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U.S. raid into Syria targeted Iraqi militant

WASHINGTON: A raid into Syria on Sunday was conducted by U.S. Special Operations forces who killed an Iraqi militant responsible for smuggling weapons, money and foreign fighters across the border into Iraq, U.S. officials said yesterday. The helicopter-borne attack into Syria was by far the boldest by U.S. commandos in the five years since the United States invaded Iraq and began to condemn Syria's role in stoking the Iraqi insurgency. In justifying the attack, U.S. officials said the Bush administration was determined to operate under an expansive definition of self-defense that provided a rationale for strikes on militant targets in sovereign nations without those countries' consent. The attack targeted an Iraqi known as Abu Ghadiyah. It was unclear whether Ghadiya died near his tent on the battlefield or after he was taken into U.S. custody, one senior U.S. official said.

White House explores aid for GM, Chrysler

The Bush administration is examining a range of options for providing emergency financial help to spur a merger between General Motors and Chrysler, according to government officials. People familiar with the discussions said the administration wanted to provide financial assistance to the deeply troubled Big Three Detroit automakers, possibly by using the Treasury Department's wide-ranging authority under the $700 billion bailout program that Congress approved this month. Another option under consideration is to tap a $25 billion loan program that Congress just created to help the auto companies modernize their plants. A third option would involve going back to Congress, immediately after the Nov. 4 election, for authority to spend money designated specifically for the auto industry. But officials have not yet decided how much assistance to provide or how to structure any aid program. GM and Chrysler's parent company, Cerberus Capital Management, are in talks to possibly merge the two companies. People close to the talks said GM needs between $5 billion and $10 billion in assistance, mainly to cover GM's needs between now and the time of a merger.

Random searches due on D.C. Metro system

WASHINGTON: The Washington area's subway and bus system announced yesterday that it will begin randomly searching passengers' bags as part of an initiative to deter terrorist attacks. It is the first time the Metro transit system has conducted such a program, officials said. Amtrak and transit systems in New York, Boston and New Jersey conduct similar searches. Metro is starting the searches partly because of events surrounding the presidential inauguration. But Metro General Manager John Catoe said the move is "not a response to any new or specific threat." Passengers' carry-on items will be searched before they enter the fare gates. Each inspection is expected to last no longer than 15 seconds.

2 students are killed in shooting at Ark. college

CONWAY, Ark.: A shooting that left two students dead at the University of Central Arkansas did not appear to be random, authorities said yesterday as the school's president pronounced the campus secure. Three people are being questioned, but no one has been charged in Sunday night's shooting, which wounded a third person at the 12,500-student campus. Although investigators have not determined a motive for the shooting, campus police Lt. Preston Grumbles said, "It does not seem at this time that it was a random act." Interim President Tom Courtway canceled classes yesterday but said they would resume today, saying the campus is safe. The victims were shot in an alley between a dormitory and the Snow Fine Arts Center. One victim died on the sidewalk; police said; the others rushed into the dorm, where paramedics found them.

Drug cartel infiltrated Mexican AG office

MEXICO CITY: A major drug cartel has infiltrated the Mexican attorney general's office and might have paid a spy inside the U.S. Embassy for details of DEA operations, Mexican prosecutors said yesterday. The Drug Enforcement Administration's intelligence chief expressed concern about the alleged spy's claims but said he couldn't confirm that the embassy had been infiltrated and that it was too early to pull out undercover agents for fear their identities might have been compromised. Mexican Attorney General Eduardo Medina Mora said five officials of his Organized Crime unit were arrested on allegations that they served as informants for the Beltran-Leyva cartel.

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