THAILAND: Tensions stepped up in Bangkok

Tensions escalated in the standoff between anti-government demonstrators and security forces as the army said Tuesday that deadly force could be used against protesters besieging the heart of Bangkok. The "Red Shirt" demonstrators reinforced defenses and prepared homemade weapons including sharpened bamboo poles and broken-up pavement stones. The protesters dropped plans to march into the central business district after soldiers in full combat gear were garrisoned there. A failed April 10 attempt by security forces to flush protesters from another location erupted into the worst political violence in Thailand in 18 years, leaving 25 people dead. The standoff now has shuttered 5-star hotels and glitzy shopping malls, costing merchants tens of millions of dollars, and threatens to damage Thailand's image as a tourist paradise.


Unarmed civilians killed

NATO troops fired on a vehicle that approached their convoy in eastern Afghanistan, killing four unarmed Afghans and drawing swift condemnation from President Hamid Karzai. NATO said two of those killed Monday night were identified later as "known insurgents," but Karzai and the provincial police chief insisted they were civilians and one was a 12-year-old boy. Also Monday, gunmen stormed a mosque and killed the deputy mayor of Kandahar as he knelt for evening prayers. Azizullah Yarmal, who was in his 50s, was shot through the head, a provincial official said.

ARGENTINA: Last dictator convicted

Argentina's last dictator was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison Tuesday for kidnappings and torture during the nation's 1976-1983 military regime. Reynaldo Bignone, 82, and five other former military officers were convicted in 56 cases involving torture, illegal detentions and other crimes in the Campo de Mayo army base. Human rights groups say that, of 4,000 dissidents taken to the base, about 50 emerged alive. The base had a clandestine maternity center where detained dissidents gave birth, only to have their babies taken away to be adopted by military families.

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