Taliban Captures Strategic Afghan City

KABUL, Afghanistan -- After fierce fighting, the hard-line Taliban militia captured the capital of Afghanistan's northern Parwan province yesterday, prompting thousands of people to flee their homes, witnesses said.

Charikar, Parwan's provincial capital, was almost deserted when Taliban fighters entered the city after defeating northern-based opposition soldiers, Taliban sources and witnesses said. The strategic city was the opposition's only remaining stronghold north of the country's capital, Kabul.

The opposition fighters took a heavy beating when the Taliban fighters attacked the city from two fronts, Taliban officials said. The Parwan-Bagram road was strewn with bodies and wrecked vehicles, witnesses said.

Deadly Mudslides, Flash Floods Hit Asia

SEOUL -- Heavy rains triggered mudslides and flash floods in South Korea, Vietnam and the Philippines, killing more than 60 people and forcing the evacuation of tens of thousands living in low-lying areas, officials said.

The rain also pounded North Korea, whose economy has been shattered by floods and droughts over the past four years. But few details were available of the damage there.

Meteorologists predict worse to come for South Korea, with a typhoon heading for the south coast.

E. Timor Voter Registration Called a Success

DILI, Indonesia -- The United Nations proclaimed the registration process for East Timor's independence referendum a success, despite sporadic violence in recent weeks.

With three days of registration remaining, the U.N. has registered 378,000 people for the Aug. 30 ballot, when East Timorese will choose between autonomy within Indonesia and full independence.


Protest Marks 1st Year of Congolese Civil War

KINSHASA, Congo -- More than 5,000 people marched through the streets of Kinshasa to protest fighting between the government and rebels on the first anniversary of the outbreak of Congo's civil war.

The march was organized by an association of anti-war groups to "prove to the country and the world that the Congolese people are tired of war," said Modeste Mutinga, head of the planning committee.

Mutinga appealed for an end to the fighting and the release of political prisoners to pave the way for an open and inclusive national dialogue.

Separatists Attack Namibian Town

KATIMA MULILO, Namibia -- Separatists tried to seize this small town on the northeastern edge of Namibia's Caprivi Strip, killing at least 16 people during attacks on local radio and police stations, officials said.

Police said some civilians, including a 5-year-old boy, were hurt in cross-fire. Nine men in civilian clothes were treated at a hospital under heavy police guard.

A dawn-to-dusk curfew was imposed, but sporadic shooting continued after dark. Government reinforcements flown in from the capital, Windhoek, regained control after heavy fighting for the radio station held by insurgents for about 12 hours.


1 Still Missing as Swiss Canyoning Resumes

INTERLAKEN, Switzerland -- Rescuers used an underwater camera to search for the last missing victim of the river disaster in the Swiss Alps, and tourists resumed jumping, sliding and rappelling down waterfalls in the extreme sport known as canyoning.

The bodies of 20 people killed last Tuesday in a flash flood during a canyoning excursion in the fast-running Saxeten brook have been recovered. Tourism officials said canyoning trips have resumed in other parts of the central Swiss mountain region, but not around Interlaken.

Mir Computer Accidentally Shut Down

MOSCOW A Mission Control officer monitoring the Mir accidentally shut down the space station s central computer, prompting the crew to speed up preparations to abandon it, officials said. The shutdown on Friday did not threaten the crew, but did knock the Mir out of alignment with the sun, said Irina Manshilina, a spokeswoman for Mission Control. Mission Control moved to speed up the installation of a new computer that is to control the station after its crew leaves this month. Its installation requires unplugging the central computer anyway, so a decision was made to take advantage of the breakdown and do the work earlier than scheduled, Manshilina said by telephone. Viktor Afanasyev, Sergei Avdeyev and Frenchman Jean-Pierre Haignere are scheduled to return to Earth on Aug. 28, leaving the station unmanned until February or March.


Poll: Many Voters Got Gifts From Ruling Party

MEXICO CITY -- One-third of the people who voted in an important gubernatorial election last month say they received gifts from the ruling party, which won the vote, a study shows.

Eighty percent of those who got handouts from the Institutional Revolutionary Party voted for the party in the July 4 gubernatorial elections in the state of Mexico, according to the poll. The party, known by its Spanish initials as the PRI, has held the presidency without interruption since 1929.

The study by Mori International, a private market research and public opinion firm based in Britain, is part of a broader analysis of the PRI's enduring hold on the country's voters.

PRI candidate Arturo Montiel Rojas won the election with 41 percent of the vote. The opposition parties complained that the PRI had offered gifts to get people to vote for the party. Some voters told surveyors they received scholarships and free groceries before the election.

Baseball Bumps Castro Speech

HAVANA -- There is not much that takes precedence over a speech by President Fidel Castro in Cuba. But when it comes to baseball -- especially a big game against arch-rival the United States -- even the "maximum leader" is prepared to give up the spotlight.

A keynote speech by Castro, scheduled to be broadcast live to the nation last night, was postponed until today so the sports-crazy islanders could watch the Pan American Games baseball final between Cuba and the United States. Cuba won, 5-1.


Netanyahu Now a Marketing Consultant

JERUSALEM -- Binyamin Netanyahu is back in business -- as a consultant to an Israeli high-tech company. The former prime minister has taken a job as strategic marketing consultant for BATM, an Israeli data communications engineering company.

"He will help us with our work in the United States and elsewhere and we think he has the talent to do the job," BATM president Tsvi Merom told Israel Television. Netanyahu's salary was not disclosed.


"My daughter preferred death to being tortured once again."

Duriye Oncel, mother of a Kurdish girl who killed herself in Turkey -- Page A10