Nation briefs 3/23/06

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Two killed In demolition at Miss. casino barge

GULFPORT, Miss. -- Two construction workers were killed during a demolition project at the hurricane-ravaged Grand Casino Gulfport, authorities said. The men were pumping water out of a portion of the casino that collapsed during Hurricane Katrina. Officials believe the two, working in water about six feet deep, became trapped in a tight space Tuesday. The cause of death was not immediately clear, said Gulfport Fire Chief Pat Sullivan. The workers were identified Wednesday as Tom Fitzgerald, 49, of Newport News, Va., and Miguel Hidalgo-Soberano, 48, of Cardenas Tabasco, Mexico. Autopsies were being performed.

Army dog handler gets six months in prison

FORT MEADE, Md. -- An Army dog handler was sentenced Wednesday to six months behind bars for using his snarling canine to torment prisoners at Abu Ghraib. The military jury handed down the sentence a day after convicting Sgt. Michael J. Smith, 24. He could have gotten 8 1/2 years in prison. Smith was sentenced on five charges, including maltreatment of prisoners and conspiring with another dog handler in a contest to try to frighten detainees into soiling themselves. Smith was also demoted to private and will receive a bad conduct discharge after his release from prison.

Two explosions in Bolivian capital kill two

LA PAZ, Bolivia -- Bombs severely damaged two low-budget hotels in the heart of Bolivia's capital overnight, killing two people and injuring at least seven, police said Wednesday. Authorities arrested an American and a Uruguayan. The explosions occurred Tuesday night and early Wednesday in La Paz's historic city center. Police initially blamed the blasts on terrorism but later said it appeared the American suspect was mentally ill. "The possible motives behind these attacks are incomprehensible," Deputy Interior Minister Rafael Puente told Radio Fides, saying the blasts could have killed dozens of people.

Aruba reportedly has lead in missing teen case

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico -- Aruban authorities reportedly have a new witness in the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway and plan to conduct another search for her body on the Dutch Caribbean island. The witness provided specific information that prompted investigators to organize the search in sand dunes along the northern tip of the island, Gerald Dompig, Aruba's deputy chief of police, said in an interview with CBS television's "48 Hours Mystery" program. Dompig said investigators will use cadaver dogs to search near a lighthouse and believe that someone took steps to carefully hide Holloway's body -- perhaps burying her twice.

-- From wire reports

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