Other items: 2 colonels arrested in planting of bomb; 1 dead in bombing at popular tourist spot; Train strikes herd of elephants, killing 3.

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Sydney, Australia

An extremely powerful earthquake struck the ocean floor between Australia and Antarctica early today, causing buildings to shake hundreds of miles away on the island of Tasmania, authorities said. There were no reports of damage or injuries.

The magnitude 8.1 quake hit 305 miles north of Macquarie Island, according to the U.S. Geological Survey’s Web site.

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“If it happened underneath a population center in Australia, this would probably have destroyed a whole city,” said Cvetan Sinadinovski of Geoscience Australia.

An 8.4 magnitude tremor that struck off the coast of Peru on June 23, 2001, killed 74.

Manila, Philippines

2 colonels arrested in planting of bomb

The Philippine military has arrested two colonels for planting a bomb at a stock-exchange building as part of a plot to overthrow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, security officials said yesterday.

An intelligence official told Reuters the colonels were taken into custody after a bomb was found at one of two stock-exchange buildings in Manila on Wednesday morning as 300,000 people poured into the streets of Manila for the funeral cortege of film idol and former presidential challenger Fernando Poe.

Poe, the hero of 200 films, came within 3 percent of defeating Arroyo as president in May’s election, despite being a political novice with a vague economic agenda.

The military official said the two arrested officers being interrogated had close links with Poe and former President Joseph Estrada, who was ousted after street protests about graft.

Bangkok, Thailand

1 dead in bombing at popular tourist spot

A bomb hidden in a motorcycle killed one person and wounded six outside a bank in Thailand’s largely Muslim southern states today, police and hospital officials said.

The bomb went off at a Siam Commercial Bank branch in Sungai Kolok, a busy tourist town in Narathiwat province on the border with Malaysia, police said.

There have been other explosions in the town, popular with Malaysian tourists for its bars and brothels, since violence erupted in the Thai south in January.

Altogether, about 500 people have been killed this year in the three provinces of Pattani, Narathiwat and Yala which once were part of an Islamic sultanate annexed by mainly Buddhist Thailand a century ago.

Colombo, Sri Lanka

Train strikes herd of elephants, killing 3

A train plowed into a herd of wild elephants in central Sri Lanka yesterday, killing three of the animals, a railroad official said.

The train’s engine derailed in the accident, but nobody aboard the train was hurt. The train had been carrying about 500 passengers at the time of the accident.

Sri Lanka was home to 10,000 to 15,000 elephants a century ago but today only 3,000 are left largely because of poaching and loss of habitat.


2 assassins to serve time in Russian jail

Two Russian intelligence agents convicted by a Qatar court of assassinating a Chechen rebel leader yesterday arrived back in Russia, where the Kremlin had requested they be allowed to serve out their life sentences.

The Russian government had requested that the agents, who were convicted in June for killing Zelimkhan Yandarbiyev, be allowed to serve out their life sentences in Russia, an unnamed foreign ministry official told the official Qatari news agency.

Relations between Russia and the oil-rich Gulf state closely allied to the United States have been strained since Yandarbiyev, a rebel leader and former president in Chechnya, was killed in an explosion while driving from a mosque in Doha on Feb. 13.


Gunmen opened fire on a public bus in northern Honduras late yesterday, killing at least 23 passengers and wounding 16 others, police said.

The shooting took place in the northern Atlantic city of Chamelecón, 125 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa, said police spokesman Deputy Commissioner Wilmer Torres.

Thieves stealing fuel from a pipeline near the city of Lagos in Nigeria set it ablaze as they fled from police, and at least 20 people died in the fire, authorities said yesterday.

Thieves often steal heavily subsidized fuel from pipelines for personal use or to sell in Nigeria, Africa’s leading oil producer, the world’s seventh-biggest exporter and fifth-biggest source of U.S. oil imports.

Communist rebels ambushed two separate army patrols in western Nepal, sparking gunbattles that killed at least 34 people, including five civilians, the army said yesterday.

The rebels, who say they are inspired by Chinese revolutionary leader Mao Zedong, have been fighting since 1996 to replace Nepal’s monarchy with a communist state, and have launched bolder attacks in recent months. More than 10,500 people have died since the fighting began.