Two Prominent Clerics

Shot Dead in Pakistan

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Unidentified gunmen killed two prominent Sunni Muslim clerics in an attack on their vehicle in this southern Pakistani city on Saturday, police said.

The killings of Mufti Mohammed Jamil and Nazir Ahmed Taunsvi come amid fears of escalating sectarian violence in Pakistan following two bombings of religious targets this month that killed more than 70 people.

Both Jamil and Taunsvi were close associates of another Sunni cleric, Mufti Nizamuddin Shamzai, whose shooting death in Karachi in May sparked riots by followers in the city.

There was no immediate word on who was behind Saturday's assault, but suspicion would likely fall on minority Shiite extremists.

Pakistan has a history of sectarian violence. While most majority Sunnis and Shiites live peacefully together, small extremist groups from both sects have staged attacks.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* JABALYA REFUGEE CAMP, Gaza Strip -- Israeli soldiers shot and killed a member of Hamas who the military said was responsible for a rocket attack that killed two Israeli preschoolers last week and triggered an army offensive in northern Gaza.

Abed Nabhan, 25, was one of five Palestinians killed in the continuing Israeli operation in northern Gaza.

Nabhan, a Hamas field commander, was killed when Israeli troops shot at Hamas fighters preparing to fire an antitank missile from the Jabalya refugee camp.

After the deadly rocket attack on the Israeli border down of Sderot on Sept. 29, the Israeli army launched the largest incursion into northern Gaza since Israeli-Palestinian fighting broke out four years ago.

The army said Nabhan was responsible for the Sderot attack as well as a Sept. 30 attack on an army post in northern Gaza that killed an Israeli soldier and wounded two others.

* DAMASCUS, Syria -- The president of Syria, Bashar Assad, vowed to maintain close ties with Beirut despite a U.N. resolution demanding the withdrawal of 14,000 Syrian troops from Lebanon.

Assad also slammed last month's Security Council resolution as "a mistake" and said Syria had no intention of dominating its smaller neighbor.

"Syria's responsibility toward Lebanon and Lebanon's responsibility toward Syria will continue whatever the circumstances, with the power of history, geography, the will of God and the blessings of the two peoples," he said.

Speaking at a conference of Syrian expatriates in Damascus, Assad said Lebanon had no natural resources or wealth that might entice Syria to try to dominate it, and questioned the motives behind the Security Council resolution.

* ABUJA, Nigeria -- Plainclothes police detained a prominent Nigerian labor leader, bundling him into a car at an airport in an apparent effort to stop a threatened nationwide strike by oil-industry workers in Africa's largest petroleum exporting nation, his union said.

Adams Oshiomhole, president of the Nigeria Labor Congress, was picked up as he waited at the international airport in the capital, Abuja, for a flight to a southern city, said a statement from the association, which represents 29 unions.

More than 15 operatives of the State Security Service "overpowered him, wrestled him to the ground and bundled him into a standby" car without license plates, the statement said.

Nigeria's information minister, Chukwuemeka Chikelu, confirmed that Oshiomhole was detained but said he had been released.

ASIA

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Two Chinese engineers helping Pakistan build a dam in a tense tribal region were kidnapped along with at least one Pakistani security guard, officials said.

The engineers were on their way to Tank, in the remote South Waziristan region where al Qaeda-linked fighters are active, when five gunmen ambushed their two vehicles, police and intelligence sources said.

* BEIJING -- Norodom Sihanouk appears determined to abdicate as king of Cambodia, said his son, Prince Norodom Ranariddh, who came to Beijing to try to persuade the 81-year-old monarch to change his mind.

Ranariddh, leading a delegation to the Chinese capital where his father has been undergoing medical treatment for months, said that if he fails to change his father's mind, he will try to persuade his younger half-brother to assume the throne.

THE AMERICAS

* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- A gun battle broke out between U.N. peacekeepers and supporters of the ousted Haitian president, Jean-Bertrand Aristide, wounding a peacekeeper for the first time in the force's four-month-old mission.

The clashes, which Haitian police said also left one officer wounded, came as protesters in the northwestern city of Gonaives crowded outside a Mass for flood victims attended by Haiti's interim president and prime minister. The protesters accused the two officials of not doing enough to help hungry survivors three weeks after Tropical Storm Jeanne.

-- From News Services