- - Sunday, June 17, 2012

GENEVA — Crises in Libya, Sudan, Somalia and elsewhere prompted 800,000 people to flee their countries last year, the highest number in 11 years, the United Nations’ refugee agency says.

A report issued Monday by the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees said that, including people who fled their homes but not their countries, the total number of newly displaced people worldwide in 2011 was 4.3 million. The number of new cross-border refugees was the highest since it hit 822,000 in 2000.

However, the total number who were either refugees, internally displaced or in the process of seeking asylum at the end of last year declined to 42.5 million from 43.7 million in 2010. The reason was that 3.2 million people who were uprooted but stayed inside their countries were able to return home, the highest rate in more than a decade, the agency said.

But it said the latest figures point to worrisome trends, including a consistently high number of displaced people over several years now. The total has exceeded 42 million people for each of the past five years. Afghanistan remains the world’s leading source of refugees, accounting for an estimated 2.7 million, UNHCR said.


Olympics officials tied to black-market tickets

LONDON — A British news report said Sunday that national Olympic committees and official agents in more than 50 countries were involved in selling London Olympics tickets on the black market, prompting officials to launch an investigation.

The International Olympic Committee convened an emergency session Saturday to discuss a dossier of evidence presented to them by Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, which said officials have been offering tickets for the July 27-Aug. 12 games, including hot events such as the men’s 100-meter final, on the black market at vastly inflated prices.

Among the most damaging claims were the paper’s allegations about Spyros Capralos, the Greek Olympic Committee president and top organizer for the 2004 Athens Olympics. He was quoted as saying he had “pulled strings” with London organizing Chairman Sebastian Coe to obtain an extra batch of premium tickets, on the pretext that demand in Greece outstripped expectations.

The London organizing committee said Mr. Capralos’ reported boasts of discussions with Mr. Coe were untrue.


Deadly church bombings ignite sectarian riots

KADUNA — Multiple church bombings in Nigeria and subsequent rioting by Christian youths targeting Muslims killed at least 36 people Sunday, officials and residents said.

Bomb blasts struck three churches in the northern Kaduna state, the latest in a string of attacks that has threatened to ignite wider sectarian strife across the religiously divided African country.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bloodshed, but the attacks were likely to be blamed on Boko Haram, a terrorist group bent on creating an Islamic state. It has claimed responsibility for scores of recent attacks. Two churches were attacked in the city of Zaria and one in Kaduna City, killing at least 16 people, according to a police statement. Explosions also were reported in Nassarawa and Barnawa.

After news of the blasts, Christian youths took to the streets of the main motorway that connects Kaduna City to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, attacking motorists who looked Muslim.


Armed robbery suspect arrested at U.S. border

EDMONTON, Alberta — The man wanted in a deadly armored car heist at a university in western Canada that left three armed guards dead was arrested at gunpoint by U.S. border officials in Washington state, police said Saturday.

Edmonton police Superintendent Bob Hassel said in a news release that Travis Baumgartner was stopped near a border crossing in Lynden, Washington, southwest of Abbotsford, British Columbia