World briefs 12/16/05

Friday, December 16, 2005

Fire at hospital in China kills at least 33 people

BEIJING -- A fire swept through a hospital in northeastern China on Thursday, killing at least 33 people, including patients, state media said. Witnesses were quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying that some people leapt from the burning hospital buildings in Jilin province. It was not immediately clear whether those who jumped were among the dead. At least some of the victims were patients who died while being transferred to other hospitals, the news agency said. The fire started at about 5 p.m. Thursday at the largest hospital in Liaoyuan city, about 75 miles southwest of Changchun, the capital of Jilin province, witnesses said.

Nazi-era Jews found in mass grave reburied

STUTTGART, Germany -- Remains believed to be of 34 Jews who died doing slave labor for the Nazis were re-interred with full religious rites Thursday at the U.S. Army airfield where their mass grave was discovered. Tel Aviv chief rabbi Israel Meir Lau, a Holocaust survivor who was formerly Israel's chief rabbi, was among about 300 people who attended the ceremony at the airfield, next to Stuttgart's airport. The remains were found in September during construction work at the airfield. They are believed to be the bodies of Jewish inmates from part of the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp who were used as slave laborers.

Japanese zoo puts penguins on exercise plan

TOKYO -- Push-ups and pilates for plump penguins? Officials at the Asahiyama Zoo in northern Japan began a winter exercise regiment Thursday for a flock of pudgy penguins. The birds started taking 500-yard walks, twice a day, zoo spokesman Tetsuo Yamazaki said. But the zoo's 15 king penguins aren't exactly obese. Penguin winter weight varies from 33 pounds to 40 pounds, said zoo official Kazunobu Maru. Only one of the flock is 40 pounds so far.

New South Wales passes laws to curb rioting

SYDNEY, Australia -- Lawmakers in New South Wales state passed laws Thursday giving police new powers to crack down on race rioters after days of unrest plagued Sydney's southern beach suburbs. A mob of 5,000 white youths, many of them drunk, descended on Cronulla Beach on Sunday, fought with police and attacked people they believed were Arab. The disturbances continued for three nights, escalating into retaliatory attacks and vandalism on churches, prompting New South Wales parliament to halt its summer recess for an emergency session Thursday. Under the law, police will be allowed to search people and vehicles, and seize vehicles and cell phones for up to a week. Police also can prevent bars in trouble spots from selling alcohol for up to two days and can declare alcohol-free zones.

French counterterrorism agents arrest three

PARIS -- French counterterrorism agents arrested three suspects in a network with alleged ties to al-Qaida in Iraq, seizing guns, explosives and detonators believed to have been used in armed robberies to finance the group's operations, officials said Thursday. The overnight roundup in the Parisian suburb of Clichy-sous-Bois was prompted by information culled during investigators' questioning of 25 suspects detained in a similar anti-terrorism sweep Monday, officials said. Police found a stash of weapons in a Clichy-sous-Bois garage, said a police investigator who cannot be identified because his agency does not allow it. Agents also found several pounds of explosives, AK-47 and Famas assault rifles, revolvers, ammunition, balaclavas and bulletproof vests, he said. Famas rifles are standard issue for French soldiers.

Nepalese soldier kills 11 civilians, injures 19

KATMANDU, Nepal -- A Nepalese soldier ended an argument with a group of villagers by spraying them with bullets, killing at least 11 people, officials and witnesses said Thursday. Another 19 civilians were injured in the shooting late Wednesday, the Royal Nepalese Army said in a statement. The killings in Nagarkot, about 15 miles northeast of Katmandu, drew about 200 protesters Thursday to the hospital where the injured were taken.

-- From wire reports

Hours later, about 15,000 protesters led by an alliance of seven political parties marched through Katmandu demanding that King Gyanendra restore democracy and condemning the killings.

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