Bomb blasts kill seven

Muslim militants linked to al-Qaida may be responsible for bombings Thursday that killed seven people, wounded 152 and devastated two department stores in Zamboanga, the military said.

Suspicion fell on Abu Sayyaf because of similarities to an Oct. 2 blast that killed four, including an American Green Beret. That explosion was blamed on the Muslim extremists notorious for kidnappings and murders. TNT was apparently used in both attacks.

Thursday’s bombings, 30 minutes apart, came less than a week after three bombs exploded on the Indonesian island of Bali, killing 183 people.

There was no claim of responsibility for the attacks in Zamboanga, but military spokesman Lt. Col. Danilo Servando said suspicion fell on an Abu Sayyaf faction headed by Khaddafy Janjalani, one of five leaders of the group indicted by Washington for a mass kidnapping last year that left 18 hostages dead, including two Americans.

Washington, D.C.

Community health centers gain Senate approval

The Senate approved a compromise bill Thursday allowing community health centers that serve the needy to continue to operate.

The measure passed by voice vote and now heads to the White House. It helps the 1,000 community health centers that provide health care each year for about 12 million people, half of whom have no insurance.

The House passed the bill Wednesday.

The White House has said the president wants to add or expand centers at 1,200 sites over five years, doubling the number of people served.


Indian-controlled Kashmir placed under federal rule

The federal government assumed direct rule over India’s portion of Kashmir today after state lawmakers failed to agree on a coalition government following inconclusive elections.

The temporary move seeking to avoid a political crisis put the top federal representative in Jammu-Kashmir state, Gov. Girish Chandra Saxena, in charge until the leading parties agree on a new government, the governor’s office said.

India and Pakistan have fought two wars over Kashmir, and India accuses Pakistan of fomenting the rebellion. Pakistan says it supports the militants’ cause but denies giving them material aid.

The two largest opposition parties, Congress and People’s Democratic Party, had been expected to form a new ruling coalition by Thursday when the previous legislature’s term ended. But both parties want their leaders to be chief minister the most powerful post in an Indian state.


Residents flee as security forces enter battle zone

Heavily armed federal troops and police Thursday encircled a neighborhood in Medellin in an attempt to oust leftist rebels, who fought back with gunfire and booby traps as residents fled the fighting.

Soldiers, police and hooded informants searched homes, shops and bars for suspected rebels in an attempt to end the most violent outbreak of urban warfare in Colombia in almost two decades. The fighting poses a major challenge to President Alvaro Uribe’s campaign to bring order to his strife-torn country.

At least 20 suspects mostly young men were arrested after being identified by informants.