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The fate of a Filipino hostage threatened with decapitation by Muslim terrorists in Iraq was unknown as his government neared the deadline set by his captors to announce it would bring home all its personnel by next Tuesday. Truck driver Angelo de la Cruz would be at least the fourth non-Iraqi hostage to die in that fashion. The Manila government appealed for his release Tuesday. But in a move that analysts said appeared intentionally ambiguous, it also said it would withdraw its 51 soldiers and police "as soon as possible." They are not scheduled to leave until Aug. 20.

A major new offensive by US troops was under way in Afghanistan to keep Taliban remnants and other militants off-balance until the Oct. 7 presidential election can be held, the Associated Press reported. Citing Lt. Gen. David Barno, the senior American commander there, it said the mission would involve thousands of soldiers and would consist of targeted, intelligence-driven raids.

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The acting president of Chechnya escaped assassination as a land mine exploded beside his motorcade in the capital, Grozny. But the attack killed another person and wounded three more. Sergei Abramov was appointed to the post two months ago after his predecessor died in a bomb attack. The incident in Grozny occurred hours after 24 separatist rebels and 18 Russian and Chechen troops died in the heaviest day of fighting there in months.

Despite a peaceful start, this year's Protestant marching season in Northern Ireland turned violent Monday, injuring 25 police and an unknown number of civilians. Rioting erupted after a small Protestant march passed through the Ardoyne, a Catholic neighborhood in Belfast famous for its Irish Republican Army sympathies. Catholics pelted other Protestants following the marchers with bottles, rocks, and golf balls and then clashed with police and soldiers before reinforcements arrived. Protestant marches elsewhere Monday caused no problems.

A commuter rail passenger's claim of anti-Semitic violence against her in suburban Paris late last week appeared to be crumbling as police said they could find no evidence of - or witnesses to - such an incident. News organizations also said they discovered that the young mother has filed six other complaints in recent years, all unfounded. She said she was targeted by six Arabic-looking males because they believed her to be Jewish, although she isn't.


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