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News Briefs

Israel Smashes Hamas Group Blamed for Bombing

Los Angeles Times

Shin Bet, Israel's secret security force, said Wednesday that it smashed a network of the Hamas militant Islamic movement in the West Bank that it blamed for planning and carrying out Monday's suicide bombing here and an earlier attack in Tel Aviv.

"This cell represented the infrastructure of the military wing of Hamas in the West Bank," Shin Bet's chief told Israeli military reporters in a briefing.

Military censors do not allow Shin Bet's director to be named and it is highly unusual for the agency's head to conduct a news conference.

But Shin Bet has been under increasing pressure as Israeli casualties mount from the string of suicide bombing attacks by Islamic militants since Israel signed its September 1993, framework peace accord with the Palestine Liberation Organization.

The security agency seemed eager to take credit Wednesday for uncovering the suspected Hamas cell, with its director describing in detail for reporters a complex network of relationships that he said are rooted in Gaza and Damascus.

Bombing Defendant Nichols Says Trial Judge Biased

Los Angeles Times

Oklahoma City bombing defendant Terry Lynn Nichols said Wednesday that the federal judge assigned to preside over his trial has an "actual, personal bias against me" and should be removed from the case because of his extensive contact with victims of the explosion.

In an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court in Oklahoma City, Nichols also embraced a series of allegations raised by attorneys for co-defendant Timothy J. McVeigh that say the trial should be moved because of the heavy damage to the courthouse caused by the bombing of the nearby Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building.

But while the McVeigh allegations focused on the courthouse damage, the Nichols affidavit goes a step further. The 40-year-old Nichols argues that U.S. District Judge Wayne E. Alley has had an "extra-judicial exposure" to victims of the bombing because so many courthouse employees were related to or friends with many of the 168 killed and hundreds injured in the April 19 blast.

In addition, the Nichols affidavit is in his own words, in contrast to the McVeigh court motion filed Tuesday, which was prepared by McVeigh's attorneys.

Russian Prime Minister's Party Soundly Beaten in Elections

The Washington Post

Voters in the industrial heartland where President Boris Yeltsin rose to political prominence have dealt a sharp rebuff to the Kremlin leadership, electing a populist governor who has pledged to wrest more economic independence from Moscow.

The vote in the Ural Mountain region of Yekaterinburg was the first for a regional governor in Russia in two years and was being closely watched by political analysts as a bellwether of parliamentary elections scheduled for December. The ballot was also the first direct electoral test for Prime Minister Victor Chernomyrdin's centrist party, and its performance was an embarrassment.

The victor, Eduard Rossel, was sacked last year as governor by Yeltsin after he threatened to declare an autonomous "Urals Republic" in the heavily industrialized region. In his campaign, he tried to capitalize on voter resentment growing out of Russia's post-Soviet industrial collapse and ran openly against Moscow's ruling establishment, at the center of which is Chernomyrdin's party, Our Home Is Russia.

A final tally of Sunday's vote showed that Rossel won a two-to-one victory over incumbent governor Alexei Strakhov, the regional leader of Chernomyrdin's party, who had outspent Rossel by more than three to one.