World briefs 8/21/02

Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Residential building collapses in Moscow

MOSCOW -- An explosion destroyed part of a residential building in the north of Moscow late Tuesday, killing at least one and leaving a 45-foot-wide hole. Officials feared up to 15 could be trapped.

Moscow police spokesman Valery Gribakin said the blast killed one person and injured three. He said police believed the most likely cause of the explosion was a natural gas leak on the second floor.

NTV television reported later that four people were killed. There was no official confirmation of that report.

Austrailian archbishop temporarily steps aside

SYDNEY, Australia -- The archbishop of Sydney, Australia's most senior Roman Catholic clergyman, announced Tuesday he would temporarily step aside during an investigation into allegations that he sexually abused a child more than 40 years ago.

Archbishop George Pell is accused of molesting a 12-year-old boy when he was training as a priest in the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the church said in a statement. The year of the alleged incident and identity of the complainant were not given.

"The alleged events never happened. I repeat emphatically, that the allegations are false," Pell said in a statement. "To allege that I am ... personally implicated in this evil is a smear of the most vindictive kind."

The Vatican had no immediate comment on the case.

Italian police arrest five for planning attack

ROME -- Italian police arrested four Moroccans and an Italian who they say may have been planning to attack a Bologna basilica with a 15th-century fresco inside that depicts the Muslim prophet Muhammad in hell, being devoured by demons.

Prosecutor Paolo Giovagnoli said the five men were arrested Monday in the church itself, San Petronio Basilica, and were accused of criminal association with the aim of terrorism.

In June, Milan daily Corriere della Sera reported that Islamic extremists were plotting to attack the basilica because they found the fresco insulting.

A group of Italian Muslims had appealed unsuccessfully to the Vatican last year to have the fresco, by Giovanni da Modena, removed or to have parts of it covered, arguing that it offended Islam.

Dozens of soldiers killed in fighting in IndiaGAUHATI, India -- Suspected rebels ambushed a group of Indian troops Tuesday, killing at least 20 and wounding five in the northeastern state of Tripura, police said.

The soldiers were traveling by road when they were attacked by an unknown number of rebels near Amarendra Nagar, a senior police official said. The rebels used grenades and automatic weapons, officials said.

He said the soldiers were accompanying two sick soldiers to a nearby town. The rebels stole the soldiers' weapons and fled into the mountains, he said.

Soldiers also fought in the part of disputed Kashmir that India controls. The province is divided between India and Pakistan and Indian officials say the suspected militants involved in the overnight clashes slipped across the border from the Pakistani part.

Twelve suspected Islamic militants were killed in the three separate battles in Kashmir.

-- From wire reports

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