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Archive for Thursday, August 22, 2002

Briefly

August 22, 2002

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Philippines

Muslim rebels kill two of six hostages

Muslim rebels linked to al-Qaida beheaded at least two of the six Jehovah's Witnesses they kidnapped earlier this week in the southern Philippines, a top army commander said today.

The heads of the two male hostages were found in an open air market in Jolo town along with notes calling for a holy war, said Brig. Gen. Romeo Tolentino, commander of the army on the southern island of Jolo.

Tuesday's abductions demonstrated that the Abu Sayyaf rebels remain dangerous despite a U.S.-backed military offensive aimed at wiping out the group. They came as a blow to the Philippine government, which had said just weeks ago it was shifting some resources away from the war on Abu Sayyaf because the group had been decimated and was on the run.

Rome

Churches subject of terror warning

Security forces have been warned about the possibility of attacks on religious ceremonies in Italy after anti-terror investigators came across postcards with pictures of Italian churches, an Interior Ministry official said Wednesday.

The official refused to identify the churches or say where the postcards were found, but said authorities distributed a warning to domestic security forces in July.

Word of the warnings came a day after police arrested four Moroccans and an Italian suspected of planning to attack a Bologna basilica with a 15th-century fresco inside that depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammad being devoured by demons in hell.

According to a report Wednesday in Milan's Corriere della Sera, the Interior Ministry called in its warning for particular attention to ceremonies involving Pope John Paul II.

China

Province allows extra children

In a loosening of China's one-child policy, a rural province will let divorcees, coal miners and some other couples have more than one child beginning next month.

Anhui province acted under a new national provision giving local governments more power to tailor birth control policies to local needs. The change comes as many Chinese areas are steering away from coercive birth control rules that the United States and other critics say include forced abortions and sterilizations.

Anhui now will permit 13 categories of couples to have a second child. Among them are divorcees in cases where both husband and wife have only one child from previous marriages and couples in which both husband and wife were only children.

The law also permits coal miners, a notoriously risky occupation in China, to have a second child.

Italy

Scientists miffed at shroud testing

Experts on the Shroud of Turin said Wednesday they felt frustrated and betrayed to learn a Swiss textile expert had obtained Vatican approval to test the sacred cloth without involvement from the international scientific community.

The shroud is a strip of linen believers say was used to wrap the body of Jesus. Kept in the Cathedral of Turin, it is rarely displayed to the public.

Earlier this month, the Rome newspaper Il Messaggero said a well-known Swiss textile expert, Mechthild Flury-Lemberg, had begun tests on the cloth and, as part of the research, cut out 30 patches woven into it in the 16th century.

Some experts worry that in the absence of any oversight, she may have damaged the cloth. In the past, tests have involved a large committee of international scientists.

"This one was limited strictly to certain favorites in Turin, and Flury-Lemberg was one," said the Rev. Albert Dreisbach, an Episcopalian minister who has studied the shroud since 1977.

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