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News Briefs

Violent Protests Erupt Over Removal Of Afghan Leader

Violent demonstrators ransacked and burned at least four U.N. office compounds and a human rights office here on Sunday as they clashed with the national police and army in an angry protest at the removal of Gov. Ismail Khan by the central government.

Four people were killed and up to 50 wounded, most of them civilian demonstrators suffering from gunshot wounds, doctors at the provincial hospital said. Fifteen U.S. soldiers and two national army soldiers were injured, mostly from stones and bricks hurled at them, said Anne Bodine, an American State Department official based in Herat.

The violence and extensive damage was a major blow to the central government of President Hamid Karzai, which had sent 1,000 soldiers and hundreds of national police officers to secure the area for the arrival of the new governor from Kabul. Now, with the Oct. 9 elections nearing, the United Nations’ activities will be severely hampered in the whole western part of the country.

The police chief of Herat ordered a general curfew after 9 p.m. and banned any large gatherings.

Crimes Hover At 30-Year Lows

The rate of property crime and violent crime other than homicides remained at a 30-year low in 2003, the Justice Department said Sunday.

Statistics on the homicide rate are gathered more slowly, but they appear to be following a similar trend. In the most recent year for which statistics are available, 2002, there were 16,200 homicides, up 1 percent from 2001, the Justice Department said.

The government report did not cite causes for the statistics or predict trends.

“There is probably no single factor explanation for why the crime rates have been going down all these years and are now at the lowest level since we started measuring them in 1973,” said Lawrence A. Greenfeld, director of the Bureau of Justice Statistics. “It probably has to do with demographics, and it probably has to do with having a lot of very high-rate offenders behind bars.”

The low crime rate is continuing despite the deployment of many law enforcement officers to anti-terrorism duty in the last three years. Greenfeld said he had not seen any evidence that diverting some police resources to security had had any effect on the crime rate.

U.S. Airways Asks To Skip Pension Payment

US Airways marked the first day of its second bankruptcy on Monday by asking a federal judge for permission to skip a $110 million contribution to its employee pension plans that is due on Wednesday.

As the airline took its first actions under Chapter 11 protection, outside bankruptcy court, the government agency that granted federal loan guarantees to US Airways brought in some high-powered advice. The Air Transportation Stabilization Board, and other US Airways lenders, will be receiving counsel from Lazard, the New York investment bank.

Lazard was retained for them by Phoenix American Financial Services, which administers the loans in the $900 million package of guarantees that the board awarded US Airways when it emerged from its first bankruptcy in 2003.