At least six more US soldiers died in eastern Afghanistan when their helicopter was shot down by enemy fire in the assault on regrouped Taliban and Al Qaeda forces. The Pentagon said the incident happened Sunday night. The fighting is described as the largest joint US-Afghan operation since the war there began last October. Meanwhile, authorities put the number of deaths from a powerful earthquake that struck northern Afghanistan at 150. (Related story, page 7.)

Military strikes against Palestinians were intensified after Israel's security cabinet decided to hit back harder against terrorist attacks. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon told parliament: "We are in a war over our home, and the war is horrible. But we will win." In all, 16 more Palestinians died in a series of reprisals for last weekend's suicide bombing in Jerusalem and a sniper attack on a military checkpoint. But the Army expressed "deep regret" that its shelling of a convoy in the West Bank killed the wife of a Hamas activist and five other noncombatants.

Rejecting government appeals to shelve a planned temple, hard-line Hindu leaders in India said construction would begin as soon after March 15 as possible. The temple is to be built on a site in Ayodhya that also is sacred to Muslims. A mosque there was razed in 1992, touching off the subcontinent's worst sectarian violence in almost 50 years. Hindus returning home from Ayodhya by train last week were attacked by Islamic militants, causing a new eruption of violence that so far has killed 572 people. Above, police patrol in Ahmadabad, scene of the heaviest strife.

Failing to achieve a consensus, the member states of the Commonwealth chose not to suspend Zimbabwe despite the violence that has punctuated the campaign for next weekend's presidential election. The suspension was sought by Britain on grounds that intimidation and cheating by President Robert Mugabe's ZANU-PF movement already have ensured that the election won't be free or fair. But African leaders at the Commonwealth summit sided with Mugabe. (Story, page 7.)

A broad relaxation of relations with Taiwan is expected to be called for today by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji in his annual address to parliament. Excerpts of the speech seen by Reuters advocate direct cultural, trade, transportation, and mail exchanges between the two - further evidence, analysts said, of a softening in China's position toward the island. Zhu also is expected to imply a roughly equal political status between the two, without repeating China's longstanding threat to invade militarily if Taiwan took any steps toward independence.

Hopelessly outnumbered Army troops made no effort to stop supporters of self-proclaimed president Marc Ravalomanana as they swarmed government offices in Madagascar's capital. The takeover enabled Ravalomanana's 17 appointees to cabinet positions to enter their offices unhindered. Despite incumbent President Didier Ratsiraka's imposition of martial law late last week, the military has pledged to remain neutral in the conflict between the rivals.

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