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Up to 3 dead in Afghan factional fighting

By wire services
Published April 12, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan - Factional violence spread across Afghanistan on Sunday, with gunbattles in the north between militias of two powerful warlords leaving up to three fighters dead, rival groups said Sunday.

Forces loyal to Abdul Rashid Dostum and his rival, Atta Mohammed, battled overnight in Kod-e-Barq, an area about 190 miles northwest of the capital, Kabul.

About 500 fighters from Mohammed's faction looted houses belonging to Dostum and leaders of his faction, a spokesman for Dostum said. Three of Dostum's men were killed and about 15 were injured, said the spokesman, Akbar Boy.

Mohammed Shafi, a senior commander for Mohammed, confirmed the clash, but said only one of Dostum's men was killed. Two of his own men were injured, he said.

Shafi claimed Dostum's militia, armed with rockets, attacked the area in preparation for a move on Mazar-e-Sharif, a major northern city where the two militias jostle for control.

Tourists leave on train after mudslide in Peru

LIMA, Peru - Hundreds of tourists stranded by a mudslide near the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu left by train on a newly cleared rail Sunday, as the search continued for 10 missing Peruvians. One Peruvian has been confirmed dead.

Rescue workers found the body of a man Saturday, Civil Defense chief Juan Podesta said. In all, some 70 people were forced to leave their destroyed or damaged homes in Saturday's mudslides, he said.

A town council member on Saturday erroneously told reporters that six bodies had been recovered. Podesta did not explain the discrepancy.

Police free captive in Russia after 20 months

MOSCOW - A Dutch aid worker kidnapped almost two years ago near the lawless region of Chechnya was freed in a police operation Sunday and returned to Moscow after months of failed attempts to negotiate his release.

The aid worker, Arjan Erkel, 35, who headed the North Caucasus mission of Doctors Without Borders, had been seized by masked gunmen in an area terrorized by kidnappings by both the military and rebel fighters.

Late Sunday, Erkel flew on to Rotterdam, Netherlands, news agencies said.

Erkel had grown a beard and lost weight during his 20 months as a hostage.

Philippine military says it warned of inmates' escape

MANILA, Philippines - In a major embarrassment for the Philippine government, the military said Sunday it had warned that suspected militants linked to al-Qaida were planning a prison escape just days before their breakout.

The escape by 53 prison inmates Saturday overshadowed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's claims that the government is making gains in its campaign against terrorists. She had recently met with U.S. officials to address their fears about new terror threats.

The military said the escape - led by several members of the al-Qaida-linked Abu Sayyaf militant group - was a setback to the country's counterterrorism efforts. Eleven of the escapees from the jail on the southern island of Basilan were later recaptured and eight were killed, provincial jail warden Jumadil Sali said.

Security forces continued a hunt for the escapees.

Unknown group says it launched Uzbek attacks

TASHKENT, Uzbekistan - A previously unknown Islamic group claimed responsibility Sunday for a recent string of bombings and shootings that killed at least 47 people in Uzbekistan.

In a statement posted on at least three militant Islamic Web sites, the Jihad Islamic Group said the attacks were launched in retaliation for the secular Uzbek regime's oppression of devout Muslims.

It was the first publicized claim of responsibility for the four days of explosions, suicide attacks and assaults on police that began March 28.

[Last modified April 12, 2004, 01:05:27]

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