Friday, May 5, 2000,
Chandigarh, India





THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
50 YEARS OF INDEPENDENCE

TERCENTENARY CELEBRATIONS
W O R L D

Rebels kill 7 UN peacekeepers
FREETOWN, May 4 — UN peacekeepers surrounded a former rebel leader’s house in Sierra Leone a day after his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) killed seven of their number and took dozens hostage.

Iran frees 480 Iraqi PoWs
MUNTHIRIYA (Iraq), May 4 — Iran released 480 Iraqi prisoners of war today, 12 years after the end of the 1980-88 war between the two oil-rich Gulf states.

Priest among captives killed
JOLO (PHILIPPINES), May 4 — Philippine officials cast doubts today on a local radio report that two foreign hostages escaped from their Islamic rebel captors, while fighting elsewhere in the south tapered off.


Philippine scout rangers unload ammunition supplies from a C-130 plane, 03 May 2000, after arriving at the airport on Jolo island in the southern Philippines. Some 50 scout rangers arrived today, the first of some 600 that are on their way to be deployed and assist the military in the troubled area. — AFP photo

Window on Pakistan
Lengthening shadow of drought

As parts of India, particularly Gujarat and Rajasthan, are reeling under a severe drought, so are certain districts of Pakistan's Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. Reports have it that two-thirds of Baluchistan and the Thar desert in Sindh have had very little rainfall for the past eight years. There are no crops and nearly 90 per cent of the livestock has died. Many families have perished due to starvation. Most of those who have survived have migrated to safer areas.

3 Iranian Jews confess to spying for Israel
SHIRAZ, May 4 — Two Iranian Jews have said they spied for Israel, bringing to three the number of defendants who have confessed to espionage in a trial that has attracted international concern about its fairness.

Cops storm bus, rescue hostages
TOKYO, May 4 — All nine hostages of the hijacked Japanese bus and its driver were rescued by the police who stormed into the vehicle today and arrested the teenager who had taken over the vehicle and fatally stabbed one woman passenger.

Palestinians walk out of peace talks
EILAT, Israel, May 4 — Palestinian negotiators, angered by an Israeli land proposal for a final peace deal, briefly walked out of peace talks yesterday, a senior Palestinian official said today.




LONDON: Manjit Singh Gill, 39, at Inner Temple, London, who became England's youngest Asian QC (Queen's Council) on Wednesday. The 39-year-old practising Sikh, from Ealing, West London, said his appointment as a lawyer, a QC, was important because it shows the Sikh community that "they can achieve, can be successful and do have good role models". — AP/PTI

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Rebels kill 7 UN peacekeepers

FREETOWN, May 4 (AFP) — UN peacekeepers surrounded a former rebel leader’s house in Sierra Leone a day after his Revolutionary United Front (RUF) killed seven of their number and took dozens hostage.

About 100 UN soldiers yesterday blocked off the road around the house of RUF leader Foday Sankoh in the capital of Freetown, a UN spokeswoman in New York said. An AFP journalist at the scene saw several of the blue-helmeted troops patrolling around the residence.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, who was on a visit to France, expressed his “outrage” at the killings and abductions and warned Sankoh would be held accountable.

Sankoh told AFP in a brief telephone interview than six of his fighters had been killed by UN peacekeepers in Makeni on Tuesday, and that the clashes that resulted in the peacekeepers’ deaths had been caused by UN efforts to force rebels to disarm.

The death toll was the worst sustained in one day by a UN peacekeeping operation since April 7, 1994, when 10 Belgian soldiers were killed in Rwanda at the start of the genocide there.

The head of UN Peacekeeping Operations, Bernard Miyet, told the UN Security Council in a briefing that the dead peacekeepers were members of a Kenyan battalion supervising disarmament camps at Makeni and Magburaka, about 140 km North-East of Freetown, a diplomat in New York said.

UN spokeswoman Marie Okabe said RUF fighters were still holding 21 peacekeepers at Makeni and Magburaka and about 28 soldiers and civilians at Kailahun, in the east of the country.

Okabe said one Indian major from UNAMSIL had been released and that negotiations to secure the release of other detainees were on-going.

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters): Seven Kenyan UN soldiers have been killed in clashes with rebels in Sierra Leone and about 50 have been captured, a UN spokeswoman confirmed on Wednesday.

NEW YORK (DPA): The leader of rebels in Sierra Leone who killed seven UN peacekeepers during gun battles and then took 50 UN soldiers and workers prisoner said he would comply with demands, at least for the time being, after being threatened with punishment measures and the prospect of military intervention.

RUF leader Sankoh promised according to UN information in New York on Wednesday evening that the soldiers and workers being held prisoner would soon be freed.

