- - Sunday, September 5, 2010


Police nab smuggler of Ecuadorean migrant

QUITO | Authorities have detained the reputed smuggler of an Ecuadorean man who told police he survived a massacre of 72 fellow migrants in Mexico, the justice minister confirmed Sunday.

Police arrested Miguel Angel Dutan Meneses on Saturday at his house in Biblian, a hamlet 140 miles south of the capital of Quito, said Justice Minister Jose Serrano.

Mr. Dutan appeared Saturday before a judge, who ordered him jailed while authorities continue their investigation, Mr. Serrano said.

Among the suspect’s possessions, authorities found a money order for $3,000 made out to a woman in Honduras, said Romeo Garate, district attorney in the province of Canar, where Biblian is located. Mr. Garate told local news media that the discovery could indicate Mr. Dutan is part of a larger smuggling network.

Mr. Serrano said that authorities think Mr. Dutan helped to smuggled Ecuadorean Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla to Mexico.

Mr. Lala, 18, told authorities he survived the massacre of 72 Central American and South American migrants at a ranch in the northern Mexican state of Tamaulipas, which has been embroiled in a vicious turf battle between the Zetas drug cartel and its former employer, the Gulf cartel.


Vatican calls stoning ‘brutal’ in adultery case

The Vatican raised the possibility Sunday of using behind-the-scenes diplomacy to try to save the life of an Iranian widow sentenced to be stoned for adultery.

In its first public statement on the case, which has attracted worldwide attention, the Vatican decried stoning as a particularly brutal form of capital punishment.

Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi said the Catholic church opposes the death penalty in general.

It is unclear what chances any Vatican bid would have to persuade the Muslim nation to spare the woman’s life. Brazil, which has friendly relations with Iran, was rebuffed when it offered her asylum.

Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani was convicted in 2006 of adultery. In July, Iranian authorities said they would not carry out the stoning sentence for the time being, but the mother of two could still face execution by hanging for adultery and other offenses.

Her son, Sajad, told the Italian news agency Adnkronos that he was appealing to Pope Benedict XVI and to Italy to work to stop the execution.


200 feared dead in capsized boat

KINSHASA | A riverboat loaded with passengers and fuel drums caught fire and capsized in southern Congo, and 200 people were feared dead, a survivor said Sunday. Another survivor confirmed the account and said local fishermen refused to help drowning passengers who jumped off the crowded boat.

The incident, which occurred Saturday evening, would be the deadliest boat accident in the Central African nation this year, and among the worst in Africa this year.

The boats that traverse Congo’s rivers are often in poor repair and filled beyond capacity, with little regard for safety. The industry is not well-regulated and boat operators are known to fill boats to dangerous levels.

A local official confirmed the boat had tipped, but said the passenger manifest apparently vanished in the fire..


Landslide death toll rises to 36

GUATEMALA CITY | The death toll from landslides in Guatemala rose to 36 on Sunday as President Alvaro Colom declared the disaster a “national tragedy.”

Officials had earlier put the death toll at 27, but the figure was rising rapidly as rescuers uncovered the bodies of people caught in torrents of mud loosened by heavy rains.

“It’s a national tragedy,” Mr. Colom said as he visited a site where up to 40 people were feared to have been buried alive in a mudslide.

“This weekend alone we have seen damage comparable to that we experienced with Agatha,” he said, referring to a tropical storm in May that killed 165 Guatemalans and left thousands homeless.


Ahmadinejad warns against strike on Iran

DOHA, Qatar | Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad ruled out an attack on the Islamic republic over its nuclear program, during a visit to Qatar on Sunday, because any such action would result in Israel’s destruction.

“Any act against Iran will lead to the eradication of the Zionist entity,” he told a joint news conference in Doha with Qatar’s emir, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, after their talks.

Israel — the region’s sole, if undeclared nuclear power — has not ruled out a military strike to prevent Iran acquiring an atomic-weapons capability, an ambition its archfoe Tehran strongly denies.

“The Zionist entity and the U.S. government would hit any country in the region whenever they are able to do so, and they will not wait to get permission. But [at the moment], they cannot,” he said.

“Iran has the ability to retaliate, strong and hard,” warned Mr. Ahmadinejad, whose comments in Farsi were translated into Arabic.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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