- - Sunday, August 5, 2012


MADRID — Wildfires fanned by fierce winds and high temperatures raged across a western Spanish region and on the Canary Islands, threatening to cut off phone contact with one island and forcing the evacuation of hundreds of people, officials said Sunday.

A 35-year-old man from an army emergency services unit died in a vehicle accident while battling the wildfires in the Extremadura region, and three others were injured. A fourth firefighter had to be treated after inhaling smoke.

About 300 vacationers had to be evacuated from a campsite in the heavily wooded hills of the Sierra de Gata area near the Portuguese border, said Extremadura Interior Ministry spokesman German Lopez Iglesias.

Forest fires also were raging on the Canary Islands of La Gomera and La Palma, and there were hundreds more evacuations there, said Javier Gonzalez Ortiz, a security official for the islands off the northwest coast of Africa.

A statement on the Canary Islands government website said a large fire had affected the southeastern area around Villa de Mazo in La Palma, where some 70 people had been moved to safety by the Red Cross and close to 2,470 acres had been affected by flames.

The causes of the fires are unknown, but several days of high temperatures have contributed to dry conditions throughout Spain, even on the normally verdant.


Leader extends hands of peace to Serbs

ZAGREB — Croatian President Ivo Josipovic extended the hand of peace to Serb citizens Sunday as he marked the anniversary of the crushing of a Serb rebellion in 1995, an operation pivotal in ending the war.

“Croatia won the war, it is a great achievement but Croatia still has to battle to win in peace,” Mr. Josipovic said at a ceremony at the former ethnic Serb rebel stronghold of Knin, marking the 17th anniversary of Operation Storm.

“Winning in peace means also extending a hand to our Serb citizens, acknowledging and bowing to their victims” from the 1991-1995 war, Mr. Josipovic said, voicing hope that Croatia will become a “shining European star.”

Croatia is set to join the European Union in July 2013.

On the eve of the anniversary, Croatian Serbs called for fair treatment for all victims of the war regardless of their ethnicity.


Ex-hostage in Syria says Brits among his captors

LONDON — A British photographer who was held hostage in Syria for a week said Sunday that his captors were international jihadists who included several Britons.

Freelance photographer John Cantlie and his Dutch colleague, Jeroen Oerlemans, were kidnapped in northern Syria on July 19 and freed a week later.

Writing in the Sunday Times newspaper, Mr. Cantlie said he was held in a camp by some 30 Islamist militants from Britain, Pakistan and Russia’s volatile republic of Chechnya.

He added that he and Mr. Oerlemans escaped with help from members of the Free Syrian Army, one of the groups fighting forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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