Human Remains Found

In Nigerian Cult Shrines

LAGOS, Nigeria -- Police in eastern Nigeria discovered skulls and corpses of more than 50 people in shrines where a secretive cult was believed to have carried out traditional ritual killings, a police spokesman said Thursday.

Two religious leaders and 28 others were arrested in connection with the discovery Wednesday of bleached skulls, fresh corpses and others partly mummified at 20 shrines in forests near the town of Okija, said the spokesman, Kolapo Shofoluwe.

The town is in the eastern state of Anambra.

Police believe some of the victims -- businessmen, civil servants and others -- may have been poisoned as part of a shadowy ritual justice system, Shofoluwe added.

The group is believed to practice a ritual in which parties to a personal dispute, often over business deals, are made to drink a potion that they are told will kill only the guilty party.

AFRICA

* KHARTOUM, Sudan -- Sudan and the United Nations have agreed on a plan to tackle the humanitarian crisis in Darfur and avert sanctions threatened against the country by the U.N. Security Council, a U.N. envoy said.

About 30,000 people are estimated to have been killed and 2.2 million are in urgent need of food, medicine and shelter in the western Darfur region, where two main rebel groups launched a revolt last year complaining of official neglect.

ASIA

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Authorities have charged an Afghan man with killing four foreign journalists in Afghanistan as the former Taliban regime collapsed at the end of 2001, a prosecutor said.

The man, identified as Reza Khan, faces charges including murder, rape and highway robbery over the incident, Gen. Abdul Fatah, a prosecutor attached to the Afghan intelligence service, told the Associated Press.

The journalists were traveling in a convoy from the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad to Kabul when a group of armed men dragged them from their cars and shot them dead on Nov. 19, 2001.

* SRINAGAR, India -- Muslim militants killed nine Indian paramilitary troops in an attack on a paramilitary camp in divided Kashmir, hours before India and Pakistan, which both claim the region, began a round of peace talks.

Wednesday night's attack on the heavily guarded camp in an expensive residential district of Srinagar, the summer capital of Indian Kashmir, came just as the soldiers were sitting down to dinner, police said.

EUROPE

* MOSCOW -- A bill to end a number of Soviet-era benefits for the elderly and disabled, including free transportation and medicine, won quick approval in the lower house of Russia's parliament Thursday, making the measure almost certain to become law.

The measure calls for replacing such benefits with monthly cash payments, but critics say the promised stipends, from $5 to $55 a month, won't make up for the lost benefits. Critics question whether the payments will be made properly by Russia's notoriously inefficient bureaucrats.

* SARAJEVO, Bosnia -- Forensics experts working in suffocating heat in a pit of rotting human flesh have found more than 120 complete bodies of Muslims killed by Serbs in a mass grave in eastern Bosnia, a team leader said.

* BISHKEK, Kyrgyzstan -- Five Czech climbers trying to conquer one of Kyrgyzstan's highest peaks were swept to their deaths in an avalanche, their tour operator said. A sixth climber was injured.

The mountain, whose Kyrgyz name means Lord of Spirits, is 22,998 feet high and the third-highest peak in the country.

THE AMERICAS

* LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Around 100 jobless tin miners attacked Bolivia's state mining company headquarters in downtown La Paz with dynamite in the latest episode of unrest in the fragile democracy.

The miners, who have illegally occupied one of the country's main tin mines for the last three months, blasted open the front door to demand the release of their leader from jail before police repelled them with tear gas.

* ASUNCION, Paraguay -- Children across Paraguay returned to school after a three-day period of national mourning for the 45 youngsters and more than 400 adults killed by a weekend fire at a supermarket in Asuncion.

At least 464 people were reported killed in Sunday's fire, which swept through the three-story building on the outskirts of the Paraguayan capital at midday, causing a floor to collapse and burning some bodies beyond recognition.

-- From News Services