World

Terrorism by Muslim radicals - or efforts to prevent it - took center stage Tuesday, from London to Manila:

• In their largest such operation in years, British police arrested eight suspects believed to be of Pakistani origin and seized more than a half-ton of ammonium nitrate in a form often used by terrorists in building bombs. The authorities said no evidence pointed immediately to a prospective target, however.

• At least 20 more people died in Uzbekistan's capital in a shootout with police storming their hideout. The fighting ensued as security forces targeted a suburban residence a day after terrorists attacked three police stations and an outdoor market, killing themselves and 14 others.

• Authorities in Spain identified a Moroccan extremist group as the focus of their investigation into the March 11 Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people and wounded 1,500 others. Ten of the 18 suspects in custody for those attacks are of Moroccan birth and are being questioned about their links to the Islamic Combatant Group, which is blamed for five simultaneous bombings in Casa-blanca last May that killed 12 attackers and 32 other people.

• Four Muslim militants were in police custody in Manila as Philippines President Gloria Arroyo announced the foiling of a "Madrid-level" plot to bomb train stations and shopping malls. Arroyo, an ally in the US counterterrorism war, is in a tough campaign for reelection in May, and analysts theorized that - as in Spain following the bombings - the suspects may have hoped to influence the voting.

• Two government officials were found shot to death, execution- style, in the area of Pakistan where Army troops clashed last week with Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists and local tribesmen suspected of hiding them. The victims had been among 14 hostages taken as the campaign began and were the only ones not released.

• Attackers in volatile southern Thailand shot a logger to death and set fire to his employer's premises, then escaped after a gunfight with police arriving at the scene. The death was the 56th in the region since Muslim militants began their uprising Jan. 4.

Widely unpopular Prime Minister Jean-Pierre Raffarin was spared in the overhaul of the French government. But he was given until Wednesday to reshuffle his cabinet after the ruling center-right UMP Party was routed by the opposition Socialists in regional elections last weekend. In ordering the change, President Jacques Chirac apparently did not tell Raffarin to stop pursuing such reforms as slashing costs in the national healthcare system, which also are unpopular. But analysts said they expect Raffarin to throttle back on them.

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