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Archive for Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Around the world

December 28, 2004

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Honduras

Nine charged in bus massacre

Honduras' security minister pledged Monday to eliminate violent youth gangs, nine of whose members have been charged with homicide in connection with a Dec. 23 shooting attack on a public bus that killed 28 people.

The investigation of Thursday's violence has focused on Mara Salvatrucha gang suspect Alex Ramirez, 23, who was captured shortly after the attack driving a car whose interior was stained with blood, and carrying rifles and ammunition.

Authorities arrested eight others during a major sweep in the days after the attack, which occurred on the outskirts of the northern city of San Pedro Sula.

President Ricardo Maduro this week accused the gang of having "planned the massacre to frighten my government, which has had success in fighting crime."

France

Gas explosion kills 17 in apartment building

A gas explosion tore through a five-story apartment building in eastern France, killing 17 people and injuring 15, authorities said Monday.

Rescue workers, who initially found two bodies in the wreckage of Sunday afternoon's blast, discovered 15 more bodies early Monday.

Most of the deaths were caused by the collapse of three floors above where the explosion took place, officials said. The victims ranged in age from 15 to 60, they said.

Rescue workers equipped with dogs and mechanical diggers pored over the wreckage in a hunt for several people who remained missing, said Capt. Bertrand Weckel, a spokesman for regional emergency services.

Moscow

Russian military plans with China confirmed

Russia and China will have unprecedented joint military maneuvers on Chinese territory next year involving both nations' air forces and navies, Russia's defense minister said Monday.

Sergei Ivanov, speaking at a Cabinet session led by President Vladimir Putin, said that the exercise would involve submarines and possibly strategic bombers, the Interfax and ITAR-Tass news agencies reported.

"For the first time in history, we have agreed to hold quite a large military exercise together with China on Chinese territory in the second half of the year," Ivanov said.

"The Russian side will not bring big numbers of servicemen, but mostly state-of-the art weapons -- navy, air, long-range aviation, submarines to practice interaction with China in different forms of military maneuvers," he reported to Putin.

Jerusalem

Sharon accelerating withdrawal timetable

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said Monday he would seek final Cabinet approval for a Gaza withdrawal in February, four months earlier than planned, and he threatened harsh retaliation if Palestinian militants try to disrupt the pullback.

The warning came as Israel released 159 prisoners in a gesture to Egypt and Palestinians.

Sharon told lawmakers on the Foreign Affairs and Defense Committee he was pushing forward the Cabinet vote at the request of Israel's attorney general, according to meeting participants. The idea, he said, is to give settlers six months to prepare for their evacuation. The early vote does not change the schedule for the actual pullout.

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