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Archive for Friday, June 20, 2003

Briefly

June 20, 2003

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Congo

U.N. observers abducted

Unknown assailants kidnapped two unarmed United Nations military observers Thursday night from their house in the volatile northeastern city of Beni in a bold attack on the U.N. Mission in Congo.

The U.N. Mission in Congo is increasingly under attack from all sides in Congo's four-year civil war for regional influence and control of the nation's gold, diamonds and other mineral riches.

Last month, two U.N. military observers from Jordan and Malawi were tortured to death in the remote town of Mongbwalu. The U.N. compound in Bunia was the scene of a gun battle between tribal fighters and U.N. troops, injuring two peacekeepers. And angry Congolese lashed out at the United Nations' inability to stop the violence.

United Nations

U.N. to discuss Iraqi humanitarian aid

The United Nations will launch an appeal Monday for an additional $259 million to meet the humanitarian needs of the Iraqi people until the end of the year, a U.N. official said Friday.

Representatives from 50 prospective donor nations will return Tuesday to the United Nations to discuss the reconstruction of Iraq and lay the groundwork for a donors conference in the fall.

The aim is to ensure that the immediate humanitarian needs of Iraqis are met "and the transition to longer-term reconstruction is fully under way by the beginning of next year," a U.N. statement said.

Russia

Blast shakes district near Chechen compound

A powerful truck bomb exploded Friday near a government compound in the Chechen capital of Grozny, killing two bombers and wounding 36 people, officials said.

The blast went off about 70 yards from a building that houses the police department for fighting organized crime in Chechnya, said Akhmed Dzheirkhanov, deputy chief of the Emergency Situations Ministry branch for the republic.

A man and a woman, who were riding in the truck as it sped toward the police building, were killed in the explosion, Alexander Khityanik, a top Grozny police official, said on NTV television.

Of the 36 wounded, four people, including one child, were hospitalized, Dzheirkhanov said.

The explosion carved a crater 3 yards wide and 4 yards deep, Dzheirkhanov said. It caused moderate damage to buildings housing the police organized crime unit and the region's electricity utility.

Liberia

Indicted leader rejects pledge to step aside

President Charles Taylor renounced his pledge to cede power Friday under a new peace accord, a defiant move that threatens to reignite Liberia's three-year civil war.

Just days after the plan got under way with a fragile cease-fire, Taylor, a former warlord indicted for war crimes, said he intended to serve out the six months remaining in his term and might even run for re-election.

Stung, Liberia's rebels said they would hold Taylor to his word -- by force, if necessary.

"We ... still have our arms, and if the talks fail, we have a way of pushing the Taylor government out," said Joe Wylie, a spokesman for the rebel movement Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy. The group had Monrovia encircled earlier this month in fighting that killed hundreds.

Taylor's forces -- who have lost control of all but 40 percent of war-ruined Liberia -- managed to stave off the rebels, preventing fighting from overrunning the seaside capital of 1 million.

Tunisia

At least 12 dead after boat capsizes

A boat carrying about 250 people, mainly Africans headed for Italy, sank Friday off the Tunisian coast, killing at least 12 people, the official Tunisian news agency said.

The TAP agency said 41 people were pulled from the water after the boat capsized at dawn, and that 12 bodies were found. Rescuers were still searching for the missing.

The boat's occupants were from various African nations and were attempting to reach Italy, TAP said. Thousands of Africans fleeing poverty risk their lives every year to cross to Europe, often at night in makeshift boats. Some drown in the attempt.

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