Spain to hold election in March

Spain will hold general elections on March 9, four years after Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero's Socialist Party unexpectedly won in the wake of terrorist bombings in Madrid that killed 191 people.

Zapatero announced the date after a parliamentary session in Madrid yesterday, Efe news agency reported. Congress will be dissolved on Jan. 14, a government spokesman said. Zapatero has led a minority government since his party won a plurality in the March 14, 2004, election, defeating the People's Party.

Voters turned against then- Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar's party after Aznar's government blamed the Basque terrorist group ETA for the March 11 bombings even as evidence came out indicating Islamist terrorists were the true culprits.

- Bloomberg News

Five killed; drug figures suspected

MEXICO CITY - Five decapitated or mutilated bodies have surfaced around the Mexican capital in recent days in what authorities believe may be the work of drug smugglers retaliating for a major cocaine seizure at the airport last week.

The killings are the latest in a spasm of violence that has convulsed Mexico this year, as the government has led a massive crackdown on drug traffickers and as the major cartels battle among themselves for control of smuggling routes.

Federal agents last Friday seized a half-ton of cocaine at the airport that had entered Mexico on a flight from Colombia. They found 500 packages of the drug hidden in a cargo shipment.

- Los Angeles Times

4 die, 15 held in clash in Iran

TEHRAN, Iran - Police and security forces killed four members of a Sunni militant group and detained 15 suspects in a shoot-out in the southeastern province of Sistan-Baluchistan, Iranian state media reported yesterday.

The initial report said police and intelligence officers killed four men described as "leaders of a terrorist group." The state news agency IRNA subsequently confirmed they were part of Jundallah, or God's Brigade, which has attacked Iranian troops in the past and is known to be active in the province.

While some believe the group has al-Qaeda links, Iran has previously accused the United States of backing militants and ethnic opposition groups to destabilize the government. Sunnis are a minority in mainly Shiite Iran.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Parties supporting Kyrgyzstan's

president swept parliamentary elections, according to final results released yesterday, excluding the opposition from parliament and raising the risk of political clashes in a country that hosts a U.S. air base.

A judge acquitted

the only man charged with murder in Northern Ireland's deadliest terrorist attack, the 1998 car bombing that killed 29 people in the town of Omagh. Judge Reginald Weir said he was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Sean Hoey was the bomb-maker behind the attack carried out by the dissident Irish Republican Army group, the Real IRA.