- - Monday, August 20, 2012

JAKARTA — The death toll rose to six on Monday from a powerful weekend earthquake in Indonesia, as rescuers reached mountainous villages that had been cut off by landslides, officials said.

At least 43 others were injured, including eight in critical condition.

The magnitude 6.3 quake struck Saturday evening near Palu city on Sulawesi Island as residents were ending their fast on the final day of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Sutopo Purwo Nugroho of Indonesia’s Disaster Management Agency said rescuers with heavy equipment and bulldozers were clearing the roads to at least 14 villages in Sigie district that were blocked by landslides.

Mr. Nugroho said six people were killed by falling debris and tons of mud, including a 9-year-old boy, and the toll was likely to rise further.

Indonesia is prone to seismic upheaval because of its location on the Pacific “Ring of Fire,” an arc of volcanos and fault lines in the Pacific Basin.

A giant quake off the country on Dec. 26, 2004, triggered a tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed an estimated 230,000 people, half of them in Indonesia’s westernmost province of Aceh.


Christian girl accused of burning Koran

ISLAMABAD — Pakistani authorities have arrested a young Christian girl after hundreds of furious neighbors gathered outside her house and accused her of violating the country’s strict blasphemy laws by burning pages of the Muslim holy book, police and neighbors said Monday.

The girl’s age was not immediately clear, with reports ranging from 11 to 16, and some have raised the possibility she might be mentally handicapped.

Under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws, anyone found guilty of insulting Islam’s Prophet Muhammad or defiling the holy book, or Koran, can face life in prison or even execution. The laws have been an ongoing source of controversy even though those convicted are rarely executed.

Rising extremism in the country often means religious minorities live in fear of persecution and accusations of blasphemy.

The latest case exploded Thursday, when neighbors angry over rumors a Christian girl had allegedly burned a Koran gathered outside her house in a poor outlying district of the capital, Islamabad, said police Officer Zabi Ullah. He said the police took the girl to the police station, where she is being held for 14 days while authorities investigate the allegations.


Senior al Qaeda official, 3 others arrested

ALGIERS — Three armed Islamists, including a senior member of al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, have been arrested in southern Algeria, official media reported Monday.

Necib Tayeb, also known as Abderrahmane Abou Ishak Essoufi, one of the oldest members of al Qaeda’s North African branch, headed its so-called “judicial committee” and had been wanted since 1995, the APS news agency said.

The three men were arrested last week in the town of Berriane, nearly 400 miles south of Algiers, as they were traveling toward the Sahel border region in a four-wheel-drive vehicle, APS reported, citing well-informed sources.

The operation, which was carried out by the Algerian army’s special forces, dealt a “fatal blow” to the terrorist operation, according to the same sources, given Tayeb’s close links to Abdelmalek Droukdel, chief of the al Qaeda North African operation.

An Algiers court in June sentenced Droukdel to death in absentia for a series of murders and bombings.


Gadhafi’s son to face trial, official says

TRIPOLI — Libya will put the late dictator Moammar Gadhafi’s son on trial in defiance of the International Criminal Court, a judicial official said Monday.

Ahmed al-Jehani, Libya’s representative to The Hague court, said the trial of Seif al-Islam will begin next month. One possible venue is Zintan, a town in the western mountains, where he is being held by a local militia.

Since Seif al-Islam was captured last year, Libya and the ICC have been arguing over whether he would be tried in The Hague or in Libya. He was considered his father’s political heir. The ICC issued an arrest warrant and demanded he face international war-crimes charges.


Philip leaves hospital, returns to Balmoral

LONDON — Britain’s Prince Philip left a Scottish hospital Monday after five days of treatment for a bladder infection.

The 91-year-old husband of Queen Elizabeth II was hospitalized Wednesday with a recurrence of an infection he suffered earlier this summer.

Buckingham Palace said Philip was discharged from Aberdeen Royal Infirmary in northeast Scotland and was returning to the nearby Balmoral estate, where the royal family is on vacation.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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