Archive for Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Briefly

March 16, 2005

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Philippines

22 inmates killed as police storm jail

Even from behind bars, the Muslim extremist group Abu Sayyaf gave the Philippines yet another crisis -- a 29-hour prison uprising, live on national television.

After negotiations failed, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo sent in police armed with guns and tear gas for an assault that killed 22 inmates, including three leaders of Abu Sayyaf, a group notorious for deadly attacks and ransom kidnappings in which hostages have been beheaded.

A police officer and three prison guards also were killed.

The crisis began Monday morning with suspects from Abu Sayyaf stabbing guards and snatching their guns. Police and prosecutors said they had been warning prison officials since December of breakout plans by at least one Abu Sayyaf leader detained there.

Russia

$10 million bounty paid to informers

Russia's security service announced Tuesday it paid an unprecedented $10 million to informers who helped track down the late Chechen rebel leader Aslan Maskhadov -- an effort to give credibility to its renewed offer of an identical prize for the Kremlin's No. 1 foe, warlord Shamil Basayev.

The announcement appeared part of a stepped-up effort to eliminate separatist leaders whose fight against the Kremlin has dragged on for most of the past decade and destabilized much of Russia's southern flank. Chechnya's Moscow-backed president suggested it was part of a plan to rely increasingly on the region's local population in its attempts to stop rebel warlords.

"The promise to pay a large sum of money has been realized, and the population knows that this is no myth. People will turn up who will independently trace Basayev and his underlings and report to the proper authorities," the Interfax news agency quoted Alu Alkhanov as saying.

Vietnam

Human bird flu cases may be underreported

After more than a year of watching patients sicken and die of bird flu, Dr. Tran Tinh Hien of the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in Ho Chi Minh City thought he understood the illness.

Then last month, he learned of an unsettling study. Japanese researchers retested samples from 30 Vietnamese patients whose lab tests showed no signs of the disease. They discovered that seven had actually been infected.

Tran is part of a growing consensus that the extent of human bird flu infection in Southeast Asia may have been significantly underestimated.

In the last few months, scientists have begun to believe that the inaccuracy of laboratory tests, the wide variation of symptoms and the inability of public health agencies to combat the disease may have created the erroneous perception that bird flu is still rare among humans.

A pilot project in clinics around Ho Chi Minh City has been established to test patients with widely varying complaints, hoping to develop a more complete picture of the extent of infection.

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