Clashes in West African nation of Guinea leave 10 dead, 115 wounded

CONAKRY, Guinea -- Security forces clashed Monday with protesters seeking the ouster of Guinea's embattled president, and at least 10 civilians were killed and 115 were wounded, hospital officials said.

Most of the casualties appeared to have been caused by security forces who opened fire on demonstrators, said Dr. Ousmane Bah, who treated patients in an emergency room.

Thousands have taken to the streets of the capital, Conakry, hurling rocks at paramilitary police or army troops in the second week of a general strike aimed at toppling President Lansana Conte, who seized power in a 1984 coup and has refused to step down despite reports of ill health.

Ten bullet-riddled bodies were brought to the hospital in the neighborhood of Donka, said Bah, who inspected the corpses.

"Maybe there are more, I don't know. We're overwhelmed," he said.

Guinean Red Cross country director Georges Cunz said up to 12 people may have been killed, but the tally was not final.

As clashes spread across Conakry, the sound of automatic weapons fire echoed through the crumbling seaside city.

Witnesses had said earlier that security forces fired rounds over the heads of demonstrators marching toward the presidential palace.

Spy unit of Belfast police let Protestant gang get away with murder

BELFAST, Northern Ireland -- An elite anti-terrorist unit let Belfast outlaws get away with murder in exchange for information, but its officers will not be charged because they covered their tracks, according to an investigation published Monday into police spying on a Protestant gang.

The findings of Police Ombudsman Nuala O'Loan, the Roman Catholic watchdog for the mostly Protestant police force, sent shock waves through a peace process that depends on building Catholic support for the police.

Her report, the product of a 3 1/2-year probe, found that the police force's Special Branch intelligence arm covered up at least 10 killings from 1993 to 2000 involving Ulster Volunteer Force members who were being paid for tip-offs. The Special Branch was abolished in 2003 as part of a reform plan that favors the recruitment of Catholics.

The report was published just days before Sinn Fein, the Irish Republican Army-linked party that represents most Catholics, is expected to vote to begin supporting the police.

That long-unthinkable step would follow the IRA's 2005 decisions to renounce violence, disarm and promote the revival of a Catholic-Protestant administration, the central goal of Northern Ireland's Good Friday accord of 1998.

Man charged with trying to hijack Air Botswana plane

JOHANNESBURG, South Africa -- A man claiming to be a member of al-Qaida was arrested Monday for trying to hijack a plane on a flight from Botswana to Johannesburg, police said.

The man, whose nationality and identity were not released, was arrested on charges of attempting to hijack the Air Botswana aircraft and unlawful interference with a plane and its crew, police spokesman Senior Superintendent Vish Naidoo said.

He said the man was overpowered and taken in for questioning shortly after the plane landed at about 6:15 p.m. at the OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg.

Book by late pope's former aide suggests Soviet spies likely behind assassination attempt

VATICAN CITY -- The closest aide to the late Pope John Paul II suggested in a new book that Soviet spies could have been behind the 1981 assassination attempt in which the pontiff was gravely wounded by a Turkish gunman.

But Stanislaw Dziwisz offered no facts to back up his theory, according to excerpts of "A Life with Karol" provided by Italian publishing house Rizzoli on Monday.

Dziwisz, now a cardinal and archbishop of Krakow, Poland, who for 40 years was John Paul's closest aide, also recalled how the pope spent the day of the Sept. 11 attacks praying in his chapel and watching televised news accounts of the terror strikes.

"He was worried, incredibly worried that it wouldn't end there, that the attacks would set off an endless spiral of violence," Dziwisz writes.

The book comes out Wednesday in Italy and Jan. 29 in Poland, Rizzoli said.

Of the assassination attempt against John Paul, Dziwisz wrote: Mehmet "Ali Agca was a perfect killer. Sent by those who thought the pope was dangerous."

Top Islamic leader in Somalia has turned himself in, officials say

NAIROBI, Kenya -- A top leader of Somalia's ousted Islamic movement, apparently afraid for his life now that the once-powerful militia has been chased into hiding, has surrendered and is in custody in neighboring Kenya, officials said Monday.

Sheik Sharif Sheik Ahmed, considered a moderate member of the Council of Islamic Courts, went to a Kenyan police station along the Somali border Sunday and was flown to Nairobi, according to a police report seen by The Associated Press. A U.S. diplomat said last week that Ahmed could play a role in reconciling Somali factions.

If Ahmed agrees to hold talks with Somalia's government, it could be a major step toward preventing the widespread insurgency that many Islamic leaders have threatened in Somalia. Ahmed is not believed to be wanted by the authorities, like other members of the Islamic group.

The United States said it was not involved in protecting Ahmed, whose whereabouts in Nairobi were not known. In Somalia, the remnants of the Islamic courts are being hunted by Ethiopian troops and Somali government forces.

Climate experts predict most glaciers will vanish from Alps by 2050

VIENNA, Austria -- Glaciers will all but disappear from the Alps by 2050, scientists warned Monday, basing their bleak outlook on mounting evidence of slow but steady melting of the continental ice sheets.

In western Austria's Alpine province of Tyrol, glaciers have been shrinking by about 3 percent a year, said Roland Psenner of the University of Innsbruck's Institute for Ecology.

And 2050 is a conservative estimate, he said: If they keep melting at that rate, most glaciers could vanish by 2037.

Pig farmer accused of killing 26 women in Canada goes to trial

NEW WESTMINSTER, British Columbia -- Years after their loved ones disappeared from the seedy streets of Vancouver's red-light district, families learned some of the gruesome details of how the women allegedly were killed.

Some relatives fled the courtroom; others stayed, but sat in tears as prosecutors detailed the case against Robert Pickton.

Pickton, a 56-year-old pig farmer, showed no emotion during Monday's session. Clean-shaven with a bald crown and shoulder-length hair, he sat in a specially built defendant's box surrounded by bulletproof glass.

Arrested five years ago, Pickton has been charged with killing 26 women and has pleaded not guilty to the six counts covered the first trial. The other 20 counts will be heard at a later trial.

Prosecutor Derrill Prevett stunned the courtroom by saying Pickton told investigators, including an undercover officer planted in his jail cell, that he had slain 49 women.

This story appeared in The Daily Herald on page A4.

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