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Archive for Sunday, October 26, 2003

Briefly

October 26, 2003

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Iraq

Rockets hit hotel where Americans are based

Six to eight rockets struck the Al-Rasheed Hotel early today, where U.S. military and civilian employees stay, the U.S. military said.

A spokesman for the military command said there were an "unknown number of casualties" and a quick reaction force had been dispatched to the scene.

The hotel is located in an area of Baghdad tightly controlled by the U.S. military on the western side of the Tigris River near the headquarters of the U.S.-led coalition.

Afghanistan

Former Taliban official freed and at home in southern city

The Taliban's former foreign minister has been released from U.S. military custody and is living at his home in this southern Afghan city, the spokesman for the governor of Kandahar province said Saturday.

Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil was released 10 days ago and is in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, said Khalid Pashtun, spokesman for Gov. Mohammed Yusuf Pashtun.

Muttawakil's precise whereabouts weren't known and the circumstances of his release weren't clear.

Recent unconfirmed reports of Muttawakil's release fueled speculation that the U.S.-backed central government was pursuing talks with moderate members of the former Taliban movement.

Beijing

Twin earthquakes hit China; at least four dead, 25 injured

Two strong earthquakes struck a remote region of northwestern China's desert, killing at least four people and seriously injuring eight others, the government said Sunday.

The quakes -- magnitudes 6.1 and 5.8 -- hit Gansu province at 8:41 p.m. and 8:48 p.m. Saturday, the official Xinhua News Agency reported from Lanzhou, the provincial capital. Another 17 people suffered minor injuries, it said.

A magnitude 6 earthquake can cause severe damage.

The agency said the areas hit hardest by the quakes were near the city of Zhangye. Xinhua, quoting the provincial seismological bureau, said 30 percent of houses near the epicenters were damaged severely and 90 percent of buildings in Yaozhaizi, a nearby village, collapsed.

New York City

Report: Ferry employees ignored safety suggestions

A 1998 Coast Guard report found that crew members of the Staten Island ferry and city officials ignored suggestions to improve passenger warning systems on the boats.

The report followed a collision that injured two people, and noted that the "overriding opinion" of the ferry operators "is that passengers will ignore all warnings, so why bother trying to improve them," The New York Times reported in Saturday editions.

Meanwhile, a judge late Friday ordered the captain in this month's fatal ferry crash to appear in federal court to explain why he has not complied with a subpoena from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Lawyers for the captain, Michael Gansas, said he was too traumatized to be interviewed.

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