- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 27, 2008

MEXICO

Drug battle kills 17 near U.S. border

TIJUANA — Seventeen Mexican drug-gang members were killed near the U.S. border yesterday, their bodies scattered along a road after one of the deadliest shootouts in Mexico’s three-year narco-war.

Rival factions of the Arellano Felix drug cartel in Tijuana on the Mexico-California border battled each other with rifles and machine guns in the early hours of the morning, police said.

VENEZUELA

Richardson: Chavez to help free hostages

CARACAS — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson says Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is “ready to help re-engage in negotiations” for the release of three American hostages held captive by rebels in Colombia.

Mr. Richardson said yesterday he plans to put forward a proposal for the hostages’ release in the coming weeks and that Mr. Chavez is willing to work with him as a “primary mediator.”

Mr. Richardson met Mr. Chavez last night.

He said he was visiting Venezuela at the request of hostages’ families. U.S. defense contractors Marc Gonsalves, Thomas Howes and Keith Stansell have been held by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, since their plane went down in rebel-held jungles in February 2003.

IRAQ

Saddam’s deputy faces trial

BAGHDAD — Tariq Aziz, former deputy prime minister and the international face of the Iraqi regime under Saddam Hussein, goes on trial Tuesday over his purported role in the execution of 42 Baghdad merchants in 1992.

Aziz and seven other henchmen of the deposed and hanged dictator are accused of executing the merchants after blaming them for raising food prices when Iraq was under U.N. sanctions.

MOROCCO

Fire kills 55 in mattress factory

CASABLANCA — A fire roared through a mattress factory in a poor section of Casablanca yesterday, killing up to 55 workers and injuring as many as 24 others, Moroccan officials said.

The head of the Red Crescent rescue operation said an emergency exit was blocked and that firefighters arrived two hours after the blaze began at about 10 a.m.

The fire in an industrial area on the edge of the sprawling city, Morocco’s chief port and economic capital, appeared to be the North African kingdom’s worst since a blaze killed 50 prisoners in a jail in 2002.

UGANDA

Police raid magazine office

KAMPALA — Ugandan security forces raided the offices of a magazine regarded as critical of President Yoweri Museveni’s government, arresting three journalists and taking away computers, a lawyer said yesterday.

It was the second time the bimonthly Independence has been raided since its launch in October last year. Lawyer Bob Kasango said the magazine was accused of “being in possession of seditious materials and publishing inflammatory materials.” A government spokeswoman said the magazine published three articles that defamed top government officials.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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