After negotiating with a high-ranking Nigerian delegation, Sankoh signed an agreement to be broadcast on radio in which he promised to stop all hostile activities toward the UN peacekeepers and to free all prisoners. He also guaranteed that UN troops could safely move about in RUF areas. But Sankoh has often given and broken such promises before.
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Iran frees 480 Iraqi PoWs

MUNTHIRIYA (Iraq), May 4 (Reuters) — Iran released 480 Iraqi prisoners of war today, 12 years after the end of the 1980-88 war between the two oil-rich Gulf states.

Reporters saw the exhausted PoWs cross into Iraq at the Munthiriya border post to an emotional welcome. Relatives wept as they hugged and kissed the freed men, whose return brought to 2,479 the number of PoWs freed by Iran in less than a month.

Many relatives had difficulty recognising freed prisoners after spending as many as 18 years in captivity in Iran. The former PoWs also struggled to recognise their grown-up children.

Hundreds of relatives sang, danced and distributed sweets to celebrate the return of the men whom they see as heroes of the eight-year war. A million people from both sides died in the war.

The PoWs were handed to Iraqi authorities under supervision of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

The fate of thousands of PoWs is among the thorniest issues clouding Iraq-Iran ties.

Iran repatriated 1,999 Iraqi prisoners under ICRC supervision last month and an Iraqi newspaper said afterwards that Iran would release 2,000 more PoWs within weeks. Baghdad said last month Iran still held 9,000 of its soldiers.

The ICRC had said that more than 4,600 Iraqi PoWs were unwilling to return home. Some of PoWs had even managed to travel outside Iran but they did not return to Iraq.

Tehran says that Iraq is still holding around 3,000 Iranian prisoners.

Tension between the two countries has escalated in recent months over cross-border attacks by the Iraq-based Mujahideen Khalq, the main exiled Iranian opposition group, and retaliatory attacks which Baghdad blamed on Tehran.
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Priest among captives killed

JOLO (PHILIPPINES), May 4 (Reuters) — Philippine officials cast doubts today on a local radio report that two foreign hostages escaped from their Islamic rebel captors, while fighting elsewhere in the south tapered off.

In a separate hostage drama, another unit of fundamentalist Abu Sayyaf guerrillas sprayed a group of Filipino captives, including a Catholic priest, with gunfire after tying their hands behind their backs, the military said.

The report said that two white men among 21 mainly foreign hostages kidnapped from a Malaysian resort on easter Sunday had escaped came from DZMM radio station, but it was quickly disputed.

“There is no truth to that ... I have my men up there,” provincial Governor Abdusakur Tan said after the radio, quoting informants, said the escape was made yesterday from a rebel lair on Jolo Island, 960 km south of Manila.

Habib Jamasali Abdurahman, a government emissary involved in talks with the rebels for the release of the hostages, said he strongly doubted the report.

Military officers near the hostage site said troops returned guerrilla fire during the night, and one officer said the rebels moved their captives to another hideout to escape the shooting.

On nearby Basilan island, the military said four Filipino hostages among a group kidnapped 45 days earlier were executed by their captors as troops closed in on their hideout yesterday.

MANILA, (AFP): Meanwhile, the Philippines Government’s top negotiator in the kidnapping of 21 persons from seven nations threatened to quit on Thursday unless the military stopped its seige against the Muslim militant hostage-takers.

Nur Misuari’s warning came after a gunbattle between government troops and the extremist Abu Sayyaf reportedly resulted in the deaths of two foreign hostages and raised international concern.

Misuari, a former rebel leader, told local television he would stop trying to negotiate the release of the hostages from the Abu Sayyaf if the government did not stop military operations in the Talipau area in southern Jolo island, where the captives are being held.
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Window on Pakistan
Lengthening shadow of drought

As parts of India, particularly Gujarat and Rajasthan, are reeling under a severe drought, so are certain districts of Pakistan's Sindh and Baluchistan provinces. Reports have it that two-thirds of Baluchistan and the Thar desert in Sindh have had very little rainfall for the past eight years. There are no crops and nearly 90 per cent of the livestock has died. Many families have perished due to starvation. Most of those who have survived have migrated to safer areas.

Of the 6.5 million population of Baluchistan — the biggest but sparsely populated province of Pakistan — over two million people find themselves in the grip of the drought. The situation is getting grimmer with the passage of time. Those who can are leaving their hearth and home in the absence of adequate relief supplies. The Provincial Relief Commissioner has perhaps been told that he should not expect much financial help from the fund-starved federal government. Hence his appeal to the international community for at least Rs 2.5 billion in aid and without delay.

Water levels in the dams and rivers in the drought-hit areas have come down alarmingly. Some of the rivers are, in fact, drying up. This has been admitted by Lt-Gen Zulfiqar Ali Khan, Chairman of the Water and Power Development Authority (WAPDA) while participating in a PTV programme.

