Yemen Charges Six

In USS Cole Attack

SANAA, Yemen -- A security court charged six alleged members of al Qaeda on Wednesday with plotting the attack on the USS Cole, as the first trial opened for the suicide bombing that killed 17 U.S. sailors.

Police and soldiers cordoned off the court in Sanaa, and marksmen watched from roofs as five of the defendants were brought in to hear the judge read their indictments. The sixth defendant and reputed organizer of the plot, Rahim al-Nashiri, is in U.S. custody.

A diplomat at the U.S. Embassy in Sanaa declined to comment on the trial or to disclose al-Nashiri's whereabouts. Nor would he say whether the accused man would be handed over to Yemeni authorities. U.S. diplomats attended the hearing.

Judge Najib Qaderi said the court would publish a statement in local newspapers summoning al-Nashiri to appear. Yemeni officials said they had asked the United States to hand him over. In addition to the Cole attack, al-Nashiri is suspected of helping direct the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

The Middle East

* JERUSALEM -- Israeli soldiers killed eight Palestinians Thursday during a gun battle in the northern Gaza Strip, witnesses said. An Israeli military spokesman said an Israeli soldier was critically wounded in the fighting.

Witnesses said five militants, including two from Hamas, were among those killed in clashes after Israeli troops moved into the village of Beit Hanoun at around sunrise. Israeli troops have been stationed outside Beit Hanoun since June 28 in what is described as a long-term operation to stop militants from using areas the olive groves and fields around the village as cover for firing homemade Kassam rockets at nearby Israeli targets.

-- John Ward Anderson

Asia

HERAT, Afghanistan -- Suspected Taliban guerrillas killed six policemen and wounded four others in western Afghanistan during a foiled attempt to kidnap four Turkish engineers, police said.

In southern Afghanistan, a top Taliban commander was arrested Tuesday and admitted distributing more than $1 million to supporters of the ousted militia, a senior Afghan intelligence official said Wednesday.

Africa

* UNITED NATIONS -- The United States said Sudan had only days to stop the atrocities in Darfur or face what could be the first sanctions by the U.N. Security Council.

John C. Danforth, the new U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said members would begin negotiations Thursday on a U.S.-drafted resolution that would impose an arms and travel ban on militia leaders accused of pillaging, raping and uprooting millions of black African villagers.

The Americas

* MEXICO CITY -- Mexico apologized for disrupting the military funeral of Lance Cpl. Juan Lopez Rangel, a U.S. Marine killed in Iraq, but insisted that it had to make sure its laws prohibiting foreign troops from carrying weapons on Mexican soil were upheld.

Mexico's foreign secretary responded late Tuesday to a blistering diplomatic note sent by U.S. Ambassador Tony Garza by saying Mexico was "sorry the actions that occurred during the ceremony caused the interruption of such a solemn act, especially for Mr. Lopez's family members, his Marine compatriots and U.S. diplomats present." But the secretary said that Mexico's soldiers "had an obligation" to ensure the law was not being violated.

-- From News Services