Taliban kidnap 2 French aid workers
KABUL — The Taliban said yesterday they had kidnapped two French aid workers — a man and a woman — along with two Afghan colleagues in the southwest of the country.
Rebel spokesman Qari Mohammad Yusuf told Reuters news agency that the four were abducted Tuesday in Nimroz province, between Iran and Afghanistan’s opium heartland of Helmand province.
Afghan and French officials said two French nationals and at least two Afghans have been missing in Nimroz since Tuesday. In Paris, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said the two working for Terre d’Enfance had been reported missing along with three Afghan guides.
Iran to be observer at South Asia bloc
NEW DELHI — The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation yesterday approved observer status for Iran alongside the United States and the European Union, Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee said.
China, Japan, South Korea, the European Union and the United States already had been granted observer status and attended the South Asian summit Tuesday and yesterday hosted by New Delhi. Iran will be an observer at the SAARC summit scheduled in the Maldives next year.
Western powers objected to the move.
Paisley shakes hand of Irish leader
DUBLIN — Protestant leader Ian Paisley shook hands with Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern in public for the first time yesterday, marking another small step on the path to peace in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Ahern and Mr. Paisley smiled and slapped each other on the shoulder before their meeting in the Irish capital.
Mr. Ahern’s office confirmed that it was the first public handshake, but said handshakes had been accepted in private.
Mr. Paisley had long resisted any role for the Irish government in the affairs of Northern Ireland, and did not visit Mr. Ahern’s office until Sept. 30, 1999. After that meeting, Mr. Paisley would not speak to reporters until he had reached the British Embassy.
Bull elephant kills herd’s matriarch
JERUSALEM — A 7-ton bull elephant charged and killed a female elephant half his weight as visitors to an Israeli nature park looked on in horror.
Officials at the Safari park near Tel Aviv said they were unable to stop Yossi, a 33-year-old male, from attacking Atari, the 46-year-old matriarch of the captive herd, and trampling her to death Monday.
While the nature park’s staff consider what to do with Yossi, Bati, another female with a senior role in the herd’s hierarchy, is expected to take charge of the herd.
Joan of Arc remains found to be fake
PARIS — A rib bone supposedly found at the site where French heroine Joan of Arc was burned at the stake is that of an Egyptian mummy, said researchers who used high-tech science to expose the fake.
The bone, a piece of cloth and a cat femur were said to have been recovered after the 19-year-old was burned in 1431 in the town of Rouen. In 1909, the year Joan of Arc was beatified, scientists declared it “highly probable” that the relics were hers.
But starting last year, 20 researchers from France, Switzerland and Benin took another look. Their best guess was that the fake was cooked up in the 19th century, perhaps to boost the process of Joan of Arc’s beatification. She was canonized as a saint in 1920 by the Roman Catholic Church.
From wire dispatches and staff reports