The apparent escape of an American truck driver from his kidnappers contrasted with another day of challenge to US forces in Iraq. Thomas Hamill identified himself to American troops on patrol near Tikrit, then led them to the house where he'd been held for three weeks. Amid that news, however, US commanders were fending off criticism from human rights groups over the abuse of Iraqi prisoners of war, and Iraqi generals entrusted to restore order to Fallujah were permitting "victory" celebrations by resisters after American marines pulled back to provide a few days for a new ettempt at finishing the collection of weapons.

American civilians in Saudi Arabia were "strongly urged" to leave by the US Embassy after Muslim attackers struck a chemical complex Saturday, killing six foreign engineers. Two of the dead were Americans. The attackers, four of whom also were killed, were employees who used their passes to enter the facility. The attack was the first against a commercial target in the year-long terrorist campaign by supporters of Osama bin Laden.

A pregnant Jewish settler and her four daughters were killed in the Gaza Strip as they were en route into Israel to campaign against Prime Minister Sharon's referendum Sunday on pulling out of the area. The attackers, both Palestinians, also wounded two Israeli soldiers before being killed themselves. The outcome of the referendum - and the impact of the shootings on it - were unclear as the Monitor went to press.

Armed guards were posted outside a Buddhist shrine in southern Thailand, and Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra told international human rights groups to "leave us alone" as they demanded investigations of last week's battle with Muslim attackers. At least 108 Muslims died in the fighting with police and Army troops, the worst since the uprising began in January. Islamic schools in the volatile region were being searched for militants after pamphlets in Arabic calling for creation of a Muslim state were found on some of the dead in last week's confrontation.

Voters lined up at the polls in the cool early morning temperatures for the first presidential election in Panama since their government assumed control of the vital canal zone in 1999. The race pitted an ex-president, Guillermo Endara, against Martin Torrijos, whose father, Gen. Omar Torrijos, ruled as a dictator from 1968 to 1981. Late opinion polls showed Torrijos with as much as a 20-point lead, but observers said many voters still have bitter memories of his father's military rule.

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