Interior Minister Killed

In Ingushetia Attack

VLADIKAVKAZ, Russia -- Heavily armed assailants seized the Interior Ministry headquarters in Ingushetia and launched coordinated attacks against police headquarters, border checkpoints and government offices in the Russian region bordering the war-ravaged Russian republic of Chechnya, killing at least 22 people, including the acting minister and two other high-ranking officials, a ministry official said Tuesday. Attacks were also reported elsewhere in Ingushetia.

The Interfax news agency reported that 46 people had been killed.

The Interior Ministry official said it was not immediately clear who the attackers were, but said some of them were shouting "Allahu akbar," or God is great, a frequent cry of Chechnya's separatist rebels as their insurgency has become increasingly influenced by radical Islam.

The attack on the ministry building in the city of Nazran began late Monday, the official said. He later said other attackers seized police buildings in Ordzhonikidzevskaya, close to the border with Chechnya, and in Karabulak.

Ingushetia's acting interior minister, Abukar Koshtoyev, was wounded in the first minutes of the fighting in Nazran and was taken to Vladikavkaz in neighboring North Ossetia, where he died, the ministry official said.

Ingushetia's Health Ministry said 47 wounded had been admitted to hospitals, and that six of them had died. Eyewitnesses reported at least six more people dead in an attack on a border guard near Nazran.

The Russian Tass news agency reported that the building of the border guard service in Nazran and an Interior Ministry warehouse in the city were on fire.

Heavy shooting was also reported in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, which borders Chechnya. On Monday, an official in the Moscow-backed Chechen government said that six Russian soldiers had been killed in rebel attacks and explosions over the past day.

AFRICA

* KINSHASA, Congo -- The State Department said Monday it had sent a top official to Congo and Rwanda in an effort to prevent border tensions from flaring into a new conflict. Rwanda accused Congo of hostile action in deploying as many as 10,000 troops to eastern Congo, near Rwanda's border, to put down fighting with insurgents who had taken over the strategic city of Bukavu this month.

* BOUAKE, Ivory Coast -- At least 22 people were killed in fighting between rival rebel factions after a failed attempt to assassinate a rebel political leader, rebel officials said. The violence occurred as President Laurent Gbagbo and opposition leaders vowed they were ready to hold talks and try to revive the country's stalled peace process.

Rival factions fought in Bouake, Ivory Coast's second-largest city, after heavily armed men attacked a convoy carrying the rebel leader, Guillaume Soro, on Sunday.

EUROPE

* TBILISI, Georgia -- President Mikheil Saakashvili strengthened his grip in the once wayward province of Ajaria, securing strong support in a local election six weeks after a showdown with the region's rebellious leader. Preliminary results from Sunday's vote showed the main party backing Saakashvili had taken the vast majority of the 30 local council seats in the Black Sea province, whose regional capital, Batumi, is a key oil port.

Irakli Pagava, head of the regional election commission, said on Rustavi-2 television the main pro-president "Saakashvili-Victorious Ajaria" party had taken about 75 percent of the vote. A second party led by a Saakashvili associate, David Berdzenishvili, took about nine percent of the vote, Pagava added.

* VATICAN CITY -- Responding to Spanish government plans to legalize gay marriage, Pope John Paul II told Spain's new prime minister that Spain had to conserve ethical and moral values rooted in its Christian culture. After a private meeting with Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero, the pontiff said Spain had to "conserve moral and cultural values, as well as its Christian roots."

THE AMERICAS

* HAVANA -- President Fidel Castro condemned new U.S. travel restrictions to Cuba a "pitiless" blow to Cuban families and said the Bush administration was a military threat to the island nation.

Facing a seven-story banner depicting President Bush as Adolf Hitler, Castro told 200,000 cheering, flag-waving students and workers outside the U.S. diplomatic mission in Havana that the U.S. travel rules were "pitiless and inhumane." The new U.S. rules aim to deny cash-strapped Cuba of U.S. dollars in an effort to hasten the demise of Castro's government. As of June 30, Cuban Americans will be able to visit the island only once every three years instead of each year and no humanitarian trips will be allowed.

ASIA

* SYLHET, Bangladesh -- A bomb exploded at an opposition rally in northeastern Bangladesh, killing one person and wounding at least 60, doctors and police said. Suranjit Sengupta, a lawmaker from the Awami League party, had just finished addressing supporters when the bomb went off. He was not injured.

* SINGAPORE -- The SARS virus was detected in teardrops taken from patients in Singapore last year, doctors said, raising the prospect the disease may be easier to diagnose. The finding, published in the British Journal of Ophthalmology, may also highlight one of the ways it spreads, they said.

-- From News Services