Runway-crash pilot praises crew

JUNO BEACH, Fla. - The pilot of an American Airlines Boeing 737-800 that overshot the runway Tuesday in Kingston, Jamaica, said yesterday that he was happy to be home with his family for the holidays, and praised his crew for their quick thinking and professionalism.

"This is the best Christmas," Capt. Brian Cole said.

Flight 331, arriving from Miami, skidded off the runway as it landed in heavy rain. Its fuselage cracked open as it lurched to a halt at the edge of the Caribbean. All 154 people aboard survived.

Cole walked away "pretty banged up" with bruises on his forearms, chest, and stomach. He said he could not speak further about the crash because of the investigation.

Investigators will receive flight-data recorder information this week, an official said. Work crews planned to remove the jet's tail late yesterday because it was blocking 900 feet of the runway. - AP

Attacks on Shiites kill 5 in Baghdad

BAGHDAD - A string of attacks yesterday against Shiite pilgrims in eastern Baghdad killed five, the latest violence to strike worshipers during the revered Ashura mourning observance.

Insurgents have targeted Shiite pilgrims, killing dozens and wounding more than 100 this week in an attempt to reignite sectarian violence.

The attacks began when a bomb was planted near a tent that offered drinks and food to pilgrims, a police official said. The blast killed three and injured 16, he said.

Hours later, a bomb exploded in eastern Baghdad near a line of parked minibuses that were carrying pilgrims to the holy city of Karbala, killing two people and injuring seven, officials said. Minutes later, an attacker hurled a hand grenade into another tent full of pilgrims elsewhere in eastern Baghdad, injuring six, a police official said. - AP

Scientists: Volcano could still erupt

LEGAZPI, Philippines - Fewer earthquakes have been recorded in the Philippines' lava-spilling Mayon volcano, but magma continues to build up inside, and any lull in activity could be followed by a bigger eruption, scientists said yesterday.

A hazardous eruption remains possible within days, and residents who live near the volcano's slopes should not be misled into leaving the evacuation centers, where they spent Christmas, and venturing back to their homes, volcanologist Ed Laguerta warned.

More than 47,000 people living within a five-mile danger zone have fled to the centers. But soldiers are still trying to evacuate several hundred residents who have refused to leave home, said Capt. Razaleigh Bansawan, a military spokesman. - AP

Elsewhere:

The governor, 86, of a southern Indian state resigned yesterday, a day after a TV news channel broadcast a tape allegedly showing him in bed with three women, an official said. Gov. Narain Dutt Tiwari's office denied the allegation and said the tape was fabricated.

Bolivian President Evo Morales said he planned to make it legal for Bolivia's farmers to grow small parcels of coca plants. Morales has clashed with Washington over his efforts to allow some coca growing.