Israel Frees More Prisoners, Fulfilling February Pledge

TULKARM, West Bank -- Israel freed 398 jailed militants Thursday, fulfilling a months-old pledge that officials said they hoped would bolster the Palestinian leader, Mahmoud Abbas, and his moderate allies as they compete with radical groups for popular support.

The release could help the two sides to coordinate Israel's planned withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, scheduled to begin in mid-August.

Abbas has made the release of Palestinian prisoners one of his top priorities.

Israel agreed to release 900 militants under the Feb. 8 cease-fire. It freed 500 in February, but repeatedly delayed the second release, demanding that Abbas rein in extremist groups.

THE AMERICAS

* BRASILIA -- Brazilian police said they had broken up the biggest illegal logging operation in the Amazon in a move environmentalists described as a sign the government is serious about halting the corruption that hampers efforts to save the rain forest.

* JOLIETTE, Quebec -- Canada's most notorious female prison inmate, who has completed most of her 12-year sentence in the slayings of two teenagers, appeared at a hearing at which authorities are trying to restrict her freedom once she is released.

Karla Homolka pleaded guilty to manslaughter in 1993 in the sex slayings of Leslie Mahaffy and Kristen French and is set for release from a Quebec prison July 5, although federal guidelines may allow her to be freed as early as June 23.

* SAO PAULO, Brazil -- A government bus carrying Indians from a health clinic in northeastern Brazil went out of control on a wet road and crashed into a creek, killing at least 19 people, authorities said.

ASIA AnD THE PACIFIC

* CANBERRA, Australia -- Bacterial powder that sparked a terror alert when it was sent to the Indonesian Embassy in apparent retaliation for an Australian's drug conviction in Indonesia was probably harmless, police said.

The embassy in the Australian capital was evacuated and closed Wednesday after a parcel containing white powder was delivered.

Prime Minister John Howard said he suspected the powder was sent in response to the conviction of 27-year-old Schapelle Corby, who was sentenced last week on the Indonesian island of Bali to 20 years in prison on charges she smuggled in 9 pounds of marijuana.

* NEW DELHI -- Talks to resolve differences over a dam India is building in the disputed region of Kashmir ended inconclusively with Pakistani officials saying their concerns were not addressed. The talks ended a day ahead of schedule, on the same day separatist politicians from Indian Kashmir began a historic trip to the Pakistani side in another sign that delicate ties between the nuclear-armed rivals were solidifying.

AFRICA

* DUEKOUE, Ivory Coast -- Thousands of people fled a town in western Ivory Coast after at least 55 people were killed in a massacre and revenge slayings that have inflamed tribal rivalries in the region.

EUROPE

* KIEV, Ukraine -- A freight train collided with a passenger bus in southern Ukraine, killing at least 14 people, emergency officials said.

-- From News Services