KABUL — U.S. operations in Afghanistan are marred by needless civilian casualties, lawless arrests and the alleged torture of prisoners, Human Rights Watch said today. The U.S. military rejected the group's findings, saying it "confused the situation" in strife-torn Afghanistan for one where peacetime methods could be used. Still, the report raises uncomfortable questions for the United States as it embarks on new operations to crush elusive militants like al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.


VIENNA — Joerg Haider's political star rose after his party won elections in his home province Sunday, giving the controversial rightist what he hopes will be a springboard to reclaim national prominence. While the voting was restricted to Carinthia, its significance extends beyond Austria's southernmost province. Beyond seeking re-election as governor, Haider hoped to use a win to revitalize his ailing Freedom Party, which has less than 10 percent support nationally compared to close to 30 percent in 2000.

El Salvador

SAN SALVADOR — An explosion at a soccer stadium in El Salvador killed one man and injured 27 others on Sunday, and police believed it was caused by pyrotechnics used to produce smoke. The blast went off in the stands of the Jorge Gonzalez stadium, killing a Salvadoran man in his 20s, as the Alianza and San Salvador soccer teams prepared to take the field in San Salvador.

North Korea

SEOUL — Deepening its nuclear standoff with the United States, North Korea said Monday that it may insist on the withdrawal of U.S. troops from South Korea as part of a nuclear disarmament deal. North Korea said it would push the new demands if the United States failed to drop its own demand that Pyongyang "completely, verifiably and irreversibly" dismantle its nuclear weapons programs. North Korea has said it is willing to give up its nuclear program in return for energy and economic aid, as well as a U.S. guarantee it would not invade the communist country.


MOSCOW — Authorities in Siberia arrested an 18-year-old student on charges of sending an e-mail message threatening to blow up a subway system in the United States, police said Sunday. The teenager allegedly sent the message to the CIA during a computer class at Altai Technical University in Barnaul, where he is a first-year student, state-run Rossiya television reported.

Saudi Arabia

RIYADH — In a milestone agreement, Saudi Arabian officials signed contracts with foreign oil executives Sunday to explore for natural gas in the country's vast southern desert known as the Rub al-Khali, or Empty Quarter. Saudi Arabia boasts the world's fourth-largest deposits of gas, but the government had never before invited foreigners to make competitive bids for rights to explore for this resource. The four winning companies, including two from Russia and China, said they expected to invest several billion dollars to develop any gas they discover.

South Korea

SEOUL — South Korea has demanded an apology from the U.S. military for briefly detaining three South Korean TV journalists in Iraq, officials said Sunday. The journalists were detained after a sniffer dog found suspected traces of explosives on their luggage as they tried to enter the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad, where many foreign reporters and contractors are staying. Soldiers secured the journalists' hands behind their backs with plastic cuffs and held them beside a concrete barrier outside the hotel. A bomb squad checked their bags as soldiers barred people from entering or leaving the hotel.

Sri Lanka

COLOMBO — A renegade Tamil Tiger commander put his forces on alert Sunday after accusing rebel leaders of sending "killer squads" to attack him in a dispute that has raised fears that civil war may be returning to Sri Lanka. Rebel leaders announced Saturday that they were expelling Tiger commander Vinayagamoorthi Muralitharan, also known as Karuna, from their ranks. Muralitharan, however, refuses to relinquish power.

Vatican City

Pope John Paul II urged the world Sunday during his weekly address to pilgrims in St. Peter's Square to embrace forgiveness and reconciliation, despite terrorism and bloody conflicts in many parts of the world. "I did not forget the painful situation in some African countries, in the Middle East and above all in the Holy Land and Iraq," he said.