26 people killed as bombers target U.N. office in Algeria

ALGIERS, Algeria - Two truck bombs set off in quick succession sheared off the fronts of U.N. offices and a government building in Algeria's capital yesterday, killing at least 26 people and wounding nearly 200 in an attack claimed by an affiliate of al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda in Islamic North Africa, in a posting on a militant Web site, called the U.N. offices "the headquarters of the international infidels' den." A U.N. official said at least 10 of its employees died.

The bombs exploded 10 minutes apart around 9:30 a.m., devastating the U.N. refugee agency and other U.N. offices along a street in the upscale Hydra neighborhood as well as Algeria's Constitutional Council, which rules on the constitutionality of laws and oversees elections.

The targeting of U.N. offices was a new development in the 15-year war between Algeria's secular government and Islamic insurgents, who previously focused their hate on symbols of the military-backed administration and civilians.

The Web posting said that two suicide bombers attacked the buildings with trucks carrying 1,760 pounds of explosives each.

On eve of peace talks,

Israel strikes in Gaza

KHAN YOUNIS, Gaza Strip - Israeli tanks and bulldozers pushed into the southern Gaza Strip yesterday, killing five Islamic militants and trapping hundreds of people in their homes, while another extremist died from an airstrike elsewhere in the territory.

The incursion - Israel's broadest since Hamas seized control of the coastal strip last June - came a day before the first Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in seven years, casting a pall over the negotiations and underscoring the threat that Hamas poses to implementing any accord.

Palestinian officials said the offensive, along with a construction project in the Har Homa neighborhood of disputed east Jerusalem, threatened to sabotage the talks. They said the plan to build 307 apartments in the traditionally Arab area would dominate today's meeting.

Iran president talks softly; U.S. says to drop the stick

TEHRAN - Iran's president took an unusually soft tone toward the United States yesterday, saying a new U.S. intelligence report marks an opportunity to resolve U.S.-Iranian differences. But he said Washington must take further steps, including dropping nuclear sanctions.

The conciliatory line appeared aimed at deflecting Washington's attempts to win further sanctions against Iran and bringing the U.S. into negotiations after the intelligence report found that Tehran ended a nuclear-weapons program four years ago.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may also be trying to fend off critics at home who have accused him of provoking Iran's enemies with his fiery rhetoric.

The United States brushed off Ahmadinejad's comments, saying Iran must abide by U.N. demands that it suspend uranium enrichment.

Did jailed Mexican cannibal lose his taste for life?

MEXICO CITY - A murder suspect dubbed "The Cannibal" was found dead in his prison cell of an apparent suicide yesterday, two months after police found cooked and seasoned bits of his girlfriend's corpse on a fork and plate in his apartment.

Jose Luis Calva, suspected in at least three murders of past lovers, was found hanging from his belt in his Mexico City jail cell.

Relatives told local news media that Calva had reported receiving threats from other inmates, who were allegedly attempting to extort money from him. Calva had a cell to himself, but still apparently had some contact with other inmates.

The corrections department denied that Calva had been threatened or beaten by other inmates. He was, however, not supposed to have a belt and was under 24-hour observation.

Also yesterday...

LIMA, Peru - Former President Alberto Fujimori was convicted and sentenced to six years in prison for abuse of authority, stemming from an illegal search he ordered as his government imploded in scandal seven years ago. Fujimori, who ruled Peru from 1990 to 2000, faces a total of seven human-rights and corruption charges in multiple trials. *

- Associated Press