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Archive for Thursday, March 14, 2002

World Briefs

March 14, 2002

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Cuba: Guantanamo detainees break hunger strike

Two detainees captured in the war in Afghanistan have broken their two-week hunger strike, eating twice in a 24-hour period, military officials said Wednesday.

The pair, who hadn't eaten since at least March 1, ate two meals sometime between mid-afternoon Tuesday and mid-afternoon Wednesday, said Marine Brig. Gen. Michael Lehnert. A third detainee began eating again on Monday.

All three men were still refusing some meals.

"I would characterize the current situation as one where we still have three individuals who are hard-core," Lehnert said. "While they have eaten, they are fasting."

A broader hunger strike began on Feb. 27 after guards stripped an inmate of his turban, but military officials say participants have said their primary concern is their murky future.

Mexico: Genetic tests confirm drug suspect's death

Genetic tests confirmed that a man killed in a shootout with police last month was Ramon Arellano Felix, one of the FBI's 10 most-wanted fugitives and a suspected leader of Mexico's most brutal drug gang, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Assistant Atty. Gen. Juan Jorge Campos said Mexican authorities compared blood samples taken from Arellano Felix's jailed brother, Benjamin, who was arrested Saturday, with DNA evidence collected from a man identified as Jorge Perez Lopez, who died in the shootout in the Pacific coast resort of Mazatlan on Feb. 10.

U.S. and Mexican officials say the two brothers ran a Tijuana-based drug ring that smuggled tons of cocaine and marijuana into the United States and killed hundreds of people over the past 15 years.

Other siblings have alleged roles in the organization, but authorities say the death of one brother and the arrest of the other may mean its demise.

Peru: Officials note increase in coca, poppy plants

After years of declining prices and production, coca crops are on the rise again in Peru. Even more worrisome to U.S. counternarcotics officials, Colombian drug traffickers are promoting poppy plants, the raw material of heroin.

Jim Williard, chief of the Narcotics Affairs Section at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, said anti-drug police discovered and destroyed 375 acres of poppies last year compared with 62 acres in 2000, and that may only be the tip of a deadly iceberg.

Peru's poppy fields lie in remote Andean areas above 9,000 feet, beyond the reach of police helicopters.

As poppy fields expand, all signs indicate that Peru's much-lauded war on the coca leaf, cocaine's raw material, is foundering.

Satellite photos show that the coca crop has expanded to cover 114,000 acres in 2001, from 107,000 acres in 2000.

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