- - Sunday, April 8, 2012

LONDON — Britain’s Home Office confirmed Sunday that its website was attacked overnight after hackers claimed responsibility for shutting it down.

The hackers also claim they attacked the Justice Ministry website, and warned of further attacks every Saturday on U.K. government websites.

The alleged hackers - who claim ties to Anonymous, the hacker collective - said on Twitter they launched Saturday’s denial-of-service attacks and brought down the websites to protest “proposed draconian surveillance measures,” Britain’s extradition policies and “derogation of civil liberties.”

Denial-of-service attacks - which flood websites with too much traffic - are relatively easy to pull off and generally do no lasting damage.

Britain’s Home Office said Sunday that its website “was the subject of an online protest” Saturday night, but noted that no sensitive information was held on it.

“There is no indication that the site was hacked and other Home Office systems were not affected,” the Home Office said in a statement. “Measures put in place to protect the website meant that members of the public were unable to access the site intermittently.”

It added that it will be monitoring the situation closely.

The Home Office and Justice Ministry websites were operating normally Sunday morning.

GEORGIA

South Ossetia holds runoff presidential vote

TBILISI — A former KGB chief and a human rights ombudsman faced each other in Sunday’s runoff presidential election in Georgia’s breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Leonid Tibilov, who led the region’s KGB before falling out with the former local president, won more than 40 percent of the vote in the first round last month. Mr. Tibilov is expected to easily defeat his rival in the runoff, presidential human rights commissioner David Sanakoyev, who polled 25 percent in the first round.

South Ossetia depends entirely on subsidies from Russia, which recognized it as an independent state after the 2008 Russian-Georgian war and still has troops there. The ties with Moscow are expected to remain close no matter who becomes president of the province, which has a population of about 50,000.

Only a handful of other countries have followed Russia in recognizing South Ossetia’s independence, while a Georgian economic blockade and misappropriation of lavish Russian aid have left the regional economy in shambles with widespread poverty and massive unemployment.

Critics accused the government of former President Eduard Kokoity of embezzling Russian donations, while thousands of South Ossetians continue to live in half-destroyed houses and apartment buildings with irregular water and electricity supplies.

South Ossetia first tried to elect a new president in November, when former Education Minister Alla Dzhioyeva appeared to have beaten a rival backed by the Kremlin and the former local president, but the results were disputed and a local court ordered a new vote.

The mountainous province broke away from Georgia in a war in the early 1990s. Spiraling tensions between Georgia and pro-Russian separatists triggered the August 2008 war, in which Russian troops routed the Georgian military in five days of fighting.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Bosnia marks 20 years since war broke out

SARAJEVO — Bosnians walked silently and sobbed on Sarajevo’s main street, leaving flowers and gifts on 11,541 red chairs arranged in seemingly endless rows - the number represents the men, women and children killed in a siege that ended up being the longest of a city in modern history.

Sarajevo marked the 20th anniversary of the start of the Bosnian war Friday. Exhibitions, concerts and performances were held, but the impact of the empty chairs reduced many to tears.

Hundreds of the chairs were small, representing the slain children. On some, passers-by left teddy bears, little plastic cars, other toys or candy.

The Serb siege of Sarajevo went on longer than the World War II 900-day siege of Leningrad, now St. Petersburg. Its 380,000 people were left without food, electricity, water or heating for 46 months, hiding from the 330 shells a day that smashed into the city.

From wire dispatches and staff reports