With the help of bombing by US planes, the opposition Northern Alliance was advancing steadily toward the strategic Afghan city of Mazar-e Sharif. Fighting with Taliban defenders was described as intense, although the latter said they were withstanding the offensive and maintained that the attackers were not as close as they claimed. In a TV interview, meanwhile, US Defense Secretary Rumsfeld estimated the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's Al Qaeda organization still have at least 40,000 men in Afghanistan, although he said five weeks of bombing have killed scores of others. (Story, page 1.)

The Taliban were told they must close their consulate in Karachi, Pakistan, immediately. The move was Pakistan's second in two days in what was seen as an effort to contain anti-US sentiment. On Wednesday, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan was "reminded" of diplomatic rules that forbid using his regular news briefings to accuse the US of atrocities against Afghanistan. The military government also said it plans to cut off funding for Islamic religious schools, which are known for promoting extremism.

As many as 350 people were believed dead and hundreds of others were missing in the central and southern Philippines after a surprise late-season cyclone that caused heavy flash floods and mudslides. The storm also was blamed for the sinking of a cargo ship en route from Indonesia to Hong Kong with a crew of 19. Searchers said they had yet to find any of them. Above, residents of a town in the southern province of Camiguin carry belongings salvaged from their damaged homes.

The editor of the only independent newspaper in Zimbabwe was arrested in an early-morning raid on his home. The cofounder of The Daily News, a frequent critic of President Robert Mugabe's government, also was taken into custody. Police were refusing to disclose the charges against them, their lawyers said. But a businessman with ties to the government reportedly had complained that the two cheated him out of efforts to buy a larger share in their company.

Reelection to a second five-year term appeared likely for Bulgarian President Petar Stoyanov - but perhaps not on Sunday's first ballot. Political observers said a low voter turnout could force Stoyanov, a proponent of economic reform and Bulgarian membership in NATO, into a Nov. 18 runoff with one of his two main challengers, ex-Interior Minister Bogomil Bonev.

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