French nationals charged with kidnapping

N'DJAMENA, Chad &

Authorities charged six French nationals with kidnapping after a failed attempt to fly 103 children to France who a charity said were orphans from Sudan's war-battered Darfur region, officials said today.

Interior Minister Ahmat Bachir said if the six were found guilty, they would face up to 20 years in jail with hard labor.

A judge in eastern city of Abeche also agreed late Monday to allow prosecutors' charges of complicity against three French journalists, said Justice Minister Pahimi Padacket Albert.

A seven-person flight crew also would be charged with complicity, he told The Associated Press.

Authorities in Chad detained 17 people &

nine of them French &

after the French charity tried to put the children on a plane last week.

Noel heads toward Bahamas

SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic &

Tropical Storm Noel headed toward the Bahamas today after causing flooding and mudslides that killed at least 20 people in the Dominican Republic and left another 20 missing, officials said.

Forecasters said a tropical storm watch, which means that tropical storm conditions are possible within 36 hours, may be issued for southeast Florida later in the day.

The spinning tropical storm had been forecast to hit Haiti hardest but veered toward the Dominican Republic, apparently catching residents off guard Monday.

"We didn't know that it was going to be like this, it took us by surprise," said Guarionex Rosado as he left his home in La Cienaga, one of Santo Domingo's most affected neighborhoods.

Noel temporarily knocked out the Dominican Republic's entire power system early Monday, plunging 9.4 million people into the dark for about two hours, said Radhames Segura, vice president of the state-owned electric company.

Suicide bomber kills 5 in Pakistan

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan &

A suicide attacker blew himself up near the office of Pakistani President Gen. Pervez Musharraf today, killing five people and injuring several more, officials said.

Meanwhile, more than 1,000 supporters of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif marched on Pakistan's Supreme Court in Islamabad as it prepared to hear arguments challenging his deportation last month by the Musharraf government.

The blast occurred at a police checkpoint in the central city of Rawalpindi, just a quarter-mile from Army House, the headquarters of the Pakistan army. Musharraf, a key U.S. ally who is also army chief, was safely inside his office at the time, his spokesman Rashid Qureshi said.

The attack could further heighten fears for Pakistan's stability just as it prepares for crucial parliamentary elections and faces a growing threat from Islamic militants.

Mohammed Saeed, a city police official, said a lone suicide bomber walked up to the checkpoint on a main road and detonated explosives hidden under his clothes.

Turkish helicopters attack Kurdish rebels

ANKARA, Turkey &

Turkish Cobra attack helicopters blasted suspected Kurdish rebel targets today near the southeastern border with Iraq in a second day of fighting in the area. The prime minister said an escalation of military action was unavoidable.

Three soldiers and six rebels have been killed in fighting, according to local news reports.

As the military pressure continued, the government called a Cabinet meeting for Wednesday to discuss possible economic measures against groups supporting the Kurdish rebels, private CNN-Turk and NTV television reported.

Turkey is reportedly considering a string of economic actions against the self-governing Kurdish administration in Iraq's north, where rebels are based. The region is heavily reliant on Turkish electricity and food imports, as well as Turkish investment in construction.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan told his party members in Parliament that intensifying military action was "unavoidable," though he suggested he was not pushing for an immediate cross-border operation into northern Iraq.

— The Associated Press