Two children die during urban clash in Colombia

Wednesday, May 22, 2002

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Warfare between security forces and suspected leftist guerrillas erupted in Colombia's second-largest city Tuesday, leaving at least eight people dead, including two children.

The Medellin fighting began after an early morning raid involving hundreds of soldiers, police and federal agents on a hillside slum ringing the city. Two girls caught in the cross fire, ages 4 and 2, were among those killed.

Television news programs showed security forces crouching in the streets and firing assault rifles in daylight toward the tops of apartment buildings. It was some of the most open urban street fighting in 38 years of war.

Barrio residents were seen shrieking in fear and scrambling for cover. Police denied charges from Medellin human rights groups that police helicopters had strafed the neighborhood.

Ex-Croatian Serb rebel leader pleads innocent

THE HAGUE, Netherlands -- A former leader of Serb rebels in Croatia pleaded innocent Tuesday to charges he ordered deadly rocket attacks against Croatia's capital in 1995.

Milan Martic, the former president of a self-proclaimed Serb mini-state in Croatia in the early 1990s, surrendered to the U.N. war crimes tribunal in The Hague last week. He is one of six Serb suspects who recently gave themselves up rather than face possible arrest and extradition by Yugoslav authorities.

At his first appearance, Martic pleaded innocent to four counts of violations of the laws or customs of war for unlawful attacks against civilians. If convicted, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

Prosecution drops 13 witnesses in Pearl case

HYDERABAD, Pakistan -- Prosecutors in the trial of four Islamic radicals charged in the death of Daniel Pearl attempted Tuesday to speed up the case by dismissing 13 witnesses.

The decision came as investigators sought to determine the identity of a body believed to be that of the Wall Street Journal reporter.

Dismembered remains, including a severed head, were discovered Friday in a shallow grave near a blood-splattered shack where Pearl is believed to have been held.

Turkey's ailing premier holds meeting in hospital

ANKARA, Turkey -- Leaders of Turkey's ruling three-party coalition rejected calls Tuesday for early elections after a hospital meeting with ailing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit.

Ecevit, 76, saw coalition leaders in a special room at Ankara's Baskent hospital, the first government meeting since he became ill May 4.

Opposition parties say the prime minister's poor health was slowing down the government. Many lawmakers have called on him to resign; others say he should designate a caretaker prime minister.

The coalition statement appeared designed to ease fears that Ecevit's health would force him to withdraw from the government, forcing early elections that could jeopardize Turkey's economic recovery.

Markets fell sharply last week when Ecevit was hospitalized a second time this month, though they since have recovered some ground.

Ex-opposition legislator wins presidential vote

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania -- A former opposition legislator has won the presidential election in the largest of the three islands in the Comoros Republic, a U.N official said Tuesday.

The election in Grand Comore on Sunday was the last in a series provided for in an international agreement to end attempts at secession and introduce political stability in the Indian Ocean nation by giving each of the islands greater control over its affairs.

Under the agreement, each of the islands elected its own president, while voters from all three elected a national president.

Provisional results released Monday indicated that Mze Abdou Soule El-Bak won the Grand Comore election with 60 percent of the vote, said Andre Carvalho, head of the U.N. Development Program in Comoros. The program helped coordinate the election which saw a 72 percent voter turnout.

--From wire reports

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