2 Americans Killed, Third Spared

By Gunmen on Mexican Highway

MEXICO CITY -- Robbers shot and killed two U.S. citizens and left a third at the side of a rural road, sparing her life because she was pregnant, Mexican authorities said Saturday.

Reynaldo Valdez, 20, from Houston, was traveling with Ashley Lynn Dininger, 16, and Vanessa Burgos, 22, both of Miami, when their minivan was forced off a road Thursday night in southern Mexico by a car blocking their way. Gunmen then emerged from that car, abducted them, and after robbing them, shot two of them in the head. When the third pleaded for her life, she was left at the side of the road alive, according to a Mexican law enforcement official who asked not to be identified.

An official at the U.S. Embassy confirmed that Valdez and Dininger were killed and that Burgos led police to three men who were arrested Friday.

The Mexican official said the gunmen decided that each of them would kill one of the victims, but the man who was to kill Burgos did not pull the trigger when she cried and pleaded in English: "Please don't kill me! Please don't kill me. I am pregnant!" When he returned to join the two others and they found out he had left Burgos alive, they ordered him to go back and "finish the job." But when he returned, she again pleaded, and he spared her life.

The area where the murders occurred Thursday around 8 p.m. is an isolated part of a region called the Tierra Caliente, or the Hotlands, a large expanse of mostly rural land that is well-known for its production of coffee and sugarcane. It is an isolated area also well-known for its illegal drug activity.

Mary Jordan

THE AMERICAS

* HAVANA -- Presidents Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of Brazil, Nestor Kirchner of Argentina and Sam Nujoma of Namibia are among the heads of state who have sent get-well wishes to Fidel Castro since he broke his kneecap and arm in a fall, official media reported. The Communist Party daily Granma said the well-wishers also included Colombian writer and Nobel laureate Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi.

The Cuban leader tripped and fell Wednesday night after giving a graduation ceremony speech.

AFRICA

* ALGIERS -- Suspected Islamic rebels killed 16 people heading to a soccer match in a pre-dawn ambush south of Algeria's capital -- the first bloodshed since the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, an official statement said.

The victims, mostly youths, were driving to Algiers for the match when they were ambushed on the road near Medea, south of the capital. They were buried Saturday; mourners included Interior Minister Noureddine Yazid Zerhouni.

* LUSAKA, Zambia -- Haiti's former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide still has an important role to play in resolving his country's political problems, South African President Thabo Mbeki said.

South Africa gave Aristide refuge after he was ousted in February, and still recognizes him as the country's rightful president. Haiti's interim leader, Prime Minister Gerard Latortue, accused Aristide last week of fomenting violence in Haiti from South Africa after dozens died in gang and political violence -- a claim that Aristide and South Africa denied.

EUROPE

* VIENNA -- The man who 13 years ago discovered the frozen remains of a prehistoric iceman in an Alpine glacier was found dead in the Austrian Alps on Saturday, eight days after he was reported missing, rescue authorities said.

Helmut Simon, the German who found the 5,300-year-old mummified body while hiking on the border of Austria and Italy in 1991, disappeared on Oct. 15 after setting off alone on an expedition in the Bad Hofgastein region in southwestern Austria.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* GAZA -- Israeli forces killed two armed Palestinians in a missile strike in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early on Sunday, Palestinian medics said. They said the two were killed and several others wounded when Israeli forces fired a missile at armed men in Khan Younis.

* CAIRO -- More than 650 politicians and intellectuals vowed to push for a constitutional amendment to stop Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak from serving another term in office. Mubarak, 76, has been Egypt's president since replacing his assassinated predecessor, Anwar Sadat, in 1981.

-- From News Services