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U.S. surrounds hijacked ship


MOGADISHU, Somalia – U.S. warships and helicopters Monday surrounded a seized cargo ship loaded with Sudan-bound tanks and other arms to keep the weapons from falling “into the wrong hands,” an American Navy spokesman said.

The shipment of 33 Russian-designed tanks, rifles and ammunition on the Ukrainian-operated Faina was headed for Sudan – not Kenya as previously claimed by Kenyan officials, said Lt. Nathan Christensen, a deputy spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet.

The pirates who seized the ship are demanding a $20 million ransom.

Christensen said an unspecified number of destroyers and cruisers have joined the San Diego-based USS destroyer Howard within a 10-mile radius of the Faina.

European tourists rescued in Sahara

Egyptian and Sudanese forces, backed by European commandos, swooped down in helicopters Monday to save a tour group that had been abducted in Egypt and taken on a 10-day dash across the Sahara to the border with Chad.

Freedom for the 11 European tourists and eight Egyptian guides came hours after Sudanese troops killed six of the abductors and captured two who revealed where the remaining gunmen were holding their captives.

Egyptian officials released no details of the rescue except to say troops used helicopters to bring out the prisoners.

The five Germans, five Italians and a Romanian, along with eight Egyptian drivers and guides, arrived in Cairo on a military plane later Monday, smiling as they walked across the tarmac to be greeted with bouquets of flowers.

Car bomb hits bus, kills 5 in Lebanon

A remote control car bomb packed with ball bearings ripped through a military bus Monday in Tripoli, killing four soldiers and a civilian in a city that has been tormented by sectarian violence, Lebanese officials said.

It was the second deadly attack targeting troops in northern Lebanon in less than two months.

Suspicion fell on an al-Qaida-inspired Islamic movement that has been locked in bitter conflict with the army since last year.

The blast came two days after a car bombing in the capital of neighboring Syria killed 17 people and wounded 14.

Syria said Monday that the Damascus attack used a vehicle from a neighboring Arab country it did not name.

Iraq’s al-Maliki open to U.S. security deal

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki said Monday that the Iraqi government is ready to compromise to reach a security accord with the United States because his country still needs American troops despite the drop in violence.

In an interview in Baghdad with The Associated Press, al-Maliki said neither he nor Iraq’s parliament will accept any pact that fails to serve the country’s national interests.

A poorly constructed plan would provoke so much discord in Iraq that it could threaten his government’s survival, he said.

But the prime minister said that he is firmly committed to reaching an accord that would allow U.S. troops to remain in the country beyond next year.

Israel’s Olmert says land will net peace

Israelis ushered in the Jewish New Year on Monday with festive family dinners – and a warning from their outgoing prime minister that they’ll have to return virtually all the land captured in 1967 to win peace with the Palestinians and Syrians.

Ehud Olmert, who is giving up his office amid a corruption investigation, said Israel will have to give up nearly all of the West Bank and east Jerusalem if it wants peace with the Palestinians, who plan their state for those areas and Gaza. Israel withdrew from Gaza in 2005.

Cadbury joins list of melamine recalls

British candy maker Cadbury announced a recall Monday of chocolate made in its Beijing factory after it was found to contain melamine, the industrial chemical that has sickened tens of thousands of Chinese children.

The 11 recalled items were sold in parts of Asia and the Pacific, the company said in a statement. Cadbury’s chocolates sold in the United States were not affected, said a spokesman for Hershey’s, Cadbury’s sole U.S. distributor.

Meanwhile, Kraft Foods, the maker of Oreo cookies, and Mars, the maker of M&Ms and Snickers candy, questioned the findings of Indonesian investigations that identified melamine in samples of their products made in China.

Both Kraft Foods and Mars said they would comply with an Indonesian recall but planned to conduct their own tests and look into the possibility the tainted products were counterfeits.

Melamine-laced baby formula and other dairy products in China have been blamed for sickening nearly 54,000 children and leading to four infant deaths.

12 bodies found near Tijuana school

The bodies of 11 men and one woman were found dumped in an empty lot next to a Tijuana, Mexico, elementary school Monday morning, an hour before children were scheduled to arrive.

City officials suspended classes after finding the victims, most of whom had been bound and tortured.

Some bodies were only partially clothed, Tijuana police spokeswoman Prisna Perez said.

Minutes after the grisly discovery, four other bodies were found in another empty lot in Tijuana, and two other bodies were discovered late Sunday in a lot next to a factory.

Police have not determined whether the 18 killings were linked, or whether the city’s drug gangs are responsible, Perez said.