Rebel Forces Withdraw

From Congo Border City

BUKAVU, Congo -- U.N. peacekeepers took control of a strategic eastern Congolese city Friday as rebel soldiers withdrew and President Joseph Kabila attempted to calm the nation after the largest and most violent protests since he took office.

Laurent Nkunda, a rebel general, said most of his forces had completed their pullout and U.N. peacekeepers were now controlling Bukavu, a trading center on the border with Rwanda. He said only a few officers and their bodyguards remained, and they would leave Saturday for camps nine miles away.

U.N. armored trucks and helicopters patrolled Bukavu on Friday afternoon. U.N. workers also returned to the city, looking to set up a camp to provide aid to residents. The world body reported a major disruption to humanitarian efforts when Congolese looted U.N. World Food Program offices across the country on Thursday to protest the fall of Bukavu.

In Kinshasa, the capital 930 miles to the southwest, Kabila spoke on state television Thursday and Friday to try to calm the nation after two days of nationwide protests, the largest since 1997. Violent demonstrations resumed for a few hours Friday in the capital, although on a smaller scale.

Europe

* MOSCOW -- A powerful bomb blast ripped through a crowded outdoor market in central Russia, killing at least eight people and wounding 37, Russian emergency officials said.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the blast at the Kirov market in Samara, Russia's sixth-largest city, or indications whether it was connected to terrorism or a violent commercial dispute. Regional prosecutor Alexander Yefremov said the bomb was made from plastic explosives.

The Americas

* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- The toll of dead and missing from floods that ravaged parts of Haiti and the Dominican Republic was set at more than 3,300 as aid workers reached the most remote areas.

In Haiti, the official death toll was at 1,191 and the number of missing at 1,484. The figures on the Dominican side of the border were 395 dead and 274 missing. That brought the overall toll to at least 3,344 from flooding caused by days of rain in the border area of the island of Hispaniola nearly two weeks ago.

Asia

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- U.S.-led forces backed by warplanes killed 17 Taliban fighters in a fierce battle in the southern Afghan heartland of the former ruling militia, the U.S. military confirmed. Three Marines were wounded slightly.

Afghan officials said earlier that 13 guerrillas were killed and eight were wounded and captured in the fighting, which began late Wednesday in the mountains of Kandahar province and ended Thursday.

Africa

* LAGOS, Nigeria -- Soldiers in gunboats clashed with ethnic militants in the rivers of Nigeria's oil delta, and militants and villagers claimed that dozens of fighters and civilians were killed. A navy spokesman denied there were casualties.

-- From News Services