The Indus and other rivers as well as dams are also hit by siltation. This means that even if there is a fresh flow of water from what Pakistan calls its Northern Areas as a result of melting of snow and glaciers following a rise in the temperature, there is no hope of adequate availability of water.

The problem could have been easily anticipated and desilting of the dams undertaken on a war-footing. The necessary funds too could be procured. But this requires political stability, which is not available in Pakistan.

Cotton, paddy and sugarcane growers in Sindh are the most distressed lot. By now the sowing of all kharif crops in Sindh should have been completed. But the water level in the rivers and canals, as a report in The Nation says, present a "dismal picture". Hardly 50 per cent sowing may be possible under the circumstances.

The water shortage has not only destabilised life of villagers but also city-dwellers. People in Karachi, the commercial capital of Pakistan, are the worst-hit. The Nation of April 25 reported that most areas in Karachi had been going without the drinking water supply for weeks, forcing the thirsty residents to depend on contaminated sub-soil water supplied by private tanker-operators. The Hub dam, the primary source of water supply to Karachi's central areas, has had no water for the past one year. The supply from other sources has also been cut down drastically, making the life of Karachiites miserable.

The terrible situation is getting worse by the day because of rampant corruption in the Karachi Water and Sewerage Board (KWSB). The city is currently faced with a shortage of 250 million gallons daily (MGD) whereas 100 MGD water goes waste because of the leakage at different points in the supply line. KWSB officials know it, but they refuse to take corrective measures as that will have its impact on the business of private tanker-owners. This state of affairs enables these officials to line their pockets by striking a deal with the businessmen.

The harassed residents have been holding protest demonstrations against this murky goings-on but in vain.

"As things stand, the situation is hardly likely to improve in the near future. With anger mounting over the civic agencies' failure to regulate the city's water supply so that it suffices demands, street demonstrations with all their attendant dangers could well become widespread", warns Dawn in its April 30 issue.

Ghulam Haidar in an article in The Nation of April 24 paints a very grip picture of water availability in Pakistan. According to him, Pakistan is "fast becoming a water-deficient country from a water-affluent country". In 1947 the per capita water availability stood at 5000 cubic metres. But in 1999 it declined to 1,200 cubic metres. If no effective steps are taken to reverse the situation, the per capita water availability may go down to 800 cubic metres in 2025.

The writer blames the 1960 Indus Basin Treaty (involving the Sutlej, the Beas and the Ravi) between India and Pakistan for much of the water crisis in his country. But how could Pakistan deny India its legitimate share of water in these rivers? In the absence of the treaty, the two neighbours could have fought wars over the water issue too.

— Syed Nooruzzaman
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3 Iranian Jews confess to spying for Israel

SHIRAZ, May 4 (AP) — Two Iranian Jews have said they spied for Israel, bringing to three the number of defendants who have confessed to espionage in a trial that has attracted international concern about its fairness.

The three were motivated by their religion and by financial rewards, provincial judiciary chief Hossein Ali Amiri told reporters yesterday.

Israel condemned the latest confessions yesterday as “loathsome.” It denies that any of the 13 Iranian Jews on trial for espionage in this southern city are spies.

One of the accused, Shahrokh Paknahad, a religion teacher, appeared outside the court on Wednesday and told reporters he had confessed to spying for Israel.

Defence lawyer Esmail Naseri said another defendant, Ramin Nematizadeh, a shop clerk, had confessed to the same charges in court earlier in the day.

The only other defendant in court, Dani Tefilin, a shoe salesman, said he was under no duress when he had confessed. He was shown on state television on Monday confessing his espionage to a reporter.

Defence lawyers have questioned the fairness of the proceedings and the validity of a confession made on national television. Western states have expressed concern about the prosecution of the 13 Jews and the fairness of their trial.
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Cops storm bus, rescue hostages

TOKYO, May 4 (PTI) — All nine hostages of the hijacked Japanese bus and its driver were rescued by the police who stormed into the vehicle today and arrested the teenager who had taken over the vehicle and fatally stabbed one woman passenger.

After a 300-km chase and hours of negotiations at a highway in Hiroshima, the police stormed into the bus, arrested the lone 17-year-old hijacker, said to be mentally deranged, and pulled out the passengers, the police said.

The nine passengers, driver and the teenage suspect aboard the bus were not injured, they said.

During the hijacking, the suspect stabbed three women passengers in the neck. Sixtyeight-year-old Tatsuko Tsukamoto died at a hospital later.

Three other hostages had earlier escaped by leaping out of the windows of the bus, the police said, adding that the two wounded survivors and one of the passengers who jumped off the hijacked vehicle were hospitalised.

The teen, who was taken to the nearby police station, was arrested on charges of taking hostages and carrying an illegal weapon. Upon conviction, the maximum penalty for taking and killing a hostage is the death penalty or life in prison.
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Palestinians walk out of peace talks

EILAT, Israel, May 4 (Reuters) — Palestinian negotiators, angered by an Israeli land proposal for a final peace deal, briefly walked out of peace talks yesterday, a senior Palestinian official said today.

