- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 7, 2007


2 Americans ill; poisoning suspected

MOSCOW — Two American women were hospitalized after ingesting the deadly poison thallium and were in serious condition yesterday, Russian press and hospital officials said.

A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman said consular officials were in touch with relatives of the women, reported to be Soviet-born naturalized U.S. citizens who had come to Moscow for a wedding. The embassy declined to give the women’s names, hometown or other details.

A spokeswoman for the Sklifosovsky Clinic, Moscow’s top emergency-medicine facility, said Marina and Yana Kovalenskaya were in the hospital in “medium serious condition,” 10 days after falling ill. Russian news reports said Marina Kovalenskaya — in her 40s — is Yana Kovalenskaya’s mother.

Thallium was initially suspected to be the toxin used in last year’s fatal poisoning in London of former Russian security agent Alexander Litvinenko, but it was later determined he had ingested the rare radioactive isotope polonium-210.


Quake kills 70 in Sumatra

SOLOK — A powerful earthquake jolted western Indonesia yesterday, killing at least 70 persons and injuring hundreds as they fled shaking hotels, homes and hospitals. Two children were crushed by debris on a playground.

The 6.3-magnitude quake struck Sumatra island just before 11 a.m. and was felt as far away as neighboring Malaysia and Singapore, where some tall buildings were evacuated. Several aftershocks followed — the strongest measuring 6.1 — adding to the fears of those already too nervous to go back indoors.


Army medic convicted of desertion

WUERZBURG — A U.S. Army medic who jumped out a window of his base housing and fled to California to avoid a redeployment to Iraq was convicted of desertion yesterday at a court-martial. He was sentenced to eight months in prison — far short of the maximum seven-year sentence.

Spc. Agustin Aguayo, 35, who refused to return to Iraq because he believes war is immoral, admitted the less-serious charge of being absent without leave, but was unsuccessful in contesting the more-serious desertion charge.

Assigned to the 1st Infantry Division’s 2nd Brigade Combat Team, he served a year as a combat medic in Saddam Hussein’s hometown of Tikrit in 2004 after the military turned down his request to be considered a conscientious objector.


Attacks greet Uganda peacekeepers

MOGADISHU — Insurgents unleashed two attacks against the Somali government and its foreign allies in Mogadishu yesterday, just hours after Ugandan peacekeepers assigned to tame the anarchic city had landed. Three civilians were killed.

The assaults appeared timed to coincide with the arrival of 350 Ugandans in the vanguard of an African Union mission to help restore law to the country. More than a dozen mortar strikes hit the airport, where the Ugandans had camped after landing.

The proposed 8,000-strong AU force is designed to help Somali President Abdullahi Yusuf’s government extend its shaky authority over the Horn of Africa country.


Diplomats ordered to send children home

SEOUL — North Korea has ordered its diplomats stationed overseas to send their children back to the communist nation in an apparent attempt to prevent the diplomats from defecting, a news report said yesterday.

About 3,000 children ages 5 and older must return home within 30 days, according to the order issued last month by North Korea’s ruling Workers’ Party. Younger children are exempt from the order, which was reported by South Korean newspaper Joong Ang Ilbo.

The measure is believed to be aimed at preventing defections by diplomats and their families by raising the possibility that their children might be persecuted, the newspaper said.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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