Fraud Suspected

In Afghan Elections

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Election authorities said Sunday they had fired about 50 employees for suspected fraud in Afghanistan's legislative elections last month, while human rights advocates warned that about half the winning candidates were believed to have links to armed groups.

About 680 ballot boxes, representing 3 percent of the vote, were taken out of the counting process because of suspicions they had been stuffed, said Richard Atwood, chief of operations for the joint U.N.-Afghan election commission. But he ruled out a recount, saying the suspected fraud "does not affect the integrity of the election."

ASIA

* TOKYO -- Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi on Monday paid homage at a war memorial seen by critics as a symbol of Japan's past militarism, a step sure to outrage China and South Korea.

Japan's relations with its neighbors have already chilled because of Koizumi's annual visits to Tokyo's Yasukuni Shrine, where war criminals convicted by a 1948 Allied tribunal are honored along with the nation's 2.5 million war dead.

The Americas

* BUENOS AIRES -- A fire killed 32 prisoners after battling inmates set mattresses aflame and briefly took control of a local prison in one of Argentina's worst outbreaks of prison violence in recent decades.

The incident took place in Magdalena, 75 miles southeast of Buenos Aires. A provincial justice minister said it appeared all of the dead perished from asphyxiation.

Europe

* NALCHIK, Russia -- Hundreds of black-clad, mostly elderly people gathered outside the prosecutor's office in the southern Russian city of Nalchik, demanding the release of the bodies of relatives killed during a raid by alleged Islamic extremists.

Many feared they would never see their relatives' bodies. Some alleged that their relatives had been unfairly identified as participants in the raid. According to Russian law, terrorists' bodies are not returned to their families.

-- From News Services