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Briefs (left)

After Official is Killed,
His Funeral is Bombed

By Carlotta Gall

A suicide bomber blew himself up Monday at the funeral of the assassinated governor of Paktia province, killing at least seven people and wounding as many as 40. Five of the dead were policemen, and two were children.

The funeral was for Hakim Taniwal, a tribal elder and provincial governor who was killed in a suicide attack outside his office on Sunday. He was buried in his home district of Tanai, in Khost province, where he had also served as governor after the fall of the Taliban.

“The number of wounded is very high,” the provincial police chief, Gen. Muhammad Ayub, said by telephone. “Actually, we don’t know how many people were wounded yet.”

President Hamid Karzai, who was a close friend of Taniwal, denounced the attack as a “heinous act of terrorism” and “an act against Islam and humanity.”

“The enemies of Afghanistan, by carrying out a terrorist attack on the funeral ceremony of Hakim Taniwal, showed that they are not only against the traditions and culture of Afghans, but also against Islamic law,” Karzai said in a statement issued by his office.

OPEC to Hold Production
Levels — For Now

By Jad Mouawad

OPEC said on Monday that it would keep its current production levels unchanged for the time being but hinted that it was ready to cut production as some delegates voiced concerns that high oil inventories and slowing demand might ignite a plunge in prices.

OPEC’s decision, which was widely expected, means that oil supplies will remain ample for the time being, despite losses from BP operations in Alaska, chronic shortages in Iraq and attacks on Nigeria’s oil exporting terminals. Oil inventories in the United States have been building and are now above their five-year average.

But OPEC said firmly that it would monitor the market more carefully in coming months for signs of further price declines. Some ministers are worried that a new dynamic is taking hold, ending a rally that has led to a tripling of oil prices in five years.

The group’s final statement said that OPEC would cut production if prices fell more. It did not indicate a price level at which the cut would be made.

Mysterious Migration of Swans
Linked to Spread of Avian Flu

By Donald G. Mcneil Jr.

Tracking avian flu sometimes comes down to moves that have a lot of slapstick potential, like sprinting down a muddy Mongolian beach trying to tackle a scared but temporarily flightless swan. “They’re pretty fast, even when they can’t fly, and the 100-yard dash is not my specialty,” said John Takekawa, a research wildlife biologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.

Takekawa was part of an international team that spent part of August on the shores of Lake Khorin Tsagaan in Mongolia catching whooper swans and strapping tiny transmitters to their backs. If all goes well, the transmitters will help unveil an ornithological mystery: which way whoopers migrate.

The issue became more important last year when field veterinarians from the Wildlife Conservation Society who were investigating the deaths of hundreds of migratory birds on remote lakes in China and Mongolia found that whoopers were among those infected with A(H5N1) influenza. Their migration patterns are poorly understood, but they may have played a role in the brief appearance of the disease all across Europe early this year.