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Archive for Sunday, June 13, 2004

Briefly

June 13, 2004

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Saudi Arabia

Al-Qaida claims kidnapping, slaying of two Americans

Suspected militants killed an American Saturday in the Saudi capital, shooting him in the back as he parked in his home garage, and the U.S. Embassy said it was searching for an American who was missing.

A purported al-Qaida statement posted on an Islamic Web site late Saturday claimed the terror group had killed one American and kidnapped another in Riyadh. It threatened to treat the captive as U.S. troops treated Iraqi prisoners.

The slaying and apparent abduction were the latest attacks in a campaign of anti-Western violence in the kingdom, believed by many to be aimed at driving out foreigners as a way to sabotage the vital Saudi oil sector.

The U.S. Embassy identified the dead man as Kenneth Scroggs. It did not identify the missing American but said it was working with Saudi officials to find him.

Scroggs was the third Westerner killed in the kingdom in a week.

Afghanistan

U.S. Marines claim to have killed more than 80 militants

In the bloodiest fighting this year, U.S. Marines killed more than 80 insurgents in a three-week offensive against a Taliban stronghold in the mountains of southern Afghanistan, the military said Saturday.

The U.S. military insisted the battle was a victory that will help secure fall elections -- rather than a sign of the resilience of Taliban-led militants.

Two Marines were wounded in the fighting, the military said.

Some 2,000 Marines were sent to Afghanistan this spring, swelling the U.S.-dominated force to 20,000 -- its largest yet -- in an attempt to put rebels on the defensive ahead of September elections.

Los Angeles

Cassini spacecraft flies by Saturn's largest moon

The internationally built Cassini spacecraft completed a flyby of Saturn's largest outer moon as it prepared to enter a four-year orbit to study the ringed planet, NASA officials said Saturday.

The plutonium-powered spacecraft, which is carrying 12 science instruments and a probe, came within about 1,285 miles of the dark moon Phoebe on Friday, officials at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory said.

The $3.3 billion spacecraft pointed its instruments at the moon, then turned to point its antenna toward Earth. Its data reached NASA's Deep Space Network on Saturday morning.

Officials said the spacecraft was in excellent condition.

A crisp black-and-white photo of Phoebe, above, released Saturday looked somewhat like a skull with its overlapping shadows and craters.

Scientist believe Phoebe originated in the outer reaches of the solar system but later hurtled toward Saturn, where it was captured by gravity.

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