World

Armed militants freed 26 women and children from the school they seized in southern Russia, but the standoff with security forces dragged into its second day. The militants still held roughly 350 people and were rejecting all offers of food and water for their hostages. Their demands also remained unclear, although some reports said they sought the release of other militants captured in fighting with government forces in neighboring Ingushetia. President Vladimir Putin pledged to do everything possible "to save the life and health" of those taken captive.

Al Jazeera reported the execution of three more foreign hostages by terrorists in Iraq. But the Arab cable TV news channel identified the victims as Turkish workers, and efforts intensified to win the freedom of two French journalists also being held. The latter were still believed to be alive despite the passing of a deadline set by their captors for the Paris government to rescind its ban on head scarves for Muslim school girls. Meanwhile, airstrikes by US warplanes destroyed two buildings in the volatile city of Fallujah that were believed to be used as hideouts by terrorists. Hospital officials said 17 people were killed.

The UN Security Council was to hear a briefing from its special envoy to Sudan on conditions in the Darfur region. But diplomats said although "the disaster continues," it did not appear probable that the council would impose previously theatened sanctions for Sudan's failure to end attacks on non-Arab Muslims. The diplomats said they expected that Sudan would be given more time to bring the situation under control.

Hundreds of cheering supporters greeted former Deputy Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim after he left court a free man, apparently ending Malaysia's worst political crisis. By a 2-to-1 vote, the Supreme Court overturned his almost six-year-old conviction for sodomy. It came at a time when he was seen as the probable succesor to Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad. Instead, Mahathir fired him, triggering massive protests in the streets. Anwar vowed to renew the campaign for political reform suspended while he was in prison.

In one of the worst days of his presidency, political opponents of Mexico's Vicente Fox heckled him, turned their backs, and chatted among themselves as he struggled to finish his annual state-of-the nation address. Outside, thousands of angry people accused him of betraying them by failing to deliver on a campaign pledge of millions of new jobs. An estimated 300,000 healthcare, communications, and electric industry employees also staged a one-day strike to protest cuts in the pension plan for unionized civil servants. Fox called for a truce with opposition party members of Congress, saying, "Society demands agreements" on the political reforms he wants to implement.

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