World

Former Filipino hostage Angelo de la Cruz awaited a medical checkup and a flight home after being freed by Muslim terrorists in Iraq. He had been threatened with decapitation unless his government pulled all 51 of its soldiers and police out of the country by Tuesday. President Gloria Arroyo said she gave in to the demand out of concern for the millions of other Filipino contract workers around the world. But against that backdrop, terrorist leader Abu Musab al-Zarqawi demanded that Japan also withdraw all its personnel from Iraq or face unspecified attacks "because no one else can help you." Japan has about 500 noncombat troops in Iraq and already has refused to bring them home. Zarqawi also warned all Muslim nations "for the last time" not to send personnel to Iraq or to support the government of interim Prime Minister Iyad Allawi.

In an angry confrontation with Yasser Arafat, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Ahmed Qureia rescinded his resignation but agreed to stay in office only temporarily as a caretaker, sources said. The sources said he stood by his insistence that Arafat yield greater control over Palestinian security units to him - something the latter so far has refused to do. Meanwhile, Qureia won the support of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who described the Palestinian Authority as being in deep crisis and needing a fast overhaul of security operations in the Gaza Strip to stop the growing chaos as Israel prepares to withdraw.

Two Israeli soldiers and a Hizbullah guerrilla were reported dead after the fiercest fighting between the two sides in months. Israeli military sources said Hizbullah started the clash with sniper fire on an outpost along the border with Lebanon. The action came one day after a senior Hizbullah leader was killed in a bomb attack in Beirut, for which the militant group blamed Israel.

A brother-in-law of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar was captured in a shootout with police in Afghanistan, reports said. Mullah Amanullah was caught 250 miles southwest of Kabul, the capital, with an assault rifle, three bombs, and a satellite phone in his car. The area is near Omar's hometown. But it wasn't clear whether the prisoner has had recent contact with him or what role he held in the Taliban, and US military spokesmen said they couldn't confirm the arrest. Omar has four wives, each of whom could have several brothers.

Rescuers were trying to find five men trapped after an explosion and fire killed 31 of their co-workers inside a coal mine in Ukraine late Monday. But efforts to put out the flames by flooding the mine and then pumping in nitrogen were being delayed by smoke, pockets of gas, and 120 degree F. temperatures. Twelve men escaped the accident in the Krasnolimanska mine, one of Ukraine's most productive but most dangerous.

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