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News Briefs

Taliban Gets Surrender Deadline; U.S. Opposes Any Deals

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- TALOQAN, AFGHANISTAN

Rebel forces on Monday threatened to attack thousands of surrounded Taliban fighters in the northern Afghan city of Kunduz if they don’t surrender Tuesday and U.S. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld warned that freeing the hard-line fighters would endanger America.

Rumsfeld said he would “do everything I could” to prevent a negotiated settlement because a large share of the Taliban force are zealous non-Afghan fighters from the al-Qaida terrorist network. Freeing them, he said, would pose a risk of terrorist attack.

“My hope is that they will either be killed or taken prisoner,” he said at a Pentagon briefing. “They’re people who have done terrible things.”

Four Journalists Feared Dead

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- PHULI ASTIKAM, AFGHANISTAN

The road that bumps and lumbers up the rocky canyons above the Kabul River here is a treacherous stretch even in normal times.

But in the political vacuum that exists in Afghanistan, it might have proved fatal Monday to four missing foreign journalists.

The journalists, in a convoy attempting to reach the Afghan capital of Kabul, were ambushed in a remote area nominally under the control of the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance by men believed to be Taliban stragglers.

The shooting reflected the precarious state of a country with no central authority, no laws, no recognized police force and an overwhelming sense of denial about the residual support for the Taliban.

Ordered from their cars, the journalists were bludgeoned with stones and rifle butts and, according to several accounts, shot dead.

“After they fired, they told me to leave the area and don’t take anymore foreigners to Kabul,” Ashiqullah , the Afghan driver for two of the journalists, said of the gunmen. “They said, ‘This is not the end of the Taliban. The Taliban is still in power and can do anything it wants.’ ”

The four journalists were identified as Maria Grazia Cutuli of the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera; Spaniard Julio Fuentes of the daily El Mundo; and Harry Burton and Azizullah Haidari, both of Reuters news agency.

Tail Fins of American Airlines’ A300 Jets Pass Inspection

LOS ANGELES TIMES -- WASHINGTON

American Airlines said Monday that it had finished inspecting the tail sections of its 34 A300 passenger jets and found no problems, although some engineers say the visual inspections ordered by the Federal Aviation Administration are not sufficient to detect internal cracks.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating why the tail fin of American Airlines Flight 587 to Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic broke off just after the plane took off from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York.

Two critical questions are whether the fin, which is made of a composite material that is lighter and stronger than metal, was already damaged in some way, or whether there is a design flaw that could affect more than 400 other A300 and A310 jets worldwide.

The fiery crash Nov. 12 killed all 260 aboard, as well as five people on the ground. NTSB investigators have said that this crash resembles nothing in their extensive files, since major structural components of aircraft are supposed to withstand even heavy stress.

Authorities have repeatedly said that there is no evidence of terrorism or sabotage.