Shelling of Mogadishu kills

hundreds, sends more felling

MOGADISHU, Somalia - Ethiopian forces backing Somalia's weak transitional government shelled anti-government insurgents in the capital for the fifth straight day yesterday, adding to the death and destruction and sending hundreds more families fleeing from the city.

Human rights organizations and health officials said 220 civilians were confirmed dead and 300 have been wounded since Thursday.

The shelling has been so intense that families have been unable to bring the wounded to hospitals or to collect those who died. In some parts of the city, decomposing corpses litter the streets.

Entire city blocks have been emptied in the fighting, as more than 320,000 people have fled Mogadishu since February.

Worse may be yet to come. Salad Ali Jelle, the Somali deputy defense minister, called on residents living in areas where insurgents are concentrated to leave their homes immediately, warning that they're about to come under attack. "People in Mogadishu should leave their homes near the strongholds of terrorists," he said. "We will crack down on insurgents and terrorists very soon."

Ethiopian forces, which the transitional government invited into the country, in late December overthrew an Islamist government that the Bush administration charged had given sanctuary to al Qaeda terrorists. But Ethiopia, an age-old rival to Somalia, has been unable to pacify the capital and has instead stirred some of the country's most powerful clans into all-out resistance.

Afghan forces say they have

Taliban bigs trapped in village

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - Afghan forces have trapped up to 200 Taliban fighters in a southern village, possibly including the militia's military commander, demanding they surrender or come under attack, Afghan officials said yesterday.

Afghan police and government officials said the suspected Taliban fighters were surrounded as they gathered for a meeting in the mountain village of Keshay in Uruzgan province on Saturday.

Provincial police chief Gen. Mohammad Qasim Khan said NATO troops were also involved in the siege, but NATO spokeswoman Lt. Col. Angela Billings said she had no such information.

Khan said Mullah Dadullah, a close aide to Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, and other regional Taliban commanders were at the meeting when the village was surrounded.

"We are trying to get him to surrender and to arrest these Taliban without fighting," he said.

Handpicked candidate wins;

rivals, observers are unhappy

ABUJA, Nigeria - A former chemistry professor handpicked by President Olusegun Obasanjo won Nigeria's presidential election in a landslide yesterday, a vote denounced as deeply flawed by international observers and the opposition.

Umaru Yar'Adua must now fight for credibility in Nigeria, Africa's largest oil producer, where some 15,000 people have been killed since strict military rule ended in 1999.

Yar'Adua, 56, a Muslim from the north of a country of 140 million people nearly equally split between northern Muslims and southern Christians, has spent most of his working life in academia, teaching chemistry at a university in his home state.

Though he favors Muslim robes and caps and presided over a state where Islamic law is practiced, he is not seen as a hard-liner or especially strong supporter of Islamic law. Yar'Adua has vowed to follow the program of Obasanjo, a southern Christian, which includes privatization and opposition to spreading Islamic law outside the north or implementing stringent punishments, like amputations and death for adulterers, in the north.

Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, the 1980s-era military leader who was the runner-up in Saturday's vote, called the outcome "the most blatantly rigged election results ever produced in Nigeria."

America's new U.N. envoy

takes over for Colton

UNITED NATIONS - Zalmay Khalilzad started his new job yesterday as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, with one ambassador on the Security Council saying he has to be better than his predecessor - John Bolton.

Khalilzad was confirmed by the Senate on March 29 by unanimous voice vote to replace Bolton, whose nomination by President Bush sparked a bruising Senate debate. Bolton resigned in December, weeks before his recess appointment was to expire.

When asked about Khalilzad as he headed into a Security Council meeting yesterday, South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo said with a smile, "He can't be as bad as Bolton."

Afterward, the South African envoy said he was just joking with friends - "but that is true anyway."

Britain's U.N. Ambassador Emyr Jones Parry, the current Security Council president, said he never talks about colleagues, adding only: "I'm looking forward to working with him."

Bolton arrived at the United Nations in August 2005 after being appointed by Bush during a congressional recess because he twice failed to be confirmed by the Senate. He was admired for trying to promote U.S. foreign policy and for being a skilled negotiator - but not for his often aggressive and abrasive style. *

- Daily News wire services