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1986 Afghanistan’s Communist Party chose security chief Najibullah, 39, as its new leader in a move western diplomats said was aimed at boosting its political and military campaign against Muslim resistance fighters. The central committee accepted ailing leader Babrak Karmal’s (third from left in photo) request to be replaced for health reasons as party general secretary, a post he held since the Soviet Union installed him in power in 1979. Diplomats said Karmal, 57, was believed to be under treatment for a lung ailment or possibly leukaemia. Karmal, remains as president of the Revolutionary Council, Afghanistan’s legislature, but the post should not carry much influence now it is divorced from the party leadership, the diplomats said. Najibullah, who probably replaces Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev as youngest head of a ruling Communist Party, was until last December head of the feared Khad secret police. Karmal’s sudden retirement only two months after speaking at the Soviet party congress in Moscow could be a result of the Kremlin’s dissatisfaction with the stalemated war.

Other important events

1626 Dutch explorer Peter Minuit landed on what is now Manhattan.

1776 Rhode Island declares its freedom from England.

1814 King Ferdinand VII of Spain abolishes the 1812 Constitution and returned Spain to an absolute monarchy.

1843 Great Britain annexes Natal.

1904 The United States begins construction of the Panama Canal.

1931 Mustafa Kemal Pasha becomes President of Turkey.

1945 German forces in the Netherlands, Denmark and northwest Germany agree to surrender during the Second World War.

1949 The entire Torino FC football team is killed in a plane crash near Turin, Italy.

1979 Margaret Thatcher becomes the first woman Prime Minister in the history of Britain.

1980 Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito dies at age 87.

1987 Prime Minister Rashid Karami announces his resignation that threatened to plunge war-torn Lebanon into a constitutional crisis.

1989 Tens of thousands of Chinese students march to Tiananmen Square calling for freedom and democracy.

1990 Latvia’s parliament declares independence from Soviet Union.

1990 Constantine Karamanlis is elected president of Greece.

1994 The Gaza-Jericho Agreement is signed, granting self-rule in the Gaza Strip and Jericho.

1996 Jose Maria Aznar becomes prime minister of Spain.

1999 Forty-five people are killed and hundreds more are missing or injured after three dozen tornadoes rammed into Oklahoma and Kansas.

2000 Londoners elect their mayor for the first time.

2002 A passenger plane of Nigeria’s private EAS Airlines crashes in northern city of Kano, killing 148 people.

2008 78,000 people are killed when tropical cyclone Nargis rips through Myanmar.

2009 Nepal’s Maoist Prime Minister Prachanda resigns after a crisis sparked by his sacking of the country’s army chief.

2011 Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas announces the signing of a reconciliation accord between Fatah and Hamas in Cairo.

2012 Saudi Arabia reopens its missions in Egypt after they were shut in the wake of angry protests.

2013 World Boxing Council champion Floyd Mayweather extends his perfect record to 44 victories, beating Robert Guerrero in their welterweight title fight.

2014 A passenger train derails on Konkan Railway route in Maharashtra’s Raigad district, India killing at least 12 people.