Somali pirates hijack German gas tanker

NAIROBI, Kenya - Somali pirates hijacked a German tanker loaded with liquefied petroleum gas Thursday off the Horn of Africa. The ship's 13-man crew was reported safe even though gunshots were heard over the ship's radio.

The MV Longchamp is the third ship captured this month in the Gulf of Aden, one of the world's busiest shipping lanes.

The Longchamp, registered in the Bahamas, is managed by the German firm Bernhard Schulte Shipmanagement, which said in a statement that seven pirates boarded the tanker early Thursday.

Three political candidates slain in Iraq

BAGHDAD - Gunmen apparently targeting political candidates staged attacks around Iraq on Thursday, leaving at least three people dead as Iraqi forces began imposing a full-scale security clampdown in advance of voting for provincial council seats.

The level of violence around Iraq is significantly lower than in past years, but Saturday's election is seen as an important test of Iraqi self-reliance and competence as the U.S. military turns over more authorities to local forces.

Blanket security measures were scheduled to take effect beginning today, including closing Iraq's international borders, ordering traffic bans across Baghdad and major cities and halting air traffic. Hundreds of women, including teachers and civic workers, have been recruited to help search women voters after a rise in female suicide bombers last year.

Big strike in France hobbles many services

PARIS - France's largest general strike in three years hobbled transportation, school, hospital and mail services Thursday as unions demanded President Nicolas Sarkozy better protect jobs and consumers during the global economic crisis.

More than 1 million protesters took part, with tens of thousands of youths, retirees and unemployed people marching across towns and cities, police said.

The powerful CGT - one of eight unions that called the one-day 'black Thursday' strike - claimed that 2.5 million people took part.

Both estimates would make it the largest collective protest in France since 2006, when students angered by a jobs reform plan condemned a previous government.