World briefs 6/15/06

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Eruption forces new evacuation at Mt. Merapi

MOUNT MERAPI, Indonesia -- Indonesia's most volatile volcano nearly enveloped a village with a searing gas cloud during an eruption Wednesday and forced thousands of residents to evacuate just a day after officials lowered the alert level and people returned. "The situation is ... life-threatening," said Yousana Siagian, head of the government's Vulcanology and Disaster Mitigation Center, after the alert level for Mount Merapi was raised to its highest status again and the volcano dumped thick ash on scores of houses. The state news agency Antara reported five villagers were unaccounted for after the eruption, but gave no other details. Other reports said several buildings near the peak had been incinerated.

Islamic militia captures strategic town in Somalia

MOGADISHU, Somalia -- Islamic militants captured the last strategic town held by their warlord rivals Wednesday, consolidating their hold over a large swath of Somalia even as the country's parliament called for help from foreign peacekeepers. President Abdullahi Yusuf's government, whose military consists of little more than the president's personal militia, has watched from the sidelines as the Islamic forces overcame a coalition of secular warlords to take control of southern Somalia. With Wednesday's victory in Jowhar, 60 miles northeast of Mogadishu, the Islamic Courts Union now controls all of southern Somalia except Baidoa, the seat of the weak transitional government. The rival warlords no longer have a foothold in the region.

Afghan violence kills more than 30 people

MUSA QALA, Afghanistan -- In the sweltering heat, some U.S. troops built sand barriers and guard outposts Wednesday. Others fired rounds from 119 mm howitzers into the vast desert. Once a barren dusty patch, this spot outside Musa Qala is now a bustling U.S. base, erected in the middle of nowhere to support a U.S.-led offensive that is the biggest anti-Taliban operation since the Islamic extremist government was ousted in 2001. Some 11,000 troops have deployed in Helmand for the offensive starting Thursday, including British, Canadian and Afghan forces.

National sweep nets 2,100 illegal immigrants

BOSTON -- In a blitz that began May 26, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has arrested nearly 2,100 illegal immigrants across the country. Officials said the raids are aimed at child molesters and other violent criminals, as well as people who sneaked back into the country after a judge threw them out. The crackdown is called Operation Return to Sender. The operation has caught more than 140 immigrants with convictions for sexual offenses against children; 367 known gang members; and about 640 people who had already been deported once, immigration officials said. More than 800 people arrested have been deported.

-- From wire reports

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