Cuba: Fay forces evacuations

HAVANA — Cuba evacuated dozens of coastal communities and promised to protect foreign tourists Sunday as the approaching Tropical Storm Fay lashed the island with heavy rains, and forecasters warned it could turn into a hurricane.

Cuban state media reported little damage or major flooding so far as Fay churned just south of the country on a path that could take it over the island, before zeroing in on Florida. (See story on A2.)

Iran: Satellite rocket tested

TEHRAN — Iran has test launched a rocket it plans to use to carry a research satellite into orbit, state television reported Sunday.

Saturday's test of the two-stage rocket, called the Safir-e Omid, or Ambassador of Peace, was successful, state TV said, broadcasting images of the nighttime launch.

In 2005, Iran launched its first commercial satellite on a Russian rocket in a joint project with Moscow, which appears to be Iran's main partner in transferring space technology.

Israel: Prisoner release OK'd

JERUSALEM — Israel's Cabinet on Sunday approved the release of some 200 Palestinian prisoners as a goodwill gesture to the government of Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.

Earlier this month, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told Abbas he would free some of the 9,000 Palestinians held by Israel to help energize peace talks between the two sides.

The prisoner issue is an emotional one for Palestinians, many of whom know somebody behind bars or have been imprisoned themselves. Palestinians see Israel's justice system as unfair and have elevated prisoners to hero status.

Mexico: 13 partygoers killed

MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities say gunmen killed 13 people at a family party in the border state of Chihuahua.

A 1-year-old child is among the dead in Saturday's attack in the mountain town of Creel. State prosecutors said in a statement Sunday that most of the victims were members of a single family.

Witnesses told police that gunmen in three pickup trucks, wearing ski masks and dressed in black, fired on a crowd outside a dance hall.

Authorities did not give a motive for the attack but more than 800 people have been killed this year in Chihuahua, most of the deaths attributed to battling drug cartels.

Philippines: 2 villages attacked

MANILA — The Philippine military says Muslim rebels have attacked two southern villages, killed a local official and burned houses in a new escalation of fighting.

Regional military spokesman Maj. Armand Rico says the villages of Linamon and Kulambugan in Lanao del Norte province came under attack early today from renegade forces of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front. He says a village leader has been executed by the rebels.

Rebel spokesman Eid Kabalu has confirmed the attack, but says it was carried out by a renegade commander and without the knowledge of their leadership.

Sudan: Rebels sentenced

KHARTOUM — A Sudanese court convicted and sentenced to death two senior members of a Darfur rebel group and six others for their role in an attack near the capital three months ago, court officials and a lawyer said Sunday.

Defense lawyer Kamal al-Jazouli said the eight include Abdel Aziz Ushar, a senior leader in the Justice and Equality movement and half-brother of the group's leader, Khalil Ibrahim.