U.N. Advises Some Staff To Leave Afghanistan

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The United Nations has encouraged some nonessential staff to leave Afghanistan because of security concerns ahead of Sept. 18 parliamentary elections, and the government warned aid workers Sunday that they were likely targets following a string of assaults on foreigners.

Insurgents this weekend launched a spate of attacks that killed a district police chief, seven officers, an election candidate and three others, officials said. More than 1,100 people have been killed in the past six months.

The candidate, Habibullah Jan, died after stepping on a land mine outside his home, a provincial official said. He was the second candidate in two days to die violently.


* RIYADH, Saudi Arabia -- Police fought running gun battles with suspected al Qaeda members in an eastern Saudi Arabian city, a Saudi official said. Two gunmen and a police officer were killed.


* HAVANA -- Cuban President Fidel Castro held a televised meeting with about 1,500 doctors equipped with medical supplies, in hopes of persuading the Bush administration to allow them to treat victims of Hurricane Katrina. Castro said the United States had not responded to his offer to send medical workers and 26 tons of supplies to the devastated U.S. Gulf Coast.


* PARIS -- President Jacques Chirac is in good health after spending the weekend in a Paris hospital with a blood vessel problem, doctors said. Chirac, 72, was hospitalized Friday following what his aides described as a "vascular accident" affecting his vision and accompanied by migraines.


* MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Dozens of Asian fisherman and their three vessels are being held hostage in Somalia by pirates who have demanded a $1.5 million ransom, Taiwan's Foreign Ministry said. Somali gunmen on Friday threatened to start killing one hostage a day if the ransom was not paid.

Another ship, carrying food aid to tsunami victims in Somalia, which has been without effective government control since 1991, has been held by gunmen since late June.

* CALCUTTA -- Communist rebels set off a land mine under a security vehicle, killing at least 23 policemen and a civilian in the central Indian state of Chattisgarh, officials said. Three policemen were wounded in the blast, one critically.

* SYDNEY -- Poisonous and ugly, Australia's cane toads are also suckers for nightlife.

Researchers looking for ways to eradicate the toxic toads, introduced from Hawaii in 1935 and now an environmental menace, have found a way to trap them using ultraviolet black lights. The pests have spread by the millions across Australia's tropical north.

Cane toads, some as big as dinner plates, can kill crocodiles and wild dogs with their hallucinogenic venom.

-- From News Services