Gaza Strip Blast Hits

Islamic Jihad Figure

GAZA CITY -- An explosion wounded a senior Islamic Jihad field commander, Mohammed Khalil, in a Gaza refugee camp Thursday in what the Palestinian militant group said was an assassination attempt by Israel.

A second blast occurred in a house in the Shajiea neighborhood, east of Gaza City, killing Fahdi Iomear of the al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, Palestinian officials said.

Earlier, the Israeli army split the Gaza Strip into three parts and shut its border with Egypt, hours after militants fired a fresh round of crude rockets at the southern Israeli town of Sderot, causing alarm but no injuries.

Khalil is wanted by Israel over his alleged involvement in an attack that killed five soldiers in Rafah in May.

Asia

* GAUHATI, India -- Bombs ripped through two buses and a grenade was hurled into a crowded market in attacks that killed four people and wounded 46, police said, attributing the violence to separatist rebels in India's Assam state.

No group claimed responsibility for the string of attacks, but Sharma linked them to militants of the United Liberation Front of Asom.

Africa

* ABUJA, Nigeria -- Rebels from Sudan's Darfur region rejected calls to disarm or to confine their fighters to their bases before a political solution to the conflict is found.

At talks to end 18 months of revolt in remote Darfur, the Sudanese government agreed to enlarge an African Union force in the western region as long as it helps confine rebels to their bases, while Sudanese forces would disarm Arab militias known as Janjaweed. The talks were mediated by the African Union in Abuja.

* MALABO, Equatorial Guinea -- Equatorial Guinea wants the son of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher extradited from South Africa after his arrest on suspicion of involvement in a coup bid, one of the country's lawyers said.

Mark Thatcher had been planning to leave South Africa before he was arrested Wednesday on suspicion of helping to bankroll a plot to oust the president of Equatorial Guinea, sub-Saharan Africa's third-biggest oil producer, police in Cape Town said.

Equatorial Guinea says the coup plotters planned to parachute in a more agreeable opposition figure, exile Severo Moto, to take power from Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who has been accused of torture and other abuses.

"The people behind this were financial people, and they wanted to institute Severo Moto as the next government," said Nick du Toit, a South African arms dealer who is facing the death penalty for his alleged role in the plot.

europe

* LONDON -- British police launched a terrorism case against a Muslim cleric already jailed in London under a U.S. arrest warrant.

Police sources said Abu Hamza al-Masri was being held at London's Belmarsh high security prison fighting extradition to the United States when he was formally arrested and taken to a London police station.

The cleric, who lost both hands and an eye fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan, has been indicted in the United States on 11 counts, including having a role in a 1998 hostage-taking in Yemen in which four people died.

* DUBLIN -- Former president Bill Clinton, who encouraged the 1998 peace accord for Northern Ireland, said during a visit there that he expected the pact's aim, a joint Catholic-Protestant administration, to be revived.

The British and Irish governments plan a new round of negotiations starting Wednesday.

the americas

* UNITED NATIONS -- A U.N. peacekeeping mission seeking to restore order in impoverished, unstable Haiti has been hampered by a shortage of promised international troops and police, a U.N. official said.

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- A Colombian court has ordered the government to pay about $20 million compensation to relatives of 21 people killed by far-right death squads in the village of La Gabarra in 1999, a government official said.

-- From News Services