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News Briefs 1

Indian Minister Killed in Bombing

Los Angeles Times

In India's highest-level political assassination in four years, Beant Singh, chief minister of Punjab, was killed Thursday when a powerful bomb exploded as he climbed into his limousine. Twelve others died in the blast, for which a Sikh separatist group claimed responsibility.

The explosion occurred after Singh, 73, left his second-floor office in the civil secretariat in Chandigarh, the city that serves as Punjab's administrative capital. As the chief minister got into his car at about 5:07 p.m., it blew up.

Singh's automobile and two escort vehicles were torn to pieces. At least three commandos attached to the chief minister's security detail were killed.

The bomb was so strong it shattered windows up to the sixth floor of the 10-story government building and blew away part of the porch in front of the VIP entrance.

The elderly official of the ruling Congress (I) party had been Punjab's chief minister since February 1992, and, though a Sikh himself, had overseen an effective if ruthless, controversial crackdown on armed Sikh militancy in the state.

The ability of Singh's killers to breach extraordinarily tight security and strike at their target with devastating might made officials in other parts of India jittery about the possibility of coordinated attacks.

Noriega Seeks New Drug Trial

The Washington Post

Attorneys for convicted drug trafficker Manuel Antonio Noriega filed a motion for a new trial Thursday, asserting the U.S. government entered into a secret agreement with the Cali drug cartel to secure testimony against the former Panamanian strongman.

A former U.S. attorney who prosecuted Noriega called the new allegations of complex dirty dealing "hogwash."

Noriega's attorneys maintain this was the bargain: The government in 1991 agreed to recommend a reduced sentence for Luis Santacruz Echeverri, the brother of the head of the Cali cartel, who was already serving a 23-year sentence unrelated to the Noriega case. In exchange, the Cali organization would persuade Ricardo Bilonick to testify against Noriega in Noriega's 1992 trial.

The motion for a new trial is based on newly unearthedwritten in 1991 by a Miami attorney for the Cali cartel to government attorneys, suggesting some deal-making between Santacruz and federal prosecutors.

Noriega was convicted of aiding the Medellin cartel by allowing deceased Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar to fly cocaine through Panama, and letting Bilonick and others fly it to the United States.