- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 16, 2010

BELGIUM

At least 18 killed in train collision

BRUSSELS | A rush-hour commuter train sped through a red signal and slammed into an oncoming train as it left a suburban Brussels station Monday, killing at least 18 people and disrupting rail traffic in northern Europe.

Investigations into one the worst accidents on the Belgian rails were likely to focus on whether human error was responsible or if it could have been influenced by the persistently freezing temperatures that have iced up the European capital.

Officials said 80 people were injured, 20 of them seriously, and the death toll — 15 men and three women — was not considered final. As darkness fell more than 10 hours later, rescuers were still looking for victims in the wreckage, said Jos Colpin, the spokesman for the federal prosecutor’s office.

The fate of the two drivers was not known, and officials said they were having difficulty identifying some of the victims.

The trains, carrying a total of about 300 passengers, collided in light snow just outside of the station at Buizingen about nine miles from Brussels around 8:30 a.m.

PAKISTAN

Missile strike kills three

MIR ALI | A suspected U.S. drone fired a missile at a vehicle in Pakistan’s volatile northwest Monday, killing three people in the second such strike in as many days in an area dominated by militants who regularly attack U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, officials and residents said.

President Obama has stepped up the use of missile strikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal area since taking office, partly in response to the Pakistani government’s reluctance to target Taliban militants who are not deemed a direct threat to the state.

The vehicle hit Monday was traveling through the North Waziristan tribal area, a region inhabited by militants who helped orchestrate the Dec. 30 suicide bombing against a remote CIA base in Afghanistan that killed seven of the agency’s employees.

Local government official Wazir Gul said three people were killed and he identified them as militants.

SLOVENIA

Dalai Lama to visit nation in April

LJUBLJANA | The Dalai Lama will visit Slovenia in April, following an invitation by the city of Maribor, authorities said Monday.

“The visit has been confirmed, the Dalai Lama will visit Slovenia between April 12 and 14,” a spokesman for Maribor mayor Franc Kangler told state television, adding that the mayor would meet the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama was invited by Maribor University, the city’s authorities and a secondary school to give a lecture to young people on humanitarian issues.

After Maribor, Slovenia’s second-largest city, he was also expected to visit Ljubljana, state television reported.

SENEGAL

UN: Cocaine traded for arms

DAKAR | Cocaine shipped to West Africa by Latin American drug cartels is now being traded for arms, the U.N.’s drug czar said Monday — an exchange of contraband that is especially dangerous in a region now home to cells of an al Qaeda-linked terror group.

Antonio Maria Costa, the executive director of the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime, said “there is more than just spotty evidence” indicating a link between drug traffickers and terror groups.

“And before this becomes a very serious problem, it has to be dealt with and nipped in the bud,” Mr. Costa said in an interview with the Associated Press, on the sidelines of a seven-nation drug summit in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.

Cocaine from South America has been moving through the West African coast for several years, and experts believe drugs are then parceled out to smugglers who move the cocaine north by boats and by road. One suspected smuggling route crosses portions of the Sahara desert controlled by insurgents.

SOMALIA

Official survives car-bomb attack

MOGADISHU | A top Somali defense official survived an attack Monday by an Islamist suicide bomber driving an explosive-laden vehicle in the capital of Mogadishu, the official said. At least one bystander was killed.

The attack against State Defense Minister Yusuf Mohamed Siyad, known by his nickname Indahaadde or “White Eyes,” comes as the besieged U.N.-backed government is preparing to launch an offensive against Islamist insurgents who have links to al Qaeda.

Mr. Siyad said the bomber’s vehicle chased his car but exploded before colliding with it because a civilian minibus unexpectedly came between the two. Two bodyguards in a car driving behind the minister were wounded, Mr. Siyad said.

As the convoy stopped to collect the wounded men, a second vehicle and then a wheelbarrow packed with explosives detonated nearby, Mr. Siyad said.

Mr. Siyad said recent intelligence had indicated militants would target him in an attack.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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