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Seven foreign hostages were freed by their Muslim captors in Iraq, but they did not include two journalists being held by a group that demands the rescinding of France's new head- scarf ban. Meanwhile, in Kathmandu, Nepal, furious demonstrators ransacked and set fire to a mosque after 12 of their countrymen were executed by Iraqi terrorists. The rioters also vented their anger against the offices of airlines from Islamic countries and at least 24 agencies that send Nepali contract workers abroad. The government imposed an indefinite curfew and warned that violators would be shot on sight.

With frantic parents gathered nearby, police and government troops were in a standoff with suspected Chechen militants who seized a school on the first day of the new academic year. Inside the school, on Chcchnya's border with North Ossetia, 132 students were being held hostage, reports said, and the captors were threatening to execute 50 for every one of their group killed by the security forces. The standoff followed by hours a terrorist bombing in Moscow that killed 10 people.

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A confidential report by the UN's nuclear watchdog agency said Iran has informed it of plans in the near future to enrich 40 tons of raw uranium into a substance used in weapons-grade fuel. Diplomats said the matter may come to a head at the International Atomic Energy Agency board meeting Sept. 13, at which the US is expected to press for declaring Iran in violation of its Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty commitments.

Reacting swiftly to the terrorist attacks that killed 16 bus passengers Tuesday, Israeli troops sealed off Hebron in the West Bank and the government said it is resuming efforts to assassinate senior Hamas leaders. The campaign will not be limited to Palestinian territories, Army chief Moshe Yaalon said, suggesting that neighboring Syria "won't sleep quietly" for allowing Hamas leaders to operate from Damascus. Tuesday's bombers were identified as belonging to a Hamas cell in Hebron.

Amid heated rhetoric, Catholic and Protestant negotiators opened so-called "last chance" talks in Northern Ireland to revive their suspended power-sharing administration. It was set aside in October 2002 by the British government, which reimposed direct rule after multiple breakdowns that caused its complete collapse.


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