- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 27, 2007

PHILIPPINES

Gunmen seize bus with 32 children

MANILA — Up to three men armed with grenades and handguns commandeered a bus and took 32 children and two teachers hostage in the capital early today, police said.

A crack police team surrounded the bus, which was stopped outside Manila city hall. The children were apparently on a field trip.

“The initial report that we have is that 32 students and two teachers are inside the bus and being held hostage by two men armed with grenades and firearms,” a Manila police officer told DZBB radio. Police later said they thought there were three hostage takers, having miscounted in the confusion.

The armed men announced on a message written on cardboard in the bus windshield that they were holding the students and teachers hostage.

The suspects said they had machine pistols and grenades and demanded free housing and education for an unspecified group of children.

Terrified children, who looked to be either preschoolers or elementary school students, were seen peeking and waving from behind the window curtains.

GAZA STRIP

Sewage flood kills 4 in village

UMM NASER — An earth embankment around a cesspool collapsed yesterday, spewing a river of sewage and mud that killed four persons and forced residents to flee from this village in the northern Gaza Strip, officials said.

A local official blamed shoddy infrastructure in Umm Naser, a town of 3,000.

A 70-year-old woman, two small children and a teenager died in the sudden flood, and 25 persons were injured, said Dr. Muawiya Hassanin of the Palestinian Health Ministry. Many of the village’s houses were submerged or seriously damaged.

VATICAN CITY

Cured nun backs John Paul sainthood

ROME — It’s one of the Roman Catholic Church’s closely guarded secrets: the identity of the French nun whose testimony of an inexplicable cure from Parkinson’s disease is likely to be accepted as the miracle the Vatican needs to beatify the late Pope John Paul II.

The nun will attend ceremonies Monday in Rome marking the second anniversary of the pontiff’s death and the closure of a church investigation into his life. The probe was ordered after chants of “Santo subito,” or “Sainthood now,” erupted during John Paul’s 2005 funeral.

JAPAN

Glitch disables spy satellite

TOKYO — An electrical glitch has knocked out a satellite in a spy network that Japan hoped to use to gather intelligence on North Korea and other trouble spots around the world, a Cabinet official said yesterday.

The failure was detected just a month after Japan launched its fourth and final satellite in the network expected to significantly boost its ability to independently gather intelligence and re-establish itself as a major player in Asia’s accelerating space race.

INDONESIA

Bird-flu specimens will be shared

JAKARTA — Indonesia will resume sending bird-flu virus specimens to the World Health Organization immediately, the health minister said yesterday, ending a four-month standoff that health officials feared could put the entire world at risk.

Siti Fadilah Supari — whose nation has been hardest hit by bird flu, with 66 human deaths — earlier refused to share virus samples, saying she wanted a guarantee they would not be used to develop vaccines unaffordable to the developing world.

EGYPT

Ballot-stuffing charges mar constitution vote

CAIRO — Voters overwhelmingly approved a set of amendments to Egypt’s constitution, the government said yesterday, a day after opposition groups massively boycotted a referendum.

Turnout in Monday’s referendum was low — 27 percent — but the “yes” vote was 75.9 percent, Justice Minister Mamdouh Marei said during a press conference broadcast live on state television.

Two local rights groups, including the state-funded Egyptian Organization for Human Rights, accused the state of ballot stuffing.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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