- - Monday, February 6, 2012

PHILIPPINES

Rescuers dig to reach victims trapped in quake

MANILA — Rescuers dug with picks and shovels trying to reach dozens of people trapped under houses collapsed by a strong earthquake Monday that shook a central Philippine island and set off landslides.

At least 13 people were killed and 40 are believed missing, most of them along the shore near the epicenter of the 6.9-magnitude quake that struck in a narrow strait just off Negros Island.

In the mountain village of Planas, 9 miles from coastal Guihulngan town in Negros Oriental province, as many as 30 houses were buried with at least 40 residents believed trapped.

Army troops and police were deployed to help in the rescue.

At least 10 people were confirmed dead in Guihulngan, including students at a college and an elementary school and others in a town market that collapsed. About 100 were injured.

The quake, which hit at 11:49 a.m., triggered another landslide in the mountain village of Solongon in La Libertad town, also in Negros Oriental. An unknown number of people were trapped.

ROMANIA

Government collapses after protests

BUCHAREST — Romania’s government collapsed Monday following weeks of protests against austerity measures, the latest debt-stricken government in Europe to fall in the face of raising public anger over biting cuts.

Emil Boc, who has been prime minister since 2008, said he was resigning “to ease the social situation” after thousands of Romanians took to the streets in January to protest salary cuts, higher taxes and a widespread perception that the government was not interested in the problems of ordinary people in this nation of 22 million.

Opposition parties called for early parliamentary elections, which are currently scheduled for November.

President Traian Basescu appointed Justice Minister Catalin Predoiu - the only minister in Mr. Boc’s Cabinet who is not a member of a political party - to be interim prime minister pending the formation of a new government.

UNITED KINGDOM

Court grants release on bail for radical Muslim cleric

LONDON — A British court ruled Monday that an extremist cleric described as one of Europe’s leading al Qaeda operatives should be released on bail.

After six years in custody, Abu Qatada could be freed within days under stringent conditions, a judge at the Special Immigration Appeals Commission in London said.

Abu Qatada has been fighting to be released since the European Court of Human Rights ruled last month he should not be deported to face terror charges in Jordan because of fears that evidence obtained by torture would be used against him.

The British government wants to keep him in a high-security prison while continuing a legal fight to have him deported.

Abu Qatada - whose real name is Omar Mahmoud Mohammed Othman - is an extremist Muslim preacher from Jordan who has been described in both Spanish and British courts as a leading al Qaeda figure in Europe.

MYANMAR

Elections panel says Suu Kyi can run for Parliament

YANGON — An elections panel Monday affirmed opposition leader Aung San Suu Kyi’s candidacy for Myanmar’s Parliament in another step toward political openness in a country emerging from nearly a half-century of iron-fisted military rule.

A victory in the April 1 by-elections would be historic. Mrs. Suu Kyi could have a voice in Parliament for the first time after spending most of the past two decades under house arrest.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate announced her intention last month to run in the April elections but was waiting for official approval from the Elections Commission, which said it had to scrutinize her eligibility.

A National League for Democracy spokesman confirmed the commission had approved her candidacy. “There is no objection to her nomination, and we can say that her candidacy is officially accepted,” the spokesman said.

ZIMBABWE

General’s death remains shrouded in suspicion

HARARE — Testimony before an inquest into a Zimbabwean power broker’s fiery death ended Monday, leaving the last hours of Gen. Solomon Mujuru’s life shrouded in suspicion he was murdered by political rivals.

After three weeks of hearings that have been followed closely in Zimbabwe, Magistrate Walter Chikwanha said Monday that he rejected a request by Mujuru’s wife, who is the country’s vice president and has attended several inquest sessions, to exhume the general’s remains for independent forensic tests.

Mujuru, 66, was burned beyond recognition in a house fire last year.

The former guerrilla leader and army commander used his influence and wealth from a business empire to support his wife against rival factions in President Robert Mugabe’s party.

Magistrate Chikwanha did not say when he would report his conclusions after hearing evidence from 37 witnesses.

He can rule the death was accidental or criminal, and in the latter case an investigation would be opened. He also could declare an “open verdict,” effectively saying he was unable to reach any conclusion.

From wire dispatches and staff reports