Palestinian Girl, 8, Killed

By Israeli Troops in Gaza

GAZA CITY -- Israeli troops on Thursday shot and killed an 8-year-old Palestinian girl who was on her way to school in a Gaza Strip refugee camp, while Palestinian militants fired mortars at a Jewish settlement, injuring nine people, witnesses and officials said.

Rania Iyad Aram of the Khan Younis camp was killed by random machine-gun fire from an army outpost near the neighboring Jewish settlement of Ganei Tal, witnesses said. An Israeli military official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the incident was under investigation.

Also, several mortar shells fell near the settlement of Morag in the Gaza Strip, injuring nine Israelis, two of them seriously, the army said.

The Israeli military completed a two-day operation earlier this week against Palestinians firing mortars at Jewish settlements from the Khan Younis area. Seventeen Palestinians were killed in the operation.


* MADRID -- Spanish police have arrested 13 North Africans as part of a probe into an alleged plot to bomb the Madrid High Court, the Interior Ministry said. The arrests of the nine Algerians and four Moroccans followed a round of detentions last week aimed at breaking up a suspected radical Islamic group.

* MINSK, Belarus -- The United Nations demanded that Belarus free an American arrested while working on a U.N. project in the former Soviet republic, but the country's spy service insisted that the man was not protected by diplomatic immunity.

Ilya Mafter, who works for philanthropist George Soros's Open Society Institute but was on contract to the U.N. Development Program, was arrested Oct. 15. A Belarusan official said Mafter was charged with inflicting material damage on Belarus and being involved in entrepreneurial activities without a license.

ASIA and the pacific

* PATTANI, Thailand -- Fresh violence erupted Thursday with the bombing of a bar in Thailand's mostly Muslim south, while villagers held a mass burial for some of the 78 Muslim protesters who suffocated while in army custody this week.

The bomb exploded at a bar in the town of Sungai Kolok in Narathiwat province, on the border with Malaysia, killing at least two people and wounding 21 others, police said.

The violence continued early Friday when two bombs exploded within minutes of each other near a tea shop in neighboring Yala province, wounding nearly 20 people, officials said.

Narathiwat, the site of Monday's protest, is one of three southern Thai provinces that have been hit by violence attributed to Islamic separatists. Those provinces have Muslim majorities, while Thailand is more than 90 percent Buddhist.

* SYDNEY -- The mayor and five other men on the small Pacific island of Pitcairn were sentenced Thursday to up to six years in prison for a string of rapes and sex attacks dating back 40 years on the remote home of descendants of the HMS Bounty mutineers, British authorities in New Zealand said Friday. Mayor Steve Christian was sentenced to three years.


* ALGIERS -- One of North Africa's most wanted Islamic militant leaders, accused in the kidnapping of 32 European tourists last year, has been taken into custody in Algeria, authorities said Thursday.

Amar Saifi, first captured in March, was extradited by Libyan authorities Wednesday.

"Saifi was intercepted in Libya near the Chadian-Libyan border. He is wanted in Algeria for numerous terrorist crimes which he has committed or commanded since 1992," the Algerian Interior Ministry said in a statement.

Saifi has been identified by authorities as the second-in-command of the al Qaeda-aligned Salafist Group for Preaching and Combat.

* BOUAKE, Ivory Coast -- Rebels in Ivory Coast said they were withdrawing from a long-delayed disarmament process, warning that the war that broke out in 2002 could start again soon.

The rebels made the announcement after seizing a truckload of weapons in the country's north, saying President Laurent Gbagbo had sent the arms to a rival faction in preparation for an attack. A Gbagbo spokesman declined to comment.

the americas

* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Gunfire echoed through Port-Au-Prince as supporters of ousted President Jean-Bertrand Aristide battled police whom residents have accused of executing at least 13 people two days earlier. It was unclear if anyone was wounded or killed in the violence.

* HAVANA -- Cubans jammed banks and exchange kiosks to swap their dollars for local pesos, as the communist government, retaliating for tightened sanctions, moved to pull the U.S. currency from circulation.

-- From News Services