Bomb Blasts Injure at Least 26 in Philippines

ZAMBOANGA, Philippines -- Two bomb blasts ripped through the downtown area of a southern Philippine city Wednesday evening, wounding at least 26 people and knocking out power in the area, police and hospital officials said.

The city's mayor blamed "terrorists" but said police had no immediate leads pointing to a specific group.

Zamboanga, about 530 miles south of Manila, is a bustling seaport that has been hit by deadly bombings in the past and continues to receive threats from Muslim militants, including Abu Sayyaf, an al Qaeda-linked extremist group.

The first bomb exploded at 7:15 p.m. beneath a van near where commuters were waiting for a ride home. It wounded at least five people, officials said. As police sifted through the wreckage, a second bomb struck, Mayor Celso Lobregat said.


* KABUL, Afghanistan -- A U.S. service member was killed by a roadside bomb in eastern Afghanistan, the military said, raising to five the number of Americans killed in less than a week as violence escalates ahead of next month's parliamentary elections.

The bomb exploded Tuesday near a vehicle in eastern Ghazni province, where an American unit was conducting operations to "disrupt enemy activity in the region," the military said.

Two GIs were evacuated to the main U.S. base at Bagram, north of Kabul. One died after arrival; the other was in stable condition.

* ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistan on Thursday successfully tested a nuclear-capable, ground-launched cruise missile, which has a range of 310 miles, a military spokesman said.

Pakistan reached an agreement last week with nuclear armed rival India to inform each other about missile tests but military spokesman Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan said the agreement did not cover the cruise missile.

"We don't have to inform neighboring countries in this case. It is not a ballistic missile and it doesn't fall under the agreement," he said.

The Middle East

* ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkish police on Wednesday detained two Syrians on suspicion of links to al Qaeda, including one believed to be a liaison between the terrorist network and a Turkish cell that carried out deadly 2003 bombings in Istanbul.

News of the detentions came after more than 5,000 Israelis on five cruise ships were diverted from Turkish ports to Cyprus in recent days because of intelligence that a terror attack was imminent.


* NOUAKCHOTT, Mauritania -- Mauritania's military rulers named a new civilian government, a week after staging a bloodless coup, and included several figures from the ousted president's party.

The military junta, which ended two decades of authoritarian rule by President Maouya Sidi Ahmed Taya, has pledged presidential elections within two years, winning widespread support at home and cautious international approval.

* HARARE, Zimbabwe -- The African Union has asked the former president of Mozambique, Joaquim Chissano, to mediate a political dialogue in Zimbabwe, in its most public bid to resolve the southern African country's worst crisis in 25 years of independence.

The move by the African Union chairman, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, follows growing international criticism of Africa's failure to act on Zimbabwe's razing of shanty towns, which the United Nations says has robbed 700,000 people of homes or jobs.


* PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti -- Police stormed a volatile slum in the capital in an attack on well-armed gangs that witnesses said left at least five people dead -- including a pregnant woman and a teenage boy.

The witnesses said the officers, some of them masked, fired indiscriminately during the operation in the Bel Air slum. Police then stood by as men in civilian clothes attacked suspected gang members loyal to ousted president Jean-Bertrand Aristide, the witnesses said.

-- From News Services

A Filipino victim is assisted after one of two bombings in the southern Philippine port city of Zamboanga.