- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 15, 2001

Mecca bus crash kills 52 pilgrims

AMMAN, Jordan A bus carrying pilgrims returning from Mecca veered off the road and burst into flames in southern Jordan yesterday, killing 52 persons, the local head of civil defense said.

The accident happened on the highway outside Jordan's southern port of Aqaba when the brakes apparently failed, causing the driver to lose control on a bend in the road coming out of the mountains, the spokesman said.

All 52 persons on board were reported killed.

Ebola spreading in Gabon 'rapidly'

GENEVA An outbreak of Ebola fever in Gabon is spreading "rapidly and unpredictably," the Red Cross said yesterday, amid efforts to contain the disease and track down an infected woman who crossed into neighboring Congo.

The disease, the most virulent known to mankind, has claimed 11 lives in northeast Gabon among 14 confirmed cases in the Ogooue Ivindo province, the U.N. World Health Organization said in Geneva.

About 95 persons died in three Ebola outbreaks in the same province between 1994 and 1997.

The hemorrhagic viral fever first appeared in Ekata village, five miles from the border with the Congo Republic, in a region inhabited by pygmies and hunting peoples, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said. It then rapidly spread to three other villages: Meddamba, Ntolo and Elaonene.

Meanwhile, the search was stepped up to find a woman who disappeared after testing positive for the virus. On Wednesday, the United States ordered all U.S. government employees to leave the region, and urged American citizens in Gabon to avoid the province.

South African says crime under control

PRETORIA, South Africa The South African government yesterday said it had crime under control and that its new policing strategy was showing signs of success.

Releasing crime statistics for the first nine months of the year, Safety and Security Minister Steve Tshwete said homicides were down and had dropped 25 percent over the past six years to 15,054 so far this year.

This meant that 55 persons were being killed in South Africa every day out of a population of 44 million.

According to rape statistics, which also showed a decrease, 138 women and children were raped daily one every 10 minutes.

Turkey to drill in northern Iraq

ANKARA, Turkey A Turkish state oil company has won a U.N.-approved contract to drill for oil in northern Iraq, the company announced yesterday.

Turkey and Iraq have held intermittent talks for three years on drilling in the Khurmala oil field. The deal also signals growing trade ties with Iraq ties that Turkey fears could be strained if the United States expands its anti-terror campaign to Iraq after Afghanistan.

Turkish Petroleum International Co. Ltd., a sister company of the Turkish Petroleum Corp., will provide drilling services for 20 wells in the Khurmala oil field together with the Iraqi state company, North Oil Co., a statement from the Turkish company said.

U.S. envoy brokers Sudan cease-fire

GENEVA The Sudanese government and rebels have agreed to extend a cease-fire in a key guerrilla stronghold to let in aid, a U.S. mediator working to end Sudan's 18-year-old civil war said yesterday.

In a statement, U.S. presidential envoy John Danforth said Khartoum and the Sudan People's Liberation Movement (SPLM) had agreed to the truce extension for the central Nuba mountains region where the U.N. World Food Program has been air-dropping food to thousands displaced by the war.

The SPLM is the political wing of the Sudan People's Liberation Army, the main rebel force in Sudan's war, which broadly pits the Muslim government in the north and Christian or animist militias in the south fighting for autonomy. The conflict has cost about 2 million lives.

Both sides agreed to observe "days of tranquillity" to allow polio inoculation campaigns and to a U.S.-led investigation into how to prevent slavery, the statement said.

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