U.N. Expert Reprimands

U.S. on Afghan Prisons

KABUL, Afghanistan -- A U.N. human rights expert on Saturday slammed U.S. military authorities in Afghanistan for barring him from visiting detention centers and pronounced a Kabul prison "inhuman."

The U.S. refusal to allow people to see the facilities represents "a lack of transparency that raises serious concerns about the legality of detention . . . and conditions of those detainees," said the expert, Cherif Bassiouni.

Former prisoners say they were tortured and abused while in U.S. custody, raising concerns that the scandal over the mistreatment of prisoners at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison earlier this year was not an isolated episode.

The U.S. military, which had earlier this month been expected to release an internal report into allegations of prisoner abuse, turned down Bassiouni's request to visit centers where suspected militants are held.

Bassiouni was allowed to visit Kabul's notorious Pul-i-Charkhi jail, run by the Afghan authorities, where about 725 members of the Taliban militia and their Pakistani allies are being held.

EUROPE

* MADRID -- Small explosions rattled two towns in northwestern Spain, injuring four people, after a newspaper received a telephone call warning of an imminent attack in the name of the armed Basque separatist group ETA, officials said.

The blasts appeared to be the latest in a series of ETA attacks aimed at Spain's summer tourism business, marking a renewed campaign by the group after a long period of silence.

Four people were injured in the blast in Sanxenxo, a spokeswoman for the town hall said. The explosions, near a yacht club and a sailing school, sprayed broken glass that caused minor cuts. The other blast was in Baiona, where no one was hurt, regional officials told local news media. Neither blast caused significant material damage.

* MADRID -- Four sub-Saharan Africans trying to immigrate illegally drowned 20 feet from shore at the same Spanish beach where 33 would-be immigrants died last week, state radio said.

Another 34 who crossed the Atlantic waters between northwest Africa and Spain's Canary Islands were rescued by police, state radio said, citing police sources.

Survivors said the victims jumped in the water believing it was shallow enough to walk ashore.

* MOSCOW -- Gunmen attacked a police station and polling sites in the Chechen capital, killing several people eight days before a special election to replace the region's assassinated president, according to Russian news agencies.

There were conflicting casualty reports. The Interfax news agency reported that between 10 and 15 people -- civilians, police officers and the gunmen -- died. The Russian Tass news agency reported that two officers were killed and six civilians wounded.

* GENEVA -- Swiss investigators have established a link between at least three Arabs detained in a nationwide anti-terror sweep and a purported al Qaeda member.

The Geneva daily Le Temps said it obtained a copy of a document written by Deputy Federal Prosecutor Claude Nicati in which he detailed his case against 10 people arrested in raids since December and ordered the launch of preliminary judicial proceedings. Five suspects have been released but remain under investigation.

* LONDON -- Police are investigating whether a serial hammer killer is targeting women in London after a French woman was bludgeoned to death in circumstances similar to other attacks.

The attack bore similarities to three other assaults in the neighborhood in the past two years, all of which left female victims with severe head injuries.

AFRICA

* KINSHASA, Congo -- A Congolese presidential delegation expected to visit South Africa for talks with former rebels has canceled the trip, a senior government official said.

Bene M'Poko, Congo's ambassador to Pretoria, said a visit to discuss Congo's peace process was not necessary because South African President Thabo Mbeki would go to Kinshasa "with a big delegation" later this month.

South Africa brokered the months of talks that officially ended the five-year war in 2003. The conflict involved six neighboring countries at its peak and killed more than 3 million people, mostly from hunger and disease.

the MIDDLE EAST

* AMMAN, Jordan -- Crown Prince Hamzeh of Jordan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terror, urged reforms in Muslim thinking and criticized Islamic extremism, but he said fanaticism results from injustices and oppression being suffered by Muslims.

Hamzeh, a half brother of Jordan's King Abdullah and heir to the throne, said the Muslim world was facing pressures and challenges that "extend to every corner of the [Islamic] nation's potential and its sacred shrines."

Hamzeh, addressing scholars and religious leaders from 40 countries at a three-day conference here, did not elaborate on the pressures Muslims were facing.

* BEIRUT -- Lebanon's Hezbollah leader Said Hasan Nasrallah said prisoner exchange talks between his group and Israel were still going on with German mediation to free Lebanese and Arab detainees.

-- From News Services