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Terrorists in Iraq kidnapped the female director of Care International, a leading humanitarian aid organization, and hit a National Guard headquarters with six mortar rounds in one of the most successful attacks yet against government security forces. The attack killed at least four men and reports said more than 100 others were wounded. Meanwhile, Al Jazeera, the Arab satellite TV channel, carried video of a worried-looking Care chief Margaret Hassan along with documents establishing her identity. Her captors had yet to issue demands for her release as the Monitor went to press. Hassan is one of the few nongovernmental aid workers who chose to remain in Iraq after two female Italian colleagues were kidnapped there last month.

Security police foiled a Muslim radical plot to explode a truck bomb outside the courthouse in Madrid that's at the center of investigations into the terrorist attack last March by Al Qaeda on commuter trains there, plus other acts of terrorism. Many Spaniards had hoped they would not be targeted again after their new government, elected following the train bombings, pulled its troops out of Iraq. In London, meanwhile, radical cleric Abu Hamza al-Masri was charged with 16 counts of encouraging the murder of non-Muslims and of inciting racial hatred. The move sidetracks efforts by the US for his extradition in related cases.

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Rising passions over the proposed withdrawal of Israeli settlements and military units from the Gaza Strip could cause an assassination attempt against Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the leader of the opposition Labor Party warned. Shimon Peres told a leading newspaper that "I fear" extremists may try to kill Sharon as an ultranationalist murdered Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin in 1995 over the latter's efforts to achieve peace with the Palestinians. The withdrawal plan is contentious, and some right-wing rabbis have been urging soldiers to refuse to dismantle settlements in Gaza on grounds that it violates Jewish law.

Signs of trouble in the ranks of Burma's rigid military junta appeared, with state TV and radio confirming reports that Prime Minister Khin Nyunt is being replaced "for health reasons." That euphemism has been used before when key junta members were forced out. Khin Nyunt is perceived as a relative moderate and his appointment to the post last year was interpreted by analysts as a gesture toward the democracy movement led by Nobel Peace Prize-winner Aung San Suu Kyi. His successor will be Lt. Gen. Soe Win, a hard-liner.


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