Uzbekistan's government on Wednesday took foreign diplomats and journalists to the town where witnesses said troops shot dead hundreds of people but did not show them the actual site of the bloodshed. Authorities have blamed the killings in the eastern town of Andijon on Muslim rebels, but witnesses said some 500 people, including women and children, were gunned down by security forces who opened fire on protesters last Friday. The US has called on Uzbekistan, an ally in Washington's war on terrorism, to be open about events in Andijon, while the UN and the European Union have called for an independent inquiry.

Lebanon's Christian opposition leader Gen. Michel Aoun visited his one-time foe, jailed Christian leader Samir Geagea in Beirut on Wednesday and called for his immediate release. Aoun and Geagea, former leader of the now defunct Lebanese Forces militia, fought a savage war for control of the Christian heartland in the final days of the 1975-90 civil war. Aoun, who returned from 14 years of exile in Paris this month, said the meeting symbolized a new beginning.

Israel launched an airstrike against Gaza Strip militants, shelling Jewish settlements on Wednesday in what the Islamic Hamas group said was an attempt to avenge the death of one of its fighters. The surge of Gaza violence - the worst since the Israeli-Palestinian cease-fire took hold in February - strained an already tenuous truce and could complicate Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's plan to evacuate Gaza.

A man claiming to have kidnapped Italian aid worker Clementina Cantoni Monday in the Afghan capital of Kabul threatened on Wednesday in an interview on local television to kill her unless his demands were immediately met. The man, who called himself Temur Shah, has also had negotiations with aid group CARE International, Cantoni's employer. Cantoni did not speak during the interview, and Shah did not give proof that he was holding her.

A Spanish judge indicted 13 suspected Islamic extremists Wednesday on charges of belonging to Al Qaeda. The indictment said the suspects, mostly Moroccans, had formed two terror cells in 2002 - one in Morocco and one in Madrid.

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