- The Washington Times - Friday, February 13, 2009

NEPAL

U.S. in no hurry to delist Maoists

KATMANDU | The United States has no timetable to take Nepal’s Maoists off its list of terrorist groups, Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher said Thursday, months after the former rebels were elected to power.

The Maoists ended a decade-long civil war under a 2006 peace deal and head a coalition government after winning elections last April. But some political parties in the impoverished Himalayan nation still accuse the Maoists of using violence and intimidation for political ends.

Since entering the political mainstream the Maoists have urged Washington to remove them from the list, which has included them for six years.

Mr. Boucher, the most senior U.S. official to visit Nepal since the Maoists won power, said Washington was “very carefully” looking at why the Maoists were put on the list and what needed to be done to remove them.

INDONESIA

Powerful quake injures 42

JAKARTA | Strong aftershocks continued to follow a powerful earthquake off eastern Indonesia that briefly triggered a tsunami warning Thursday, causing a stampede of residents to higher ground. Hundreds of buildings were damaged and at least 42 people injured, some seriously.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the shallow, 7.2-magnitude quake struck off Sulawesi island’s coast about 1:34 a.m., shaking people from their sleep.

Dozens of aftershocks as strong as magnitude 6.4 continued to shake the region late Thursday.

The Talaud island chain, in waters just south of the Philippines, felt the earthquake most intensely, a government crisis center official said, adding that Melonguane and Kabaruan were the towns hardest hit.

SRI LANKA

Army creates new ‘safe zone’

COLOMBO | Sri Lanka’s army disbanded the mostly ineffective “safe zone” it had established in the war-wracked north and set up a new refuge Thursday for the tens of thousands of civilians still trapped.

Military spokesman Brig. Udaya Nanayakkara said the government set up a new haven because the Tamil Tiger rebels forced most of the civilians seeking shelter from the fighting out of the original one.

The two sides have been fighting heavy battles since government troops overran the rebels’ de facto state in the north and boxed them into a tiny strip of land along the northeast coast. The military says it has pushed the insurgents to the brink of defeat and hopes to soon end the 25-year-old civil war.

Aid groups estimate that about 200,000 civilians are trapped in the war zone.

INDIA

Businessman, servant guilty of murder

NEW DELHI | An Indian court on Thursday found a wealthy businessman and his servant guilty in the rape and murder of a minor girl, one of 19 victims in the most gruesome serial killings in the country in recent times.

Moninder Singh Pandher and his servant, Surender Koli, were arrested in December 2006 after the body parts of 19 children and young women were found packed in 57 plastic bags and buried in the backyard and drains around Pandher’s home near New Delhi.

The case shocked the entire nation and his house was dubbed the “house of horrors” by media.

After a bungled investigation by local police, India’s Central Bureau of Investigation ended up blaming the killings on Pandher’s servant, Koli. The maximum penalty for them could be death.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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