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HOSTAGES: Rebels hacked to death their two remaining hostages after a raid on their hideout in the New Guinea jungle freed nine others, the army said Thursday. An army special forces unit rescued six European and three Indonesian captives on Wednesday. The slain captives were Indonesians. Eight rebels were killed and two captured, the army said. Rebels kidnapped the hostages - members of a scientific research team - on Jan. 8 to press their demand for independence for the Indonesian-controlled western half of New Guinea, Irian Jaya.SENTENCED: An Egyptian court sentenced nine Muslim militants to up to 15 years in prison Thursday for plotting to kill two government ministers, the parliament speaker and others in a wave of assassinations to bring down the government. Fourteen defendants were acquitted in the case. On hearing the verdict, they shouted "God is great" and waved to their lawyers.

Across the nation

DEADLY TEST: A woman in Houston who needed three tries to pass her written driver's license exam stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake during her road test, killing two children at play and injuring her own daughter. Aurora Cano, 24, was completing the road test Wednesday and had pulled into a parking space near the license office. She had been told by her instructor, a state trooper, to put the gear shift of the Geo Prizm into park, said Sherri Green, a Department of Public Safety spokeswoman. As the trooper glanced at paperwork, the woman instead put the car into drive, and then stepped on the gas pedal instead of the brake. The car lurched forward, hopping a curb and pinning the three children against the wall of the Department of Public Safety office.

COUNTDOWN: The countdown began Thursday for a weekend liftoff of space shuttle Endeavour on a science mission. The six astronauts will release two satellites, and retrieve one of them, during the 10-day mission. One satellite contains an experimental antenna that will be inflated in orbit to roughly the size of a tennis court.