British Engineer Abducted,

Guards Killed in Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Gunmen kidnapped a British engineer and his interpreter after attacking their convoy in western Afghanistan and killing three policemen guarding them, the latest in a string of assaults ahead of crucial elections, officials said Thursday.

U.S. commanders in the volatile east, meanwhile, said they expected violence to spike a week before the Sept. 18 vote for a new legislature, but remained confident it would go ahead without major disruptions.

Insurgents have stepped up attacks in the past six months, leaving more than 1,100 people dead.

An Interior Ministry spokesman, Latfullah Mashal, said the assault on the convoy occurred Wednesday on the main highway in the western province of Farah. He blamed a criminal gang, but the local police chief, Allah Uddin Noorzi, said he believed the abduction was the work of Taliban guerrillas.

Noorzi said the Briton was working for a foreign firm refurbishing the road from the southern city of Kandahar to the western city of Herat. The kidnappings came just weeks after a Lebanese engineer building a road in southern Afghanistan was abducted. He was released days later unhurt.


* HONG KONG -- A Hong Kong jury convicted an American of murdering her investment banker husband by drugging him with a milkshake laced with sedatives and beating him to death in their luxury apartment.

Nancy Kissel -- dressed in black, as she was throughout the sensational "Milkshake Murder" trial -- was expressionless as the seven-member jury returned the verdict in the November 2003 death of her husband, Robert, a top banker at Merrill Lynch.

Kissel, 41, received a mandatory life sentence. Defense attorney Alexander King argued that Kissel killed her husband in self-defense and was the victim of abusive sex. He would not say whether she would appeal.

* LUCKNOW, India -- Japanese encephalitis killed 44 children overnight in northern India. The government deployed pig catchers in the worst-hit areas to round up swine, which carry the disease that has now claimed 352 lives since midsummer.

The disease is spread by mosquitoes, and the government also said it plans to hand out 200,000 mosquito nets to poor villagers.

the middle east

* RAMALLAH, West Bank -- Palestinian officials agreed that Israel can retain control over goods coming into the Gaza Strip to safeguard against arms smuggling, yielding a key point on border arrangements after Israel completes its Gaza pullout this month.

Palestinian Foreign Minister Nasser Kidwa said Israel could exercise some control over goods entering Gaza but not over people, while Israel insists it must also have the power to keep guerrillas out. The Palestinian gesture was the first sign of progress toward resolving the issue of border crossings.

-- From News Services

Nancy Kissel