News In Brief

About 600 Kosovar men, many of them given up for dead, crossed into Albania after being freed from Serb prison camps in Kosovo. The ethnic Albanians said they were detained as Kosovo Liberation Army suspects and were systematically beaten - a claim that UN officials appeared to confirm by reporting that the refugees were in poor physical condition.

Contradicting US claims that increased deployments of NATO ground troops in the Balkans would be primarily so they could serve as humanitarian watchdogs , British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook said they would be "more than just a peacekeeping force." Cook told the BBC that alliance planners were close to ratifying proposals to increase ground troops to between 40,000 and 50,000 to ensure that Yugoslav President Milosevic "could not threaten Kosovo again." London's Sunday Times reported that at least 18,000 more NATO troops - 8,000 of them Americans - will be sent to the Balkans in the next two months.

Responding to anti-aircraft fire during a routine patrol of a no-fly zone, US jets again bombed artillery sites in northern Iraq. All attacking aircraft returned safely to base in neighboring Turkey, an Air Force spokesman said. Such airstrikes have become commonplace since mid-December, when the Baghdad government began challenging the no-fly zones set up after the Gulf War to protect the region's mainly Kurdish population. US and British jets require Turkish permission for planned strikes against Iraq, but planes flying from the Incirlik base may fire in self-defense against any threat, including being tracked by radar.

Government officials ordered the closure of the oldest Christian church in the central Chinese city of Xian. The building was ordered sold and the proceeds used for a new church outside the city. After learning that the Public Security Bureau was sending police to disperse a 'round-the-clock security watch, 500 Christians rushed to the church and linked arms to prevent it from being dispersed. With the number of worshippers often soaring to as many as 3,000 on Sundays, officials have become worried about the potential for social instability.

An armed group detonated bombs and began shooting indiscriminately at civilians in a village near Medea, 60 miles south of the Algerian capital, Algiers. At least 10 deaths were reported. There were no immediate claims of responsibility, although suspicion fell on fundamentalist Islamic militants. An attack in the same region last week killed seven people - six of them children. Approximately 75,000 people have been killed since 1992, when a violent Islamic rebellion erupted following the Army's cancellation of legislative elections that Muslim fundamentalists were poised to win.

Food and relief supplies were dropped from helicopters in remote areas of Pakistan in the aftermath of a last week's 170-m.p.h. cyclone. Thousands of villages in Sindh province were submerged. Authorities said at least 400 people died and 6,000 others are reported missing.

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