- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Mexican farmers end standoff

SAN SALVADOR ATENCO, Mexico Mexican farmers fighting plans to build an international airport freed their hostages yesterday, ending a four-day standoff.

The hostages were set free after the government agreed to the farmers' demands for the release of about a dozen men arrested in violent street clashes with police.

Most of the hostages were state officials or federal officers and were seized during those clashes.

Some of the peasant farmers, armed with machetes, iron bars and Molotov cocktails, initially threatened to kill them, but the hostages instead were used as bargaining chips in negotiations to win the release of the arrested farmers.

With all the hostages and farmers free, peasant leaders said they would dismantle all their roadblocks around San Salvador Atenco yesterday, while the government withdrew hundreds of riot police.

The peasant farmers want the government to scrap a decree expropriating more than 10,000 acres of land they have farmed for generations to build a six-runway international airport.

Paraguay declares national emergency

ASUNCION, Paraguay Paraguay's president decreed a state of emergency yesterday, suspending some civil rights after at least four persons were shot and seriously injured in nationwide protests against his policies. Two persons later died.

Baton-wielding police battled with hundreds of protesters who blockaded roads across the recession-hit South American nation, which often has been rocked by coup attempts and political instability since democracy was restored in 1989 after 35 years of dictatorship.

President Luis Gonzalez Macchi's government blamed the protests on followers of Lino Oviedo, a former general living in asylum in Brazil suspected of masterminding three failed coups.

Afghanistan to disarm private armies

KABUL, Afghanistan The Afghan government set up a commission yesterday to disarm and disband private armies, but did not say how it would deal with anyone refusing to cooperate.

Regional warlords still pose a major threat to the authority of President Hamid Karzai's fledgling government as it tries to end 23 years of bloodshed in the country.

A government spokesman said a Cabinet meeting led by Mr. Karzai decided to form a body to collect arms from all groups and individuals not on the payroll of the Defense Ministry.

French gunman in mental hospital

PARIS A neo-Nazi gunman accused of trying to kill French President Jacques Chirac was committed to a mental hospital yesterday as a stunned France worried about security gaps and the world of far-right groups.

Maxime Brunerie, the 25-year-old extremist who was overpowered after he fired a .22 sporting rifle near the president during Sunday's Bastille Day parade in Paris, was transferred to a psychiatric unit at an undisclosed location for treatment.

Indians protest killings in Kashmir

JAMMU, India Mourners in Indian-controlled Kashmir burned funeral pyres yesterday for two more of the 28 Hindus killed in a weekend attack, and protesters angry about the government's response to the slayings shut down a major city.

Roads and markets in Jammu were deserted, and police frisked civilians, searched the cars in sight and went through travelers' bags.

As many as eight Muslim militant suspects threw grenades and opened fire with automatic weapons, killing many women and children, witnesses told police.

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