- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 28, 2005

PHILIPPINES

4 U.S. Marines charged with rape

OLONGAPO — Philippine prosecutors charged four U.S. Marines with rape yesterday in a case seen as a test of a bilateral accord that allows American troops to train here.

Prosecutor Prudencio Jalandoni said in court documents that one of the Marines raped a 22-year-old woman in November inside a van at Subic Bay, a former U.S. naval base northwest of Manila, as fellow Marines cheered him on to the beat of loud music.

Another prosecutor, Raymond Viray, said the case would be a crucial test for the Visiting Forces Agreement, which allows American forces to conduct counterterrorism maneuvers with Philippine troops. Critics have expressed concerns that U.S. officials would use the accord to shield the Marines from prosecution.

Under the agreement, the U.S. government would not be obligated to turn the Marines over if judicial proceedings take longer than a year.

COLOMBIA

FARC rebels kill 24 soldiers, army says

BOGOTA — Rebels are suspected of killing 24 Colombian soldiers who were protecting government workers yesterday during a coca eradication effort, an army general said. It was the deadliest rebel attack in a year marked by hundreds of army deaths.

Gen. Hernando Ortiz said the troops came under attack by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), near Vista Hermosa, 105 miles south of Bogota, as they provided security to workers who were destroying crops of coca, the plant used to make cocaine.

RUSSIA

Upper house OKs limits on rights groups

MOSCOW — Russia’s upper house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a law imposing strict curbs on nongovernmental organizations, a move that critics say threatens the future of human rights groups and others who the Kremlin considers opponents.

Senators in the Federation Council backed the measure by a vote of 153-1, with one abstention. Since the lower house approved the bill last week, the only remaining step is for President Vladimir Putin to sign it into law.

BRAZIL

Prison inmates hold 200 visitors hostage

SAO PAULO — Inmates at a prison in Brazil’s remote Amazon jungle were holding more than 200 people hostage, demanding the return of their leader from another prison. Authorities agreed to bring him back, but both sides remained at an impasse yesterday.

Armed with makeshift knives, the inmates began their uprising during Sunday’s visiting hours at the Urso Branco State Prison in Rondonia’s state capital, Porto Velho, 1,500 miles northwest of Sao Paulo.

The same prison was the site of a five-day uprising in April 2004 that left 14 inmates dead. Prisoners had held hostage about 170 relatives.

INDONESIA

Aceh rebels disband armed wing

BANDA ACEH — Rebels in Indonesia’s tsunami-hit Aceh province formally disbanded their armed wing yesterday, ending a 29-year struggle for independence that killed thousands so the movement could participate in elections next year.

Free Aceh Movement fighters returned to peace talks with the government after mammoth waves crashed into Aceh’s coastlines a year ago, leaving at least 156,000 of the province’s people dead or missing and a half-million more homeless.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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