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CRASH KILLS 38: A Sri Lankan military plane crashed and exploded after taking off from an airstrip in rebel-held territory Friday, and all 38 soldiers aboard were killed. The pilot of the twin-engine Avro propeller aircraft reported the left engine had caught fire before it crashed. Military officials said they suspected a technical fault, but did not rule out an attack by separatist rebels fighting for a Tamil homeland. The plane was flying from the Palali military base in Jaffna district to the capital, Colombo, 190 miles to the south, when it crashed in an area controlled by the army. Nineteen soldiers also died Friday in a battle with Tamil rebels avenging an attack a day earlier that killed at least 18 rebels.

FIREBALL: Natural gas began flowing again through a repaired pipeline in northern Russia Friday, about 30 hours after an explosion sent a pillar of flame skyward, the ITAR-Tass news agency reported. Officials of Gazprom, the Russian gas monopoly, said a 97-foot section of pipe had been replaced, ITAR-Tass reported. No injuries were reported in the explosion, which occurred near the town of Ukhta, 600 miles northeast of Moscow. A Japan Air Lines pilot and his passengers spotted the huge fireball as they passed over the area en route to Tokyo. One passenger called it "brighter than anything I've ever seen" and said "it was as if the sun was climbing upward."

Across the nation

EXECUTED: A man who broke into the home of a disabled acquaintance and killed him with an ax during a robbery was executed in the Alabama electric chair early Friday. Willie Clisby was convicted of killing 58-year-old Fletcher Handley with two chops to the head during a 1979 break-in at his Birmingham home. He stole six old silver-certificate bills, collectors' items with a face value of $80. Handley had to use crutches because of a foot injury suffered in a car accident. He had worked with Clisby at a cemetery.

STUDENT KILLS SELF: A high school senior distraught over a poor grade committed suicide, police in Lebanon, Tenn., said. Authorities found a suicide note written on the back of Nick Allen's report card. "He was really a good student, but there was one grade in particular which showed a substantial deduction from his grade (in the) last six weeks," Sheriff Terry Ashe said Thursday. The 17-year-old's parents reported him missing Tuesday evening, and his body was found Wednesday at a boat ramp near his home. He killed himself with a gunshot, police said.

In Washington

LIFE PRESERVERS: Starting Monday, wearable life preservers will be required for everyone aboard small boats - even canoes. The new Coast Guard regulation, issued in 1993, takes effect May 1. It requires boats under 16 feet in length to carry a wearable life preserver for each occupant. Seat cushions with straps and other types of flotation devices will no longer count in meeting the federal requirement that everyone aboard a recreational vessel have a flotation device, the agency said.