Indian Soldiers Kill

15 Rebels in Kashmir

SRINAGAR, India -- Indian soldiers shot and killed 15 Muslim rebels in separate gun battles across Kashmir on Saturday, police and border security officials said.

They said this was the highest number of rebels killed in a single day in the past few months as troops stepped up their offensive against armed separatists fighting New Delhi's rule over the disputed Himalayan region.

"It's been a bloody day," said an Indian Border Security Force officer who did not want to be named.

Five militants were killed in forests near the Pakistani border south of Srinagar, Indian Kashmir's summer capital. Another 10 guerrillas were shot dead in different gun battles.

EUROPE

* BERLIN -- Germany's far right is expected to profit from discontent over Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder's welfare cuts in elections in two eastern states, producing results that observers fear will damage the country's image.

Government plans to reduce jobless benefits and force the long-term unemployed to accept available work, which opposition conservatives have backed, have sparked mass demonstrations.

* PARIS -- France will place a suspected Muslim militant under formal investigation as part of a French inquiry into the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks but has released four other suspects without charge, a judicial source said.

* MOSCOW -- Police intercepted a car packed with explosives in central Moscow, saying they had thwarted a terrorist attack, Russian media reported.

A suspect arrested at the scene told investigators he was being paid $1,000 to take the car to a major thoroughfare used by President Vladimir Putin to travel to and from the Kremlin, news agencies and television said, quoting the security forces.

The suspect later died after a heart attack in a hospital after questioning, Interfax news agency quoted officials as saying.

ASIA

* ALMATY, Kazakhstan -- Oil-rich Kazakhstan prepared to vote on Sunday in a parliamentary election criticized abroad and all but written off as unfair by opposition parties.

The election for members of the vast Central Asian state's lower house is seen as a test of Kazakhstan's ability to match rapid economic growth with political pluralism in a region dominated by ex-Soviet authoritarian leaders.

* RANGOON, Burma -- Burma's military junta dismissed four ministers, including the foreign minister who was the most visible face and defender of the secretive ruling leadership.

As foreign minister, Win Aung also angered Western leaders and frustrated Asian colleagues at international meetings over his government's refusal to free pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, currently under house arrest.

THE AMERICAS

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- Gunmen killed a Venezuelan oil engineer and six soldiers near the border with Colombia in an attack that officials suspected was carried out by Colombian rebels.

AFRICA

* CAIRO -- Egypt detained 11 university students on suspicion of belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood, the country's biggest opposition group, a court source said.

State security prosecutors jailed the students for a day pending investigation, it said.

-- From News Services