Pirates thwarted in Gulf of Aden

CAIRO, Egypt - A German military helicopter foiled an attempt by pirates yesterday to seize an Egyptian ship off the coast of Somalia, swooping in to drive off the attackers after being alerted by a passing vessel.

The German success comes as more countries are sending warships to patrol off the chaotic Horn of Africa nation and the United States is pressing for more assertive action against pirates, who have disturbed traffic on one of the world's most important sea routes.

The Egyptian bulk carrier, Wadi al-Arab, with a crew of 31, was passing through the Gulf of Aden between Yemen and Somalia to deliver wheat to Asia when gun-toting pirates in a speedboat began pursuing it, said Noel Choong of the International Maritime Bureau's piracy-reporting center. A passing ship alerted the bureau, which asked a multinational naval coalition force in the area to help, Choong said.

- AP

Zimbabwean activist missing

HARARE, Zimbabwe - A Zimbabwean peace activist held in an alleged plot to overthrow President Robert Mugabe has gone missing again, a leading human-rights lawyer said yesterday.

Human Rights Watch called for the immediate release of Jestina Mukoko, saying the charges "seem politically motivated." The plot Mukoko is accused of has been widely dismissed as fabricated, and possibly an attempt by Mugabe's regime to find an excuse to declare a state of emergency. Mugabe has faced growing international pressure to step down.

Zimbabwean lawyer Beatrice Mtetwa said police had refused to comply with a judicial order late Wednesday that Mukoko be taken to a hospital so that allegations of torture could be investigated. Mukoko had been missing for three weeks before she appeared in court Wednesday, and police said they were not holding her.

- AP

NYC man killed on Austrian slope

VIENNA, Austria - Austrian police said an avalanche in western Austria has killed a New York City resident.

Police in Vorarlberg province said the man, 28, died Wednesday when he was buried while skiing in the Arlberg ski region. His body was found buried under 3.9 feet of snow at an altitude of 7,218 feet, they said. He was part of a guided group.

Police said yesterday that the man held both U.S. and British citizenship. Officials declined to provide more details about his identity, citing Austria's strict privacy law.

Fatal avalanches are common in the Austrian Alps during the winter. Last Sunday, avalanches killed three German ski tourists.

- AP

Elsewhere:

Sixty-five elementary school

students in Hohhot, a regional capital in northern China, were poisoned by carbon monoxide after smoke from a dormitory boiler seeped into their rooms, state media reported yesterday. Carbon monoxide detectors are not required in schools in China, though the Education Ministry last year suggested that schools that use coal heating should install them.