In Short


A round-up of today's other stories in brief:

Farc guerrillas kill 24 troops in Colombia

BOGOTA - Marxist rebels killed 24 Colombian soldiers sent to help destroy coca plants in the country's southern jungles in the worst blow against the military in at least three years, the army said.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (Farc) attacked the soldiers near the town of Vista Hermosa in Meta province, an army spokesman said. - (Reuters)

Police seize 20 tons of hashish

MADRID - Twenty tonnes of hashish were seized and 11 people have been arrested by Spanish police. The drugs were hidden in a warehouse in Arganda del Rey, about 31km (13 miles) east of Madrid. Ten of the men arrested were Moroccans, police said yesterday and the other was Spanish. - (Reuters)

Ugandan troops kill protesters

KAMPALA - Ugandan soldiers shot dead seven people and wounded 16 others who were protesting at the killing of a teenage boy by troops in the north.

The army said it was investigating the shootings on Monday outside an army barracks at the Lalogi camp, a temporary settlement in the north of the country housing people fleeing persecution from the Lord's Resistance Army - (Reuters)

Four US marines charged with rape

OLONGAPO CITY - Philippine prosecutors have charged four US marines with raping a 22-year-old Filipina woman in early November but have cleared two other soldiers who had also been accused.

Washington has not responded publicly to an earlier request by the Philippine foreign affairs department to transfer custody of the marines to local authorities. - (Guardian service)

Spanish abortions double in a decade

MADRID - The annual number of abortions in Spain has nearly doubled in the last decade, prompting calls for improved sex education in schools.

About 85,000 Spanish women terminated their pregnancies in 2004, compared with 49,000 in 1995, according to the ministry of health. Fifteen per cent were teenagers. - (Reuters)

Hope of reprieve for novelist

ANKARA - Turkey's Supreme Court has ruled that the government has the final say on prosecuting individuals under a controversial legal article, opening the way for a possible reprieve for novelist Orhan Pamuk.

The Pamuk case has caused the government much embarrassment and raised doubts about Turkey's commitment to freedom of expression as it negotiates to join the European Union. - (Reuters)

9,000 ancient artefacts seized

ROME - Italian police say they have seized nearly 9,000 ancient artefacts from a 74-year-old pensioner who sold looted antiquities at a flea market in Rome.

Police stopped the man on Monday night and found three bags full of Etruscan and Roman pieces in his car.

They also searched his house where they discovered a laboratory to clean and restore the antiquities, as well as what they described as the classic tomb-raider's kit, including three metal detectors. - (Reuters)

Algerian leader to return home

ALGIERS - The Algerian president Abdelaziz Bouteflika (68) will return home on Saturday after more than a month in France where he had stomach surgery for an ulcer, state radio said.

The president extended his stay in Paris after he left the Val de Grace military hospital on December 17th, and doctors advised him to take a rest before resuming his duties. - (Reuters)