World digest 11/21/01

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Colombian militia frees six kidnapped mayors

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Six small-town mayors kidnapped by right-wing paramilitaries to protest their dealings with Colombian guerrillas were released unharmed Tuesday, the Red Cross said.

The mayors, abducted Sunday in the mountains of northern Antioquia state, were being taken to the state capital, Medellin, Red Cross spokesman Carlos Rios said.

They are part of a larger group of Antioquia mayors whose contacts with the leftist National Liberation Army have drawn the ire of the rival United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia, or AUC.

The paramilitary group said Monday it would free them only if they concede they were wrong to try to negotiate grass-roots truces with the rebel group, known as the ELN. Tuesday's release came without immediate comment from the AUC.

Explosion at bus station in Algeria injures 30

ALGIERS, Algeria -- A bomb ripped through a bus station in the Algerian capital during morning rush hour on Tuesday, injuring 30 people, five of them seriously, the nation's official news agency said.

The device was stashed in a satchel left in the Tafourha bus station in central Algiers, police said. The blast went off at around 8 a.m., damaging the building and causing panic among passengers gathered during the height of morning traffic. The blast was heard in much of the city.

No one claimed responsibility for the attack, but such violence is often attributed to the North African nation's Islamic militants, who have waged a nine-year campaign to try to topple the military-backed government.

More than 100,000 people have died in the insurgency since it broke out in 1992.

U.S. denies visas to adopted babies

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia -- The United States will not give visas to 11 Cambodian infants adopted by American parents, the U.S. ambassador said Tuesday, citing an investigation that found the babies were bought or stolen from their biological parents.

The decision, following two months of U.S. investigations, is a major blow to the prospective parents, who had waited weeks in Cambodia for visas for the infants.

Ambassador Kent Wiedemann said he sympathized with the parents, but added that U.S. investigators found evidence of networks procuring babies for prospective parents from the West.

"This involves criminal and unethical elements paying money to obtain children, or through trickery or through theft, to run a baby-selling businesses," Wiedemann said. "It's truly despicable."

Plane crashes northeast of Moscow, killing 27

MOSCOW -- Investigators picked through the wreckage of a Russian passenger airplane Tuesday, hoping to find clues to a crash the night before that killed all 27 people aboard, officials said.

The Ilyushin-18 airplane, which had been chartered by a company called Irasaero, went down Monday night near the town of Kalyazin, 90 miles northeast of Moscow. The cause was unknown.

The airplane had taken off from the Siberian city of Khatanga and disappeared from radar screens six hours later, said Viktor Osipov, who heads the Krasnoyarsk territory department of air transport in Siberia, according to the ITAR-Tass news agency.

Cruise lines to merge in $6 billion deal

LONDON -- P&O Princess Cruises PLC is merging with Miami-based Royal Caribbean Ltd. in a deal worth about $3 billion that creates the world's largest cruise ship company in an industry hurt by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

London-based Princess said Tuesday the combined company would have 41 ships and 75,000 berths, topping Miami-based Carnival Cruise Lines.

Royal Caribbean shareholders are getting about $3 billion worth of P&O Princess shares in the deal. The combined company would be worth about $6 billion.

Princess chief executive Peter Ratcliffe said no significant job cuts were expected.

-- From wire reports

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