But US special envoy Dennis Ross managed to bring the sides back together last evening, the official added.

Ross was sent to mediate the peace talks under way at the Israeli Red Sea resort town of Eilat by US President Bill Clinton who is determined to clinch a peace accord.

The negotiators are hammering out a framework deal for a final peace treaty which is supposed to be reached by September 13.

“The Israelis showed the Palestinians maps of the final status. The Palestinians were angered and walked out of the meeting. (US envoy Dennis) Ross succeeded in bringing the sides back to a meeting in the evening,” the official said.

He added it was the first time that Israel had shared maps, detailing its territorial proposals, with the Palestinians since the talks on a final peace accord began last September.

Another Palestinian official told Reuters that the maps showed a state or entity made up of three cantons with no links to one another nor to nearby Jordan, whose population is predominantly Palestinian.
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WORLD BRIEFS

19 die in highway massacre
ALGIERS: Nearly two dozen armed men attacked a bus load of people that refused to stop at a fake roadblock, south of Algiers early on Tuesday killing nearly 19 persons with guns and knives, residents of the region said. About 26 other persons were injured in the 5 a.m. (9.30 a.m. IST) attack on the road between Blida and Medea, a dangerous route surrounded by mountains that harbour Islamic insurgents, about 75 km south of Algiers. According to reports, some 20 Islamic insurgents opened fire on the bus when it refused to stop at a fake roadblock. — AP

Court to decide on Pinochet’s immunity
SANTIAGO: A Chilean appeals court on Wednesday said it will meet on May 24 to decide if Augusto Pinochet can be stripped of his immunity and put on trial for human rights abuses during his 1973-1990 rule. On Friday a three-day hearing drew to a close after judges listened to lawyers argue that military officers acted under order from Pinochet, who was then the army’s top commander, in committing the rights abuses. Pinochet currently cannot face trial because he changed the constitution in 1980. — Reuters

Titanic mementoes sold at auction
LONDON: A menu card that belongs to a survivor of the sinking of the Titanic was sold for 20,625 ($ 32,000) at auction. The third-class menu, showing the steerage passengers has smoked herrings for breakfast and roast beef for lunch, is believed to be unique, said Sotheby’s auction house, which conducted the sale. The card, and an inspection card for infectious disease that sold 13,350 ($ 21,000), were brought off the sinking ship by passenger Sarah Roth. — AP

Chinese President to quit in 2002
HONG KONG: The Chinese President, Mr Jiang Zemin, has indicated he will step down as Communist Party general secretary in 2002 and wants the top job to go to Vice-President Hu Jintao, a newspaper reported o Thursday.—AP

‘Missing’ hydrogen found
WASHINGTON: Astronomers using the Hubble space telescope said they had found much of the universe’s missing hydrogen, ironically by finding oxygen. One of the most embarrassing mysteries facing astronomers is that they cannot find most of the matter in the universe. They know how much should be there by the behaviour of galaxies and other bodies. — Reuters

Conservation group buy 52 islands
WASHINGTON: The Palmyra Atoll, a pristine network of 52 small islands in the mid-Pacific Ocean, is being purchased by a conservation group to guarantee preservation of its marine wilderness. The Nature Conservancy will announce on Wednesday that it is buying the uninhabited islands — 680 acres of land in all — and adjacent coral reefs and lagoons, from the Fullard-Leo family in Hawaii. The price was not disclosed, but is said to be in the range of $ 30 million. — AP

‘Hercules’ star dead
LOS ANGELES: Actor Steve Reeves (74) who caused women to swoon and cash registers to ring when he played the muscular lead in the 1959 film “Hercules” died on Wednesday of cancer in a California hospital. Reeves, a body-builder, won between 1947 and 1950 the titles of Mr America, Mr World and Mr Universe. His muscular physique led to a career starring in European action films. At 43, he quit films due to health problems. His other well known films include “The Thief of Baghdad” and “The Last Days of Pompeii”. . — DPA

One held for Internet blackmail
ISTANBUL: A Turkish man who allegedly tried to blackmail another man over “obscene” Internet conversation has been arrested, newspapers here reported. The man, identified as Turan (24), reportedly twice extorted money around $ 380 from his victim, threatening to reveal conversations, which he said he had recorded, to the victim’s family. — AFP

Cardinal O’Connor dead
NEW YORK: Cardinal John O’Connor of New York Archdiocese, a popular figure in the city among all religions, died here last night of complication of surgery to remove his brain tumour. He was 80. O’Connor, who charmed New Yorkers with his wit and warmth while using his opposition to abortion and homosexuality to make headlines and chastise politicians, was the oldest active Bishop in the USA and one of the country’s most influential Catholics. —PTITop

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