Mexico captures 25 gunmen

MEXICO CITY - The Mexican army captured 25 gunmen who witnesses say disguised themselves as soldiers at a ranch in the northern Mexican state of Chihuahua.

Soldiers also seized 29 automatic rifles during the Thursday raid, the Defense Department said yesterday.

In Cancun, soldiers arrested the local leader of the Gulf drug cartel, the army said yesterday, two days after the department said it had turned over to federal prosecutors 10 midlevel military officers accused of passing information to another drug cartel leader.

Mexico has deployed 45,000 soldiers nationwide to crush Mexico's drug cartels, but corruption has hindered the crackdown. - AP

Saudi suspect jailed in Yemen

SAN'A, Yemen - Yemen has arrested Hassan Hussein Bin Alwan, a Saudi who is suspected of financing al-Qaeda cells in Yemen and Saudi Arabia, an Interior Ministry official said yesterday.

The announcement indicated that Islamic extremists are still actively trying to destabilize the Saudi monarchy that holds a quarter of the world's proven oil reserves, as well as Yemen, the region's poorest nation and ancestral homeland of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.

Also yesterday, Yemen accused a Shiite rebel group of kidnapping seven Germans, a Briton, and his South Korean wife while on a picnic in the country's rugged northern Saada province. The rebels denied involvement. - AP

Toxic stove fuel seized in Italy

ROME - Police across Italy have seized 10,000 tons of wood fuel pellets contaminated by a radioactive substance, news reports said yesterday.

The fuel taken Saturday had been imported from Lithuania in the fall and was found to contain cesium-137, a highly toxic isotope whose radiation can cause serious health problems, including various types of cancer.

The Corriere della Sera daily quoted police officials as saying the pellets could have posed a health threat only through the smoke and ashes they produce when burned. Wood pellets and other of biomass fuels are used in stoves and furnaces as an environmentally friendly alternative to oil-based fuels. - AP

Elsewhere:

A Dutch ship towing a high-tech, U.S. Navy listening device called a "Towed Pinger Locator" was set to troll the Atlantic yesterday in search of data and voice recorders that investigators say are key to determining what caused an Air France jet to crash several hundred miles off Brazil's northeast coast with 228 people on board.

Julia Roberts and detained Chinese activists are among celebrities and political prisoners tweeting and signing petitions for the release of Myanmar's democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, whose 64th birthday Friday will be her 14th in detention. They set up a Web site, http://64forsuu.org.

A U.S. citizen of Lebanese origin, Naji Hamdan, denied terrorism-related charges in the United Arab Emirates supreme court in Abu Dhabi yesterday and said he confessed because he wanted the "beatings to stop."