World Watch

6 minute read

Rush to Create Post-Taliban Government
Opposition groups, diplomats and aid agencies scrambled to fill the political vacuum left in Kabul and other key Afghan cities abandoned by Taliban fighters under the twin onslaught of U.S. bombing and Northern Alliance advances. But there were ominous signs that warlords were reclaiming their traditional fiefdoms, threatening the country with fragmentation. Air strikes against al-Qaeda targets continued past the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan as Taliban leaders remained defiant, and U.S. ground troops clashed for the first time with Taliban soldiers in the south. As British forces secured Bagram airbase for military deployments and humanitarian aid, U.N. and Western diplomats pressed for the formation of a provisional council in Kabul as a prelude to a representative transitional government.

Suspects Held
Antiterrorist squad detectives made their first arrests in connection with an 18-month-old bombing campaign thought to be the work of dissident Irish republicans. Armed officers detained five people in London and one in Liverpool under the 2000 Terrorism Act. Firearms experts

later set off controlled explosions at a deserted farmhouse near Leeds. Police said the Real I.R.A., which opposes a Northern Ireland cease-fire, were the main suspects in recent attacks in Birmingham and West London.

A Miracle Rescue for Afghan Aid Workers
Eight aid workers arrested by the Taliban in August on charges of promoting Christianity were freed last week after the city of Ghazni fell to Northern Alliance troops. Taliban forces took the two Americans, two Australians and four Germans with them in the retreat from Kabul. Abandoned in Ghazni, the workers were picked up by Northern Alliance supporters, who allowed U.S. troops to move in with helicopters and whisk them to Pakistan. Georg Taubmann, one of the German aid workers, said their release was “like a miracle.”

More Evidence
Prosecutors at the U.N. war crimes tribunal charged former Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic with genocide in Bosnia, in the third case filed against him so far. Evidence from recent exhumations of mass graves may be included in the indictment charging Milosevic with the deaths of possibly thousands of people between 1992 and 1995. A former Yugoslav navy admiral, Miodrag Jokic, surrendered to the tribunal to face charges relating to killings in Dubrovnik in 1991.

Libyan Involvement
A Berlin court convicted four people and implicated the Libyan secret service in the bombing of a local nightclub 15 years ago that killed two American soldiers and a Turkish woman. The four were found guilty of murder or attempted murder and jailed for 12 to 14 years. The attack on the La Belle discothèque, which also injured 230 people, prompted retaliatory U.S. air strikes against two Libyan cities. The judge upheld claims that Libyan secret agents and embassy staff had planned the attack, but not that it was personally ordered by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

New Constitution
Macedonias parliament approved a package of constitutional amendments aimed at improving ethnic Albanian rights, ending weeks of wrangling over a Western-backed peace accord. Mediators hope the changes will defuse the seven-month-old crisis that began when Albanian rebels attacked police posts along the Kosovo border. But a splinter group of rebels calling themselves the Albanian National Army remained in control of several villages and warned security forces not to enter. The group claimed responsibility for the killing of three policemen earlier in the week.

Disastrous Toll
Security forces moved in to protect government buildings in Algiers as furious protesters blamed authorities for the high death toll in the countrys worst flood for 40 years. More than 850 people were feared killed, and the Red Cross launched an appeal for $1.2 million to help 24,000 people left homeless or destitute. Residents of the capitals poorer areas accused the government of not unblocking drains sealed in the 1990s so militants could not use them as escape routes.

New Lives
Authorities began releasing hundreds of children detained after the 1994 genocide. The youngsters, who were between five and 12 at the time of the killings, were originally held in prisons before being transferred to rehabilitation centers where they were taught literacy and technical skills. About 600 young people are to be released to families or foster families after approval of the scheme by local communities.

Political tensions boiled over again as the government announced new measures to seize white-owned farms and accused the opposition party of murdering a leading government supporter. Hundreds of war veterans rampaged through Bulawayo protesting the death of their colleague, looting stores and setting fire to opposition headquarters. The Commercial Farmers Union was considering a legal challenge to a new presidential decree evicting more than 4,000 white farmers from their land.

Mysterious Death
The unexplained murder of separatist leader Theys Eluay sparked unrest in the province of Papua, formerly known as Irian Jaya, as suspicion grew of involvement by the Indonesian military. The chairman of the Papuan Presidium Council was found dead in his crashed car after being kidnapped on his way home. Eluay had recently rejected an Indonesian offer to grant the province a degree of autonomy though not full independence.

AIDS on the Agenda
More than 2,000 delegates from 20 countries gathered for China’s first conference on AIDS, amid accusations that HIV sufferers had been excluded from the meeting. Health Minister Zhang Wenkang said the goal was to slow the rate of new infections from 30% now to 10% per year by 2005. UN AIDS executive director Peter Piot said the conference was a sign of more openness, but a group of people infected by blood banks in Henan province said they had been prevented from attending

New Friendship
Russian President Vladimir Putin and U.S. President George W. Bush concluded three days of talks, cementing what Bush called a “new relationship based on trust and cooperation.” Both countries agreed to cut their stockpiles of nuclear weapons to around 2,200 warheads. But the leaders failed to reach substantive agreement on missile defense. Russia has opposed U.S plans to conduct tests that would violate the Antiballistic Missile Treaty signed in 1972. Bush accepted an invitation to visit Moscow early next year.

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