Exploding vehicle kills five in Kabul

KABUL, Afghanistan - A vehicle packed with rockets exploded across the street from the Kabul police headquarters yesterday, killing five civilians and wounding at least 24 others, Afghan officials said. Three policemen were among the injured.

Police officials said the blast, shortly after 8 a.m., was caused by a suicide bomber. But witnesses said they thought the vehicle, a small truck, had been parked along the side of the street. The explosion, in the center of the capital so close to the police headquarters, was a blow to the Afghan government at a time when the city is full of shoppers ahead of the Muslim festival Id al-Adha, which starts this week.

Kabul has had a string of suicide attacks in recent weeks, and the Taliban has claimed responsibility for previous ones.

- N.Y. Times News Service

London's Savoy to sell contents

LONDON - The Savoy hotel, London's home-away-from-home to monarchs and celebrities since it opened in 1889, shut its doors yesterday for more than a year of renovation - and will auction most of its contents.

Winston Churchill, Charlie Chaplin and Humphrey Bogart have used its elegant rooms; Claude Monet painted views of the River Thames from the Savoy; and Auguste Escoffier was its first chef. The Savoy, renowned for its art-deco style, is also famous as the birthplace of peach Melba, an ice-cream desert created for soprano - and regular guest - Dame Nellie Melba, a great opera star of the late 19th century.

Marilyn Monroe, a honeymooning Elizabeth Taylor, and Marlene Dietrich have all reclined on its beds, now among around 3,000 items to be sold at a series of auctions next week. Chandeliers, cake stands, curtains and sofas are among lots that will be offered by Bonhams auction house during three days of sales starting Tuesday.

- AP

Gaza residents rally for Hamas

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Palestinians flooded the streets of the Gaza Strip by the tens of thousands yesterday in the biggest show of support for Hamas since the Islamic militants seized the territory in June.

Leader Ismail Haniyeh vowed in speeches on the 20th anniversary of the movement's founding that Hamas would not compromise its hard-line views despite growing isolation, poverty, and popular support for the rival West Bank government of President Mahmoud Abbas.

Since Hamas wrested control from Abbas' Fatah forces, Gaza's 1.5 million residents have been virtually cut off from the outside world, with Israel and Egypt refusing to fully reopen crossings with the coastal territory. Unemployment has risen to about 50 percent, forcing poverty up to 75 percent, Palestinian officials say.

- AP

Elsewhere:

A fugitive crime

boss, Edoardo Contini, who built one of the most dangerous cartels in Italy, was captured on the outskirts of Naples, authorities said yesterday.

A man suspected

of killing two people during a shooting spree at a sports club in southern Japan was found dead at a nearby church early yesterday after apparently committing suicide, police said.

A 2-year-old girl

who was born with four arms and four legs left a hospital in southern India yesterday, about a month after surgeons successfully removed her extra limbs, and she may walk soon, doctors said.