- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 4, 2009

INDONESIA

Thousands missing in landslides

PADANG | Whole villages in Indonesia’s quake zone were found obliterated by landslides Saturday, as rescuers searched for up to 4,000 people still believed to be trapped in rubble.

The full extent of the damage from Wednesday’s 7.6-magnitude earthquake emerged as attention turned to villages in the hills outside Padang, a devastated city of roughly 1 million at the center of rescue efforts.

Search and rescue officers said up to 400 people could have perished in four hillside villages alone, including a wedding party of 30.

The U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Indonesia, El-Mostafa Benlamlih, said between 3,000 and 4,000 people were trapped or buried in the rubble left by the quake.

The United Nations last estimated the death toll at 1,100 while the government toll, which has not been revised since Thursday, stands at around 770.

ITALY

Dozens missing in Sicily mudslides

ROME | Rescue workers dug for a second day Saturday through piles of mud and debris as they searched for about 30 missing people from a mudslide that has killed at least 21 in Sicily.

Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he feared the death toll from Italy’s worst mudslides in a decade could rise to 50. He is expected to survey the area by helicopter on Sunday, his office said.

Rivers of mud unleashed by heavy rains flooded parts of Messina, a city in eastern Sicily, on Friday, sweeping away cars and collapsing buildings. Hundreds were left homeless and about 80 were injured.

Rescue teams were digging with bulldozers, shovels and bare hands through the mud. Some rescuers were aided by sniffer dogs as they searched for survivors. Firefighters were clearing away the mud from major roads.

IRAQ

Mass arrests made in sweep of Sunnis

BAGHDAD | Iraqi security forces have detained more than 100 suspects in sweeps through Mosul in attempts to cripple the country’s last major stronghold of Sunni insurgents, a commander said Saturday.

The offensive, which began early last week, is the latest attempt to break the networks of al Qaeda in Iraq and other groups in the Mosul region in northern Iraq. But the insurgents have bounced back each time with little apparent damage to their ability to strike Iraqi and U.S. troops and their allies.

The commander of Mosul operations, Maj. Gen. Hassan Karim Khudhair, told reporters the raids were carried out under strict secrecy to avoid the escape of “wanted targets.”

He said more than 100 suspects were arrested and will face interrogations in Baghdad.

The Iraqi-led offensive was the first in Mosul since U.S. forces withdrew from Iraq’s cities in June. Maj. Derrick Cheng, a U.S. military spokesman, said U.S. troops had “very limited or no involvement at all” in the crackdown. In February, a joint U.S.-Iraqi campaign took more than 80 suspects but appeared to make little headway against the insurgents’ ability to strike.

The offensive came more than a year after Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki vowed to launch a “decisive” battle against extremists in Iraq’s third-largest city.


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