Chechen Rebel Asserts Role in Killing President

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Russia's most wanted fugitive, Chechen rebel leader Shamil Basayev, has asserted responsibility for killing Chechnya's Moscow-backed leader in a May 9 bombing at a stadium in Grozny.

Basayev made his assertion in a statement posted Monday on a rebel Web site, calling the assassination of President Akhmad Kadyrov a "small but important victory." He said that Kadyrov had been killed as part of what he called "Operation Revenge" and that operations against other officials in Chechnya would follow.

Kadyrov was killed in the Chechen capital during a Victory Day ceremony commemorating the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II. In all, the blast killed six people and wounded nearly 60, including the top Russian military commander in Chechnya, who lost a leg.

Investigators said the bomb, made from an artillery shell, had been planted beneath the VIP section and had escaped the attention of security forces who had swept the stadium before the ceremony. Investigators also found a second, unexploded bomb and a plastic bottle containing explosives at the site.

According to the newspaper Izvestia, a construction worker who helped renovate the stadium over the past few months was detained in connection with the killing. It said that two brothers of the worker, Lomali Chupalayev, had fought for the Chechen rebels.

Izvestia also quoted an unnamed Chechen prosecutor as saying that the bomb had probably been activated by someone in an employees-only section of the stadium.

Asia

* NEW DELHI -- India's stock market took the biggest one-day plunge in its 129-year history as investors panicked over how communist parties would influence the new government likely headed by Sonia Gandhi and fretted over whether she could form a parliamentary coalition.

More than $45 billion in market capital has been wiped out since share prices began tumbling last Thursday, when it became clear Gandhi had ousted the Hindu nationalist coalition led by Atal Bihari Vajpayee in national elections.

As she prepared to seek formal approval from the president to form a new government, Hindu nationalists added to the turmoil with street protests against Gandhi's bid to become the nation's first foreign-born leader.

* JAKARTA, Indonesia -- Armed rebels in Indonesia's Aceh province have freed 150 civilian hostages, but a group of local reporters who helped negotiate the deal were not held against their will, a Red Cross official said on Tuesday.

It was unclear how long rebels of the Free Aceh Movement had held the hostages, who were mainly local villagers. The rebels periodically seize people they accuse of cooperating with the Indonesian military.

Seven Indonesian reporters who went to the rebel headquarters over the weekend to seek the release of a local television cameraman had returned, the official added. There had been concerns on Monday they also might have been taken hostage.

Africa

* LAGOS, Nigeria -- African leaders approved an emergency strategy to immunize 74 million children for polio in 21 nations, U.N. officials said.

The approval came as a heavily Muslim state in Nigeria indicated it was ready to abandon its boycott of the vaccine.

A spokesman for the state of Kano said that a deal had been finalized to import polio vaccines from a company in Indonesia and that state officials hope to permit immunizations once Kano government scientists approve the vaccine's safety. The boycott had allowed the disease to spread.

-- From News Services