- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 31, 2002

Russia blames crash on Chechen missile

MOSCOW Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said yesterday that there were "no doubts" that a missile fired from a portable launcher brought down a helicopter in Chechnya, killing 118 persons.

The Mi-26 helicopter was carrying 147 persons when it crashed. It typically can hold about 80 combat-equipped soldiers or as much as 22 tons of cargo.

Chechen rebels are believed to have acquired several shoulder-launched missile systems, which they have used for previous attacks.

West Nile virus strikes Canada

TORONTO Health officials in Ontario said yesterday that they believe three persons sick in the province have the West Nile virus, which would be Canada's first human cases of the mosquito-borne illness that has killed 24 persons in the United States this year.

Canadian officials have warned in recent years that the virus, which has been detected in birds and animals, would spread to the human population through mosquito bites.

West Nile is common in Africa and the Middle East. The disease was first detected in the United States in 1999, when seven persons died from it in New York.

Bhutto rejected as candidate

LARKANA, Pakistan Pakistani election officials rejected a bid yesterday by former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto to run in parliamentary elections, a setback for the twice-deposed leader's efforts to return to power in a new civilian government.

Election officials are screening the applications of thousands of would-be candidates for the election, which military President Gen. Pervez Musharraf agreed to hold to restore civilian rule.

Mrs. Bhutto, who lives in self-imposed exile in London and the United Arab Emirates, was convicted in absentia last month of corruption and sentenced to three years in prison.

Pakistan says bin Laden is dead

LONDON Pakistan's security officials believe that Osama bin Laden probably was killed in a U.S. air strike on al Qaeda's mountain fortress in eastern Afghanistan last year, a British newspaper reported yesterday.

Bin Laden was unlikely to have survived the intense U.S. air bombardment of the al Qaeda camp in Tora Bora in December, the Financial Times of London reported from Islamabad.

VOA chief resigns under pressure

The director of Voice of America resigned yesterday under pressure from the Broadcasting Board of Governors over his tenure as chief of the U.S. government's largest foreign broadcast service.

In a statement, Robert Reilly said he had left to "seek opportunities in which I can more directly employ my talents in helping support the president and this administration in the war against international terrorism." Mr. Reilly was named director of VOA shortly after September 11.

Mr. Reilly will be replaced by David Jackson, a former correspondent for Time magazine and editor in chief of DefendAmerica.gov, the Defense Department's Web site for the war on terrorism.

Human rights diminish in Haiti

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti The Organization of American States has released a grim assessment of deteriorating human rights in Haiti, saying armed gangs act with impunity while health conditions are worsening.

The organization's Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said in a report released Thursday that it was "deeply preoccupied by the weakness of human rights in Haiti, the lack of an independent judiciary the climate of insecurity, the existence of armed groups that act with total impunity and threats to which some journalists have been subjected."

Relations between Haiti's government and the political opposition have been strained since the May 2000 legislative elections.

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