Copter crash kills Guards members
TEHRAN — An Iranian military helicopter slammed into a mountain during a storm, killing at least six persons, including five members of the country’s elite Revolutionary Guards, state radio and news agency reported yesterday.
Five other military men were reported injured. The crash occurred Friday during military maneuvers near the town of Piranshahr in the Kurdish region of Iran along the border with Iraq, 435 miles west of the capital, Tehran.
The Bush administration has accused the Revolutionary Guards of supporting militias and insurgent groups attacking U.S. forces in Iraq and is said to be considering blacklisting it as a “terrorist” organization.
Iranian newspapers reported yesterday that Guards leader Gen. Yahya Rahim Safavi said the group would not bow to U.S. pressure and threatened to “punch” America in the future.
Leader’s party heads for big win
ALMATY — Kazakhstan voted yesterday in an election that was certain to return a big majority for President Nursultan Nazarbayev’s party and may freeze the main opposition party out of parliament.
The vast oil-producing country has never held a vote internationally recognized as free and fair, but Mr. Nazarbayev — in power since Soviet times in 1989 — wants recognition in the West as the leader of a state built on more than petrodollars.
One exit poll released with official blessing forecast that the opposition All-National Social Democratic Party won 6.86 percent of the vote, less than the 7 percent required to enter parliament. The poll, with a margin of error of five percentage points, gave 77.3 percent to Mr. Nazarbayev’s Nur Otan.
Clan militias clash, leaving 18 dead
MOGADISHU — Rival clan militias fought over scarce pasture land and wells in central Somalia yesterday, leaving 18 persons dead and 15 wounded, residents and a witness said.
The battle began early yesterday in the villages of Mahas and Wabho, in a semiarid part of central Somalia, 300 miles northeast of the capital, Mogadishu.
The fighting was separate from ongoing battles between Islamist insurgents and the Western-backed government.
U.S. accusation on terror rejected
ASMARA — Eritrea responded angrily yesterday to a threat by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Jendayi Frazer to place it on a list of state sponsors of terrorism.
Miss Frazer said Friday the United States is considering putting the Red Sea state on the terrorist list for purportedly funneling weapons and aid to Somali Islamist insurgents battling the American and Ethiopian-backed interim government.
A U.N. monitoring group last month accused Eritrea of sending large quantities of weapons to Islamists in Somalia — a charge Asmara denies.
Voters to decide form of government
MALE — Voters cast their ballots yesterday in a referendum to decide the future political direction of the tiny Indian Ocean atoll nation, one of Asia’s most exotic tourist destinations.
The vote is seen as an acid test for Asia’s longest-serving ruler, President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, who took power in 1978, and follows years of simmering political unrest and calls for change in the former British protectorate.
From wire dispatches and staff reports