World briefs

Sunday, July 21, 2002

Lightning strike causes fire at Nigerian oil station

ESCRAVOS, Nigeria -- A huge fire broke out Saturday at ChevronTexaco's main oil terminal, days after unarmed village women ended a 10-day siege that crippled the oil giant's Nigeria operations.

The blaze at the multimillion-dollar Escravos terminal in southeastern Nigeria was ignited by a bolt of lightning during an early morning storm, the company said in a statement.

The lightning set fire to a storage tank containing about 180,000 barrels of crude oil. Oil workers used remote-controlled chemical cannons to contain the blaze and pumped about 80,000 barrels out of the burning tank.

No one was hurt, the company said.

The fire was the latest blow to a company still facing a series of takeovers at its Nigerian facilities by unarmed village women.

Refugees flee Liberian president's forces

FASSANKONI, Guinea -- With the number of civilians in flight from Liberia's war surging at 200,000, refugees reaching safety in neighboring Guinea speak of worsening atrocities by President Charles Taylor's forces -- looting, raping, burning and killing trapped villagers.

Both sides -- fighters for Taylor and the increasingly assertive rebels seeking to drive him out -- also are forcing villagers as young as 6 into their ranks, escaped Liberians say.

World Food Program officials estimate the number of Liberians seeking refuge in camps within Liberia has now topped 100,000. More than 25,000 are in a camp near Monrovia. Many adults there complain of shortages of shelter and food.

Group fights deportation of bombers' relatives

JERUSALEM -- A Palestinian human rights group has asked Israel's Supreme Court to block any deportation of relatives of West Bank suicide bombers to the Gaza Strip, saying the move violates international law.

Attorney Hader Shkirat, director of the Law Society, said he filed a motion Friday as a preventive measure after Israeli forces destroyed the homes of two suspects in this week's attacks and arrested 21 of their relatives.

Following the arrests, Israeli officials said the Israel's attorney general, Elyakim Rubinstein, had determined that relatives of West Bank suicide bombers could be deported to Gaza -- but only if they had a direct link to acts of terrorism.

U.S. murder victim part of Russian investigation

MOSCOW - At the time of his death, a Russian businessman whose body was pulled from a Northern California reservoir this spring was being sought for questioning by Russian investigators in connection with an $8 million embezzlement case.

FBI investigators describe Georgy Safiev as a victim of a kidnapping scheme run by former Soviet citizens. That plot allegedly involved snatching five Los Angeles-area residents, extorting money from their relatives and associates, then killing them and dumping them in the reservoir.

Five suspects, all in custody in Los Angeles, are charged with kidnapping and face a possible death penalty if convicted. A sixth suspect remains at large.

Musharraf says he wants to restore democracy

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf told opposition political leaders Saturday he is sincere about restoring democracy in Pakistan after parliamentary elections in October.

In a meeting with leaders of the National Alliance, a group of opposition parties, Musharraf reassured them he did not plan "to overshadow the parliamentary system as alleged by his opponents," said alliance spokesman Mohammed Ali Durrani.

Opposition parties have said political changes proposed by Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, threaten to undermine democracy even before the Oct. 10 elections.

Musharraf, whose troops are searching for al-Qaida fighters along the rugged border with Afghanistan, has been a key ally in the U.S. war against terrorism.

-- From wire reports

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