Among other items: Two senior Taliban leaders apprehended; reformist wins presidential runoff in Romania; Israelis target homes used to stage attacks; bird carrying flu found in Hong Kong border area...

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The United Nations has suspended its humanitarian operations in Sudan’s troubled South Darfur area after a shooting that killed two aid workers, the agency said yesterday.

The Sudanese employees of Save the Children — medical assistant Abhakar el Tayeb and mechanic Yacoub Abdelnabi Ahmed — were killed Sunday when their convoy came under fire in south Darfur, according to the U.N. statement. It did not say who fired on the convoy.

Two main rebel groups are fighting government troops in Darfur in a bid for more power and resources. The U.N. describes the conflict as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, and international aid agencies have been struggling to feed and shelter almost 2 million people.

Kandahar, Afghanistan

Two senior Taliban leaders apprehended

Afghan intelligence agents arrested two senior Taliban military commanders, including the former security chief to the hard-line regime’s leader Mullah Omar, an official said today.

Tohr Mullah Naqvi, the Taliban rebels’ military commander for Kandahar province, and his deputy Mullah Qayum, also known as Mullah Hunger, were nabbed last night at a home in Kandahar city, said Abdullah Laghmani, the provincial intelligence chief.

Laghmani said another suspect apprehended in the city earlier yesterday driving a vehicle containing 460 pounds of explosives, allegedly intended for Taliban fighters, had led them to the two commanders.

During the rule of the Taliban, Naqvi was in charge of security for Mullah Omar’s home in Kandahar city, and Qayum served as a military commander in the province. The reclusive Taliban supreme leader remains at large.

Bucharest, Romania

Reformist wins presidential runoff

Bucharest mayor and reformist opposition candidate Traian Basescu won an unexpected victory yesterday in Romania’s presidential runoff election, ending a decade of rule by successors to Romania’s former communist regime.

Basescu, a former ship captain, vowed to fight widespread corruption, restore media freedoms and prepare Romania to join the European Union by 2007. He also has said he supports social reform, including greater rights for gays, a stance that drew heavy criticism from the country’s powerful Orthodox Christian Church.

He defeated Prime Minister Adrian Nastase, who was supported by outgoing President Ion Iliescu, Romania’s leader for 11 of the past 15 years.

Nastase called Basescu and conceded defeat after final results showed Basescu had won 51.23 percent of Sunday’s vote, compared with Nastase’s 48.77 percent. Nastase said his defeat was “the decision of the Romanian people and I respect it.”

Gaza City, Gaza Strip

Israelis target homes used to stage attacks

Israeli troops moved into a Palestinian refugee camp early today, demolishing at least five homes in an area that has been used to stage attacks on nearby Jewish settlements in recent days.

Palestinian officials said 10 tanks had moved into the Khan Younis refugee camp in southern Gaza. They said troops were ordering residents out of their homes and reported heavy exchanges of gunfire. No casualties were reported.

Israeli military officials said the army was operating against “the terrorist infrastructure” in the area.

Yesterday, meanwhile, Israeli Defense Minister Shaul Mofaz said Israeli troops would withdraw from Palestinian areas for 72 hours during next month’s Palestinian presidential election.

Hong Kong

Bird carrying flu found in border area

A dead gray heron found near Hong Kong’s border with mainland China has tested positive for bird flu, the third such case in the territory this year, the government said yesterday.

The heron, found 10 days ago in the Lok Ma Chau area, was confirmed to have been stricken by the H5N1 avian flu virus that has killed 32 people in Vietnam and Thailand this year.

All 20 poultry farms within three miles were inspected by health officials, and birds there showed no symptoms of avian flu, the government said.

Avian flu ravaged Asia earlier this year, killing millions of birds.


• Two passenger trains collided along a stretch of rural track in northern India today, and at least 15 people are believed to have been killed, an official said.

• An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 5.8 jolted the northern Japanese island of Hokkaido today, but there were no reports of injury or major damage.