Pakistan Begins Satellite Operations

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan marked its entry into the space age yesterday when its first communication satellite, PAKSAT-I, formally began operations.

Officials at Pakistan's Space and Upper Atmosphere Research Commission said the satellite will provide improved Internet access and broadcast services.

The satellite gives Pakistan its "first foothold in space," the country's state-run news agency reported.

Since being launched in December, the satellite has undergone testing. Pakistani officials envision the satellite as a base for broadcasting educational programming across the Muslim world.

Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, congratulated scientists and engineers at a ceremony marking the beginning of the satellite's operations.

"Pakistan can be developed as a hub of learning for the Muslim countries," Musharraf said.

Associated Press

Anti-Rebel Police Chief Killed in Nepal

KATMANDU, Nepal -- Unidentified gunmen shot dead the chief of Nepal's anti-rebel police force on the outskirts of the capital, Katmandu, early today, police said.

Krishna Mohan Shrestha, inspector general of the Nepal Armed Police set up to fight a Maoist insurgency, is the most senior police official to be killed in Nepal since 1996, when the rebels launched a revolt to overthrow the monarchy.

No group has claimed responsibility for the killing, police said.

Police said Shrestha was shot while he was taking a morning walk with his wife and bodyguard, both of whom were also killed.

Nepal is battling a nearly seven-year-old Maoist revolt aimed at overthrowing the constitutional monarchy and establishing a one-party communist republic.



Eight Slain Men Mourned in South Africa

CAPE TOWN, South Africa -- Hundreds of mourners gathered to remember eight men slain in an attack on a gay massage parlor.

The men, who were killed early Monday, had been shot at close range and had their throats slit. A ninth victim died in a hospital yesterday, and a 10th man remained hospitalized.

Police, who said the killings might have been motivated by revenge, were searching for four men seen leaving the scene near the massage parlor. The suspects belong to a gang from the Johannesburg area, according to local media reports.

"I know no words can heal the pain at the moment . . . but we must make sure that through their death something good can happen in this community," Cape Town Mayor Nomaindia Mfeketo said.

Associated Press

Police Probe Fatal Plane Crash in Kenya

NAIROBI -- Police interviewed witnesses and searched the wreckage of a plane that crashed in western Kenya, looking for clues to what caused the crash in which a government minister was killed.

Labor Minister Ahmad Mohamed Khalif and the two pilots were killed when the 24-seat Gulfstream crashed shortly after taking off from an airstrip in Busia on Friday. Nine people, including three other ministers, were injured.

The plane exceeded the weight limit for the airstrip, Transport Minister John Michuki said. He said he had suspended the license of the charter company that ran it, African Commuter Services.

He said investigators were trying to learn why the pilot landed at Busia knowing the aircraft was too heavy for the short airstrip.

Associated Press

Envoys Report on Crises in Zimbabwe

HARARE, Zimbabwe -- U.N. envoys in charge of food aid and efforts to battle HIV in Africa said Zimbabwe's food and AIDS crises were getting worse and urged the government to launch a huge effort to overcome them.

"This is a tragedy, a catastrophe that the world finds itself in," the chief of the World Food Program, James Morris, told reporters during a two-day trip to Harare, during which he was accompanied by Stephen Lewis, special envoy on HIV/AIDS in Africa.

Food shortages have worsened the impact of Zimbabwe's HIV/AIDS pandemic, and the government faces a major challenge in rebuilding a farming sector that used to be the breadbasket of southern Africa, Morris said.



Theater Seized by Chechens Reopens

MOSCOW -- The Moscow theater where Chechen militants took hundreds of people hostage in a deadly raid in October officially reopened after three months of repairs.

Chechen gunmen seized the theater on Oct. 23 during a performance and took about 800 people hostage. Three days later, Russian special forces troops stormed the building, killing all 41 hostage-takers.

In the end, 129 hostages died, the vast majority killed by a narcotic gas used to incapacitate the militants.

The theater was renovated with $2.5 million from the Moscow city government. It has a new security system with metal detectors and a refurbished interior, including a new audio system and orchestra pit.

Meanwhile, Russian police detained three Chechens in the city of Penza, about 310 miles southeast of Moscow, on suspicion of involvement in the October hostage-taking, the Interfax news agency reported.

The police chief, Alexander Gulyakov, said federal police and intelligence officials had confirmed that the three played a role in the hostage-taking but did not elaborate.

Associated Press

For the record

Tens of thousands of opponents of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez jammed a major Caracas highway to back an opposition strike crippling the world's No. 5 oil exporter.