- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

Poll violence erupts in India

LUCKNOW, India Supporters of competing Indian political parties fired guns, beat one another with wooden sticks and set cars on fire this week as voting began in the country's most populous and most politically important state.

A dozen political workers were hurt in Uttar Pradesh, where the election for state legislature was being watched closely. A defeat there for the party of Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee could prompt some coalition partners at the federal level and members of his Cabinet to switch sides, though national elections are not due until 2004.

Elections also brought violence to the small northeastern state of Manipur. Suspected separatist rebels gunned down two militiamen and wounded five others at a polling station there, said H. Sandhu, the deputy inspector general of police.

Dengue fever kills boy during flight

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka A mercy mission to save the life of a critically ill child in Sri Lanka's embattled eastern province ended in midair before he could reach a hospital, officials involved in the rescue said.

The 4½-year-old Tamil boy suffering from dengue fever was being transferred from a hospital in Batticaloa. Doctors believed he had a better chance at a facility here in the capital, 180 miles away. Medical officials said there was a risk of dengue fever spreading; several young children have died in and around Colombo as well after being struck by the mosquito-borne disease.

Awami League chief hits religious violence

DHAKA, Bangladesh Opposition leader Sheik Hasina Wajed appealed to the world community two days ago to help prevent reported political and religious persecution in Bangladesh.

"Let the world humanity raise their voice for the tortured people of my country, for the sake of humanity and the preservation of human rights and peace and security," she said Thursday at the opening of a two-day conference in Dhaka titled "Crimes Against Humanity."

Sheik Hasina, who leads the Awami League, says the government has harassed its political opponents and religious minorities since coming to power last year. The Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and its Islamist allies, led by Prime Minister Khaleda Zia, defeated the Awami League in October elections.

Mrs. Zia has denied the opposition charges, although the government has acknowledged there were isolated incidents of violence against the minority Hindu community immediately after the election.

Weekly notes

Burma's military government has freed a man imprisoned for 12 years for writing a poem criticizing the army and penning a letter to the United Nations over prison conditions. The release of Myo Myint and four other political prisoners followed a plea by U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Burma Paulo Sergio Pinheiro, who was visiting Rangoon. … Sri Lankan President Chandrika Kumaratunga is cautiously optimistic about a Norwegian-brokered peace process, but still is concerned about security and human rights, said her spokesman. Mrs. Kumaratunga's party lost power in a December parliamentary election during which it vehemently criticized Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe's plans to accommodate Tamil Tiger rebels.

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