U.S. Warplanes Attack

Taliban Fighters' Camp

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- U.S. warplanes helped Afghan forces pound Taliban militants in the mountains of southern Afghanistan Tuesday, killing about 20 suspected insurgents at a recently discovered camp, an Afghan commander said.

The three-hour battle occurred in Kandahar province, provincial military commander Khan Mohammed said. About 150 Afghan troops attacked the camp, sparking a three-hour gun battle, he said.

"After that, U.S. warplanes came and started bombing the Taliban area," Khan said. "U.S. forces told us that they had seen the bodies of about 20 dead Taliban."

U.S. military officials in Kabul had no immediate comment.

ASIA

* TOKYO -- Japanese police Wednesday raided homes and businesses linked to a Frenchman suspected of al Qaeda connections and arrested four foreigners. Investigators searched 10 locations around Japan, including Tokyo and a northern city where Lionel Dumont, a French citizen with a history of violent crime, worked as a car salesman.

* SEOUL -- South Korea's former spy chief and five others convicted of sending cash to North Korea illegally to ensure a landmark summit would take place will be among 1,137 people pardoned Wednesday in an annual event marking Buddha's birthday, the government said.

Early Wednesday, generals from North and South Korea met just north of the Demilitarized Zone for talks aimed at averting naval skirmishes, South Korean officials said.

* KARACHI, Pakistan -- A parcel bomb exploded Tuesday at a container terminal in the port of Karachi, killing one person and wounding four, officials said.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* JERUSALEM -- Israel and the Palestinians have begun contacts on an Israeli withdrawal from the Gaza Strip with Egypt as a go-between, officials said. At a meeting with the Egyptian intelligence chief, Omar Suleiman, on Monday, Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon for the first time expressed readiness to coordinate a proposed pullback with the Palestinians, even if indirectly or at a low level, according to a senior official. The Palestinian leader, Yasser Arafat, who also met with Suleiman on Monday, indicated he too was ready to deal, saying he would prepare a security blueprint for Gaza by June 15, the official said.

EUROPE

* LONDON -- Al Qaeda has more than 18,000 potential terrorists scattered around the world, and the war in Iraq is swelling its ranks, a research group said. Osama bin Laden's network appears to be operating in more than 60 nations, often in concert with local allies, and is probably working on plans for major attacks on the United States and Europe, the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual survey.

* PARIS -- David Courtailler, a French convert to Islam with links to suspected Madrid train bomber Jamal Zougam, was sentenced to two years in prison for abetting a network of Islamic terrorists in Europe. The court sentenced another Frenchman to a seven-year term and an Algerian to 10 years in the case.

* HELSINKI -- Harri Holkeri, the U.N. chief in Kosovo, quit for health reasons after less than a year on the job.

-- From News Services