Archive for Saturday, February 23, 2002

World Briefs

February 23, 2002


Jerusalem: Israelis, Palestinians try to bring calm

In a sign of easing tensions, Israel on Friday pulled its army out of positions it seized a week earlier in Gaza and announced goodwill measures for a Muslim holiday, after Israeli and Palestinian security commanders resumed talks toward a cease-fire.

However, the killing of an Israeli near Jerusalem and a failed bombing attempt at a Jewish settlement pointed up the fragility of the efforts, while Israel's plan to carve a buffer zone along the line with the West Bank infuriated settlers and Palestinians and disappointed Israeli doves.

The killing happened on Friday evening, in the West Bank just north of Jerusalem, when an Israeli motorist was shot dead, the army said. Israeli radio and television reports said the man's car was overtaken by a vehicle carrying Palestinian gunmen, who sprayed the Israeli with automatic weapons fire, killing him on the spot.

Egypt: Minister, railway chief resign after train fire

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak tried to soothe widespread anger Friday over the nation's worst train disaster ever, promising to punish anyone found negligent in the inferno that killed 363 people.

Mubarak also accepted the resignations of his transport minister and railway chief, an official in the president's office said. They resigned in the wake of the fire early Wednesday that gutted an overcrowded night train as it sped south from Cairo.

The train was packed to twice its capacity when it caught fire soon after it left the capital bound for Luxor, 300 miles south. It traveled on in flames for 2 1/2 miles  with some passengers jumping to their deaths  before the driver was alerted to the blaze and stopped.

Saudi Arabia: Muslim pilgrims stone the devil in hajj ritual

Their faith reinforced by a day of prayers and meditation, Muslim pilgrims began the ritual of stoning the devil, rejecting his temptations Friday with cries of "Allahu Akbar," or "God is Great."

In perhaps the most animated part of the annual Muslim pilgrimage, the pilgrims marched  some with the resolve of soldiers going into battle  to a 50-foot pillar of stones with tiny bags of pebbles in their hands.

Once there, the estimated 2 million pilgrims one at a time took seven of the pebbles they had collected hours earlier and pelted the stone structure, which they approached in waves of thousands.

The ritual of stoning of the devil, which symbolizes the rejection of Satan's temptations, will be repeated the next two days, with two other similar structures also pelted with the same number of pebbles.

Angola: Rebel leader killed

A senior Angolan official said that government troops Friday ambushed and killed rebel leader Jonas Savimbi, whose 27-year battle for control of the southern African nation largely defined one of the continent's most unyielding and deadliest civil wars.

A spokesman for Angolan President Jose Eduardo dos Santos said on state radio and television that Savimbi, 67, was killed Friday in a gun battle between government troops and his National Union for the Total Independence of Angola (UNITA) in rural Moxico province, about 480 miles southeast of the capital, Luanda.

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