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KANDAHAR — Suspected Taliban insurgents killed five Afghan government soldiers and wounded two U.S. soldiers in attacks in the south and east of Afghanistan, Afghan and U.S. military officials said Monday.


BEIJING — Cresting river waters menaced a swath of northern China on Monday, threatening to send more people fleeing from the worst flooding in 20 years — a problem that authorities said have already forced a half-million evacuations. Some 510,000 people have left their homes in Shaanxi province because of the overflowing Wei River, according to a provincial official who spoke to The Associated Press.


QUITO — President Lucio Gutierrez will set a national example and start showing up on time for meetings and appointments in an effort to combat a national lack of punctuality, a government spokesman said Monday. "The president has made the decision that punctuality will be the government's rule," spokesman Marcelo Cevallos said in an interview with Teleamazonas television. It was unclear when the initiative would begin, however, as Cevallos apologized to the audience for showing up late for the interview.


LONDON — The al-Qaida terrorist network is stronger than before the Sept. 11 attacks, and the U.S.-led war on terror has so far been a failure, a British academic concludes in a study published Tuesday. Paul Rogers, a professor of peace studies at the University of Bradford in England, said the U.S.-led coalition's military successes in Afghanistan and Iraq have failed to crush al-Qaida's structure or stem its recruitment.


PARIS — France's first official investigation into why thousands of elderly people died in a brutal summer heat wave partly blamed hospitals, which let doctors leave for August vacations, according to a report released Monday. The government has said 11,435 people died in the heat in early August, when temperatures soared to 104.


TOKYO — Scientists plan to detonate a series of explosions below Japan's most famous volcano, Mount Fuji, to help predict the likelihood of future eruptions. Five underground blasts, each of 1,100 pounds of explosives, will be set off Thursday, triggering mini earthquakes that will allow scientists to get a better idea of volcanic activity beneath the cone-shaped peak, Kyodo news agency reported.


MASERU — Mamohato Bereng Seeiso, the queen mother of this tiny mountain kingdom, died after collapsing in a church outside the capital. She was 62. No cause of death was immediately released, but she had reportedly complained of fatigue shortly before she died Sunday.


KAKATA — West African peacekeepers on Monday put off what would have been their first major push into Liberia's unsecured interior, saying they first had to investigate a new fighting scare that was causing thousands of civilians to flee. Unrest and large-scale refugee flows have persisted in Liberia's countryside despite an Aug. 18 peace deal and weeks of calm in the capital.


BAMAKO — Torrential rains in this West African nation have killed scores and caused heavy property damage, authorities said Monday, warning of worse to come if the Niger River spills its banks. The hardest-hit regions are Tenekou and Timbuktu in central and northern Mali.


LAGOS — Three buses and a truck collided Monday in central Nigeria, killing more than 100 people in the impact and the fiery explosion that followed, authorities said. Authorities said the buses all had been carrying passengers on long-distance journeys, and said one was carrying 70 passengers. They said other circumstances of the accident were still unclear.


A man in Singapore has tested positive for SARS, the first reported new case of the disease in four months. The announcement Monday, came after health officials had warned the flu-like illness could return. The man, an ethnic Chinese Singapore citizen, tested positive for severe acute respiratory syndrome when he tried to enter Singapore General Hospital, Ministry of Health spokeswoman Bey Mui Leng said.