Colombian rebels offer to free six

BOGOTA, Colombia - Colombia's FARC guerrillas are offering to free an ex-governor, a former lawmaker and four other hostages to help jump-start talks on a prisoner swap, local news media reported yesterday.

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia said in a statement that the release would happen soon but did not give a date, Radio Caracol reported.

The rebels said three unidentified police officers and a soldier will be freed first, followed by former Gov. Alan Jara of southern Meta state, who was kidnapped in July 2001; and Valle del Cauca regional lawmaker Sigifredo Lopez, held since April 2002.

The FARC released six politicians in January and February. In July, a military operation freed 15 high-profile hostages, including three U.S. contractors and former presidential candidate Ingrid Betancourt.

- AP

Scotland marks Flight 103 attack

LONDON - Ceremonies were held yesterday in the Scottish town of Lockerbie to mark the 20th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103, in which 270 people were killed. More than 150 people attended a wreath-laying at Dryfesdale Cemetery.

Two churches in the area held services to coincide with the moment the plane came down. Services are also being held at Heathrow Airport in London and in the United States. All 259 people on board the flight from Heathrow to New York were killed when a bomb exploded on the plane as it flew over Lockerbie. Eleven others died on the ground.

Libyan secret agent Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi is the sole person to have been convicted of the bombing, but he has won the right to appeal his conviction by convincing judges that a "miscarriage of justice" may have occurred during his trial. Al-Megrahi, who is suffering from incurable prostate cancer, is due to have his appeal heard next year.

- AP

Mexican soldiers among 12 killed

ACAPULCO, Mexico - Authorities found the decapitated bodies of 12 men in the southern state of Guerrero yesterday, and some of the victims have been identified as soldiers.

State Public Safety Secretary Juan Salinas Altes said nine bodies were found on a major boulevard in the state capital, Chilpancingo, just a few hundred yards from where the state governor participated in a traditional religious procession later in the day. Three more decapitated bodies were found in a nearby village.

Mexican drug cartels have increasingly taken to chopping off the heads of their victims. The bodies were found spread along the length of the boulevard, and nearby a sign was found that read "for every one of mine that you kill, I will kill 10."

- AP

Elsewhere:

The deposed president

of Mauritania was set free yesterday after 41/2 months under house arrest and immediately began working to retake power from the junta that overthrew him, a spokesman said. Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi was meeting with supporters and plans to "fight for his legitimate power to be restored," said Kaber Ould Hamoudi, the president's chief of staff.