World Watch

  • Share
  • Read Later

Suspected serial "train killer" Sid Ahmed Rezala--who has eluded an international manhunt since October--was arrested in Barreiro, 20 km south of Lisbon. The Algerian-born Frenchman, 20, is the prime suspect in the murders of three women in France, including 20-year-old British student Isabel Peake, who was thrown from a high-speed night train on Oct. 13 last year. Rezala was wanted for stabbing to death 36-year-old Corinne Caillaux in the toilet of another night train on Dec. 13, and is also suspected of murdering Emilie Bazin, whose body was found buried under the coal cellar of an apartment he was renting in Amiens. Rezala, who refused voluntary extradition to France, could remain in custody in Portugal for months while the case is investigated.

British Home Secretary Jack Straw said he was "minded" to free Chile's former dictator Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and send him home on health grounds. Pinochet, 84--who has been under house arrest for 15 months in Britain, fighting extradition to Spain on charges of torture during his regime--had been given a long medical examination by four independent British doctors. They unanimously concluded that a deterioration in Pinochet's health--he has suffered several recent minor strokes--had left him unfit to stand trial. Straw gave the Spanish authorities and any others who opposed the plan a week to make their case, although it appeared unlikely Straw would change his mind.

In its largest mass conviction to date, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia found five Bosnian Croat soldiers guilty of killing 116 Muslims in one of the most notorious massacres of the 1992-95 Bosnian war. The five defendants were ordered to serve sentences ranging from six to 25 years for their parts in the April 1993 attack on the central Bosnian village of Ahmici, described by Presiding Judge Antonio Cassese as "one of the most vicious illustrations of man's inhumanity to man." Soldiers with black-painted faces machine-gunned entire families, some victims were burned alive, and all 172 Muslim houses were burned to the ground--although Croat buildings were untouched. Cassese likened the slaughter to those at the Nazi concentration camp Dachau and at My Lai, where U.S. soldiers massacred civilians during the Vietnam War.

After a tense cabinet meeting lasting over seven hours, the Turkish government agreed to suspend the death sentence against Kurdish rebel leader Abdullah Ocalan until the European Court of Human Rights considers his appeal--which could take up to two years. The postponement is a victory for Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, who is opposed in principle to the death penalty and in practice to anything that would jeopardize Turkey's candidacy to the European Union. In deference to his ultra-right coalition partner, Ecevit said the decision could be reversed if it were exploited by the P.K.K. rebels. The reprieve was greeted with anger by the bereaved relatives of soldiers. Two men and a woman in Istanbul were taken to hospital when they tried to set themselves afire at a graveside protest.

Returning home after eight days of U.S.-brokered land-for-peace negotiations with Syria, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak said a peace deal could come within two months. "Talks have reached a vital stage and demand difficult decisions," he said. A U.S. draft document mapping out points of agreement and disagreement, leaked to an Israeli newspaper, seems to confirm that both sides agree there is no defined boundary between them. It suggests that in exchange for return of the Golan Heights, seized in 1967, Syria is prepared to open full, peaceful relations with Israel. Talks are scheduled to resume in the U.S. this week. Meanwhile, Israeli authorities opened an "examination" of unreported cash gifts--estimated between $200,000 and $450,000--received by President Ezer Weizman from a French businessman when Weizman was a member of parliament.

An estimated 2,500 Islamic guerrillas surrendered by the end of a six-month amnesty, in what some analysts called a triumph for the government in Algeria's eight-year civil war. Under a deal with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika, the Islamic Salvation Army, the largest guerrilla faction, was disbanded in return for a full pardon. Bouteflika vowed a "fight without mercy" against more than 1,500 remaining armed opponents, including members of the extremist Armed Islamic Group.

Eight aid workers were killed in southern Sudan when they were ambushed, apparently by Ugandan rebels, and their vehicle set on fire about 5 km from the Ugandan border near the town of Parajok. The team was in the area to assess the conditions of those displaced by the 16-year civil war in southern Sudan and the vehicle was clearly marked with the NCA logo and name. Ugandan rebels from the Lord's Resistance Army, which is based in the region, have been blamed for the attack. Earlier this month, two Care International aid workers were killed in the same area.

One week after Tibet's third-ranking Buddhist leader fled Chinese control and joined the Dalai Lama in exile in Dharamsala, the Indian government had still to decide whether to grant him asylum. Diplomats said it was highly unlikely that the 14-year-old Karmapa Lama would be sent back. But his unexpected arrival on Jan. 5 after escaping Tibet threatened India's drive to improve relations with a country it last went to war with in 1962. Tibet has been a central factor in Sino-Indian relations ever since India gave refuge to the Dalai Lama in 1959. China issued a veiled warning to India last week, reminding it that the two countries based their relations on the principles of peaceful coexistence--which included non-interference.

Malaysian police arrested three senior opposition politicians, a journalist and the printer of a newspaper, charging them with various provisions of the Sedition Act and the Official Secrets Act. Each face jail if convicted. The arrests--which came just hours after Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad left for a vacation in Argentina--are leveled against the Democratic Action Party Deputy Chairman, two senior leaders of the National Justice Party, and the editor and printer of Harakah, the biweekly newspaper of the Malaysian Islamic Party. Given the number of arrests and the fact that members of each of Malaysia's three main opposition parties are involved, government critics say they fear a large-scale crackdown of the kind seen twice before during Mahathir's 19 years in power. The government says the charges have nothing to do with politics.

Indonesia's President Abdurrahman Wahid and Vice President Megawati Sukarnoputri came under fire from Muslims for failing to stop the violence in Maluku, which protesters claim has killed more than 2,000 Muslims since Dec. 26. Over 100,000 people gathered in front of the presidential palace, demanding Megawati's resignation and calling for a holy war. Fighting between Christians and Muslims in the former Spice Islands has claimed at least 1,700 lives in the past year. Last week dozens of people were killed in fresh clashes around the town of Masohi and hundreds were still missing, most believed to be hiding in dense jungle on the island of Buru. While squabbling continues among Jakarta's political élite, few see an end to the violence in the near future.

Under a new proposal announced last week, Colombia will receive $1.6 billion in antidrug-trafficking aid from the U.S. over the next two years--more than five times the amount received in 1999. The aid package--yet to be approved by Congress--comes in response to requests by Colombia's President Andres Pastrana Arango for greater international support in the war on drugs. Most of the money would help train counternarcotics battalions and pay for 63 military helicopters. Funds would also be available for coca eradication and investment in alternative crops and employment. Announcing details of the package, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright insisted the aid would go to fight the drug war and not Marxist rebels.

A double-decker bus carrying Argentine tourists collided head-on with a local bus in southeastern Brazil, killing at least 42 people and injuring 40 others. The tourists were headed for the popular Santa Catarina beaches when their bus lost control on a winding mountain road before dawn. Police said their driver was charged with homicide after he admitted that he had been speeding.