- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 21, 2002

Flood emergency declared in China

BEIJING A state of emergency has been declared across China's central province of Hunan, where more than 10 million people are under threat from surging water levels in a huge lake, Red Cross officials said today.

"I have just been talking to our Chinese Red Cross colleagues in Hunan, and they say the provincial governor has declared a state of emergency for all Hunan," said France Hurtubise, an International Red Cross spokeswoman in Beijing.

Thousands of workers have been mobilized to shore up flood defenses around Dongting Lake, which acts as a flood buffer for the Yangtze River.

20 soldiers killed in India ambush

GUWAHATI, India Suspected separatist rebels ambushed a group of Indian troops yesterday, killing at least 20 and wounding five in the remote northeastern state of Tripura, police said.

The soldiers were traveling by road when they were attacked by an unknown number of rebels 60 miles southeast of Agartala, the state capital, a senior police official said. The rebels used grenades and automatic weapons, he said.

He said the rebels stole the soldiers' weapons and fled into the mountains. Police blamed the National Liberation Front of Tripura, which has been fighting for an independent tribal homeland.

Moroccans detained in Italian church

BOLOGNA, Italy Italian police detained five persons on suspicion they were planning to attack a church that contained a fresco depicting the prophet Muhammad in hell, police said yesterday.

The suspects four Moroccans and an Italian art historian were seized Monday morning inside the imposing 14th century Basilica of San Petronio as they were videotaping the fresco, painted by Giovanni da Modena in the early 1400s.

The Moroccans said they were tourists, but investigating Magistrate Paolo Giovagnoli said they had recorded themselves apparently discussing plans to destroy the work of art, inspired by Dante's epic poem "The Divine Comedy." Muslim groups in the past have denounced the painting as blasphemous.

In June, magistrates said they had broken up a Milan-based "terror cell" with links to Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which had the church in its sights.

Missile launcher linked to chopper crash

MOSCOW A discarded missile launcher has been found near the site of a wrecked Russian transport helicopter that crash-landed in Chechnya on Monday, Interfax news agency quoted a military source as saying.

The agency identified the weapon as a Strela rocket system. Witnesses reported seeing an unidentified man fire the Russian-made Stinger-type rocket from the second floor of a ruined building near the site of the wrecked helicopter. Russian television said 114 servicemen perished in the crash. President Vladimir Putin has declared tomorrow a day of national mourning for the victims of the crash.

World seen far short of goal to halve hunger

ROME The world will fail to achieve its goal of halving global hunger by 2015 and probably will miss that target even by 2030, the United Nations said yesterday.

The growth in food output will continue to outpace population growth ensuring many people will be better fed, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization said, but it's not fast enough to meet the pledges made by world leaders.

"The number of hungry people in developing countries is expected to decline from 777 million today to about 440 million in 2030," the Rome-based agency said in a report.

This means the target set by the 1996 World Food Summit to reduce the number of hungry by half from the 1990-92 level of 815 million will not be met even by 2030, it said.

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