Rival Afghan Warlords

Clash in Herat Province

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Fighters loyal to rival factional leaders clashed in western Afghanistan Saturday, sending tanks into the streets of a regional capital in the latest jolt to the country's shaky security before national elections. By one estimate, more than 20 fighters were killed.

The U.S. military expressed concern about the violence, but showed no sign of intervening. So far, U.S.-trained Afghan army troops were also staying out of the fight, a sign of the central government's weakness in extending its control over the country.

The clashes pitched forces loyal to Herat Gov. Ismail Khan, one of the country's most powerful faction leaders, against rivals in the north, east and south of the province.


* LOURDES, France -- Pope John Paul II, calling himself a sick man among the sick, visited a premier Roman Catholic shrine and urged society not to cast aside the old and the suffering.

The 84-year-old pope, racked by Parkinson's disease and arthritis, looked weak on the first day of a 32-hour trip to the southwestern French city where the Virgin Mary is said to have appeared to the peasant girl Bernadette Soubirous in 1858.

"With you I share a time of life marked by physical suffering, yet not for that reason any less fruitful in God's wondrous plan," the pope said in remarks read for him by a French cardinal.

* MADRID -- A man who said he was a former Moroccan royal aide and who faced counterfeiting charges in France has been found shot dead on Spain's Costa del Sol, an Interior Ministry source said.

The body of Hicham Mandari, a critic of Morocco's royal family who said he had been a financial adviser to late King Hassan II, was found with a bullet wound in his head in a parking lot in the southern resort of Fuengirola on Aug. 4, the source said.

* PARIS -- Vandals drew a swastika and wrote "Death to the Jews" on a wall in front of Paris's Notre Dame cathedral, the first such desecration in the capital after similar attacks in eastern France.

Police said they had no information about who was behind the vandalism. Paris Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger said it looked like an adolescent provocation. The facade of the Gothic cathedral, one of the best-known churches in the Catholic world, was untouched, police said.

The AMericas

* SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic -- Six members of the Dominican navy were arrested for allegedly accepting bribes to allow a boatload of migrants to depart for Puerto Rico on an ill-fated trip that left some 55 people dead or missing, navy officials said.

Three officers and three sailors were arrested late Friday and will be tried in a naval court, said Col. Sandy Tejaba, a spokesman.

* SAN SALVADOR -- A bus careened off a mountain highway and toppled into a ravine in eastern El Salvador, killing 34 people and injuring 24 others, authorities said.

The bus left the community of Guatajiagua and was headed to hot-water springs popular with tourists near the border with Honduras. The crash occurred on a two-lane highway outside the village of Nacaspilo, 80 miles northeast of the capital.


* HANOI -- Vietnam stepped up culling poultry in a southern province where a woman was confirmed to have died of H5N1 bird flu, the same strain that killed 24 people in Asia earlier this year. Vietnam's Health Ministry said two other people had died of bird flu this month.

The Middle East

* GAZA CITY -- More than 100 unemployed university graduates stormed a Palestinian Authority building in a Gaza Strip refugee camp, calling on the Palestinian leadership to provide them with jobs. The incident, which ended peacefully after about two hours, was the latest sign of discontent with the Palestinian Authority.

-- From News Services