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2 Palestinians indicted in slaying of American

JERUSALEM (AP) -- Israeli authorities indicted two Palestinians on Wednesday in the killing of an American woman late last year, saying the men had confessed to the slaying and were also linked to another death and attacks aimed at Israelis.

Kristine Luken, 44, was stabbed to death in December while hiking with a friend in a forest outside Jerusalem. Her attackers killed her because they believed that Luken, a Christian missionary, was Jewish, according to the indictment. The killing drew attention in Israel, coming at a time of relative quiet and taking place in a popular hiking spot not far from Jerusalem. Police said they had the suspects in custody within a day of the killing but imposed a gag order when they realized the men were linked to a longer string of attacks and other crimes.

Luken, who was involved with a group that promotes Christianity among Jews, lived for most of the last two decades in northern Virginia. An attorney for the family, Michael Decker, said her parents were in Texas. They were "happy that suspects have been found," Decker said.


20 miners feared dead in methane gas blast

BOGOTA, Colombia (AP) -- An explosion believed to have been caused by a methane gas buildup rocked an underground coal mine during a shift change early Wednesday, and authorities feared that 20 workers were killed. A similar fatal blast happened at the same mine four years ago.

Four of the victims died just outside the entrance, said Gabriel Tamayo, manager of the La Preciosa mine in Sardinata, 255 miles northeast of this capital city.

He said 16 other miners trapped inside were also believed to have died in the explosion.

Tamayo would not speculate on the cause, but Colombian Red Cross rescue chief Carlos I. Marquez said preliminary indications pointed to a methane gas buildup.

Methane gas was also believed to be the cause of an explosion at La Preciosa in 2007 that killed 32 miners.


Pope cites Joan of Arc as model for officials

VATICAN CITY (AP) -- Pope Benedict XVI said Wednesday that public officials would do well to model themselves on Joan of Arc, the French saint who was tried for heresy and burned at the stake for her convictions.

Benedict highlighted the life of the 15th century mystic in his weekly general audience.

Joan of Arc led the French to several victories over the English during the Hundred Years War. She had said she heard voices from a trio of saints telling her to deliver France from the English.

She was tried for heresy and witchcraft and burned at the stake in 1431, though her conviction was later annulled. She was canonized in 1920 by Pope Benedict XV.

"Hers is a beautiful example of holiness for laypeople working in public life, particularly during the most difficult situations," Benedict XVI said.

Benedict expressed bitterness at how Joan of Arc had been treated by the church, saying her heresy trial was an "upsetting page" in church history.


Transport police chief is fired by Medvedev

MOSCOW (AP) -- President Dmitry A. Medvedev fired a federal transport police chief Wednesday and lashed out at "passive" officers who guard Russia's airports and rail stations after an airport suicide bombing killed 35 people.

Medvedev appeared eager to assert his power after Monday's attack at Moscow's Domodedovo Airport, which also left 180 people wounded.

He announced the firing shortly before leaving for the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he was determined to reassure world business leaders that Russia was a safe bet for their badly needed investment.

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