- - Wednesday, April 6, 2011

ITALY

Immigrant boat capsizes; 250 missing

ROME | A boat carrying as many as 300 terrified migrants from Libya capsized in rough seas off the Italian coast early Wednesday, as rescuers, hampered by strong winds, struggled to get to them.

The Italian coast guard rescued 48 people and a fishing boat picked up another three, but as many as 250 more remained unaccounted for as night fell Wednesday.

Survivors told the International Organization for Migration that they swam in the darkness toward approaching coast guard vessels, but many others drowned because they couldn’t swim, or were dragged down by screaming fellow passengers.

The coast guard is searching for survivors in what could be one of the worst tragedies since a wave of illegal migration from North Africa to Italy began in January, officials said.

MEXICO

Official: Cartels hiring common criminals

CANCUN | The head of Mexico’s federal police said drug traffickers increasingly are recruiting common criminals and converting them into killers.

Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said that these days, new drug cartel recruits can reach the position of hit man in a month, a process that used to take 15 years.

Mr. Garcia Luna said the gangs are recruiting low-level lawbreakers such as street drug dealers and robbers.

He said that for too long the fight against organized crime has been concentrated on the leadership and that now it’s important “to fight crime at every stage.”

Mr. Garcia Luna made his comments Wednesday at the annual International Conference for Drug Control in Cancun.

SUDAN

Sudan accuses Israel of airstrike

KHARTOUM | Sudan accused Israel on Wednesday of being behind an airstrike against a car driving along the coast the night before, in a case believed to involve weapons smuggling to militants in Gaza.

Foreign Minister Ali Ahmed Karti said the attack in the Port Sudan area killed two people and was “a flagrant Israeli aggression.”

He told journalists after his meeting with U.S. special envoy to Sudan, Princeton Lyman, that Israel was trying to make Sudan look like a sponsor of terror to keep it from being removed from the U.S. terrorism list.

Israel had no comment. While it never comments on covert operations, its officials have said Sudan is a frequent transit point for illicit weapons headed to Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip.

ITALY

Berlusconi sex trial adjourned quickly

MILAN | Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s trial on charges he paid for sex with an underage prostitute, then tried to use his influence to cover it up, was adjourned shortly after it opened Wednesday at a courthouse thronged with media and surrounded by noisy supporters and protesters.

Mr. Berlusconi, who was holding a ministerial meeting in Rome, did not attend the hearing, which lasted seven minutes and was devoted to formalities. The trial was adjourned to May 31.

PHILIPPINES

Armed tribesmen abandon 13 hostages

MANILA | Armed tribesmen under pressure from Filipino troops abandoned 13 hostages they held for six days to demand the release of jailed relatives, then escaped in the southern Philippine jungle Wednesday, officials said.

The stunned but unharmed hostages, mostly schoolteachers and a 10-year-old girl stricken with fever, were seized by five Manobo tribesmen Friday in the remote southeastern Agusan del Sur province.

Their safe release contrasted with the bloody end of a hostage crisis last year in which eight Hong Kong tourists were fatally shot in Manila.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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