb. 28.

If no deal is reached by that date, only the Greek part of the island would be invited into the EU.

Associated Press

AFRICA

France Condemns Ivorian Raid

ABIDJAN, Ivory Coast -- France condemned a deadly helicopter assault by Ivory Coast government troops on a river fishing village in the former French colony, saying the attack Tuesday was an "intolerable" violation of the cease-fire brokered with rebels.

Rebels, meanwhile, threatened a new offensive in retaliation for the assault in the village of Menakro, about 40 miles west of a main rebel stronghold, Bouake.

French troops enforcing an October truce confirmed that a helicopter fired on dugout canoes and a market in Menakro.

In a statement issued in Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said the attack killed 12 civilians and injured several others.

"France considers this violation of the cease-fire accord to be intolerable . . . and will ask Ivory Coast's authorities for explanations. The cease-fire must be respected by all," the statement said.

Later yesterday, the ministry said Foreign Minister Dominique de Villepin would visit Ivory Coast today.

The minister was scheduled to meet President Laurent Gbagbo and rebels, and to push for a new round of peace talks.

Associated Press

Nigerian President Apologizes

LAGOS, Nigeria -- The Nigerian president has apologized for ordering an army raid in which 200 people were killed in apparent retaliation for the deaths of 19 soldiers, a senior state official said.

Olusegun Obasanjo expressed his regrets during a reconciliation forum organized by the Christian Association of Nigeria in the country's central Benue state, said Shima Ayati, the state official responsible for resettling thousands of people displaced by the raid.

"I should say to you, sorry. It should never have happened," Obasanjo said, according to a transcript of his Wednesday speech.

Obasanjo has acknowledged ordering the attack, which occurred Oct. 22-24, 2001. But he defended the raid as a tactic to restore calm after ethnic Tiv militia fighters ambushed and killed the soldiers.

The army had been dispatched to quell months of fighting between Tivs and their Jukun rivals. Obasanjo also suggested the soldiers may have acted in self-defense.

Witnesses, however, said the soldiers ransacked at least seven villages, shelling houses and gunning down residents indiscriminately.

In a primary election Sunday, the ruling People's Democratic Party is to select its presidential candidate for the April 19 election.

Associated Press

FOR THE RECORD

Afghan border authorities have found more than 300 rockets apparently being smuggled into the eastern province of Nangahar from neighboring Pakistan, an official said. . . . A motorized rubber boat carrying 41 illegal immigrants sank off the southern coast of Spain, and six passengers drowned, police said.

Abdul-Razzaq al-Kamil is being held in the slaying of three American missionaries in Yemen.Ali al-Jarallah is accused of killing a Yemeni politician. Other attacks allegedly were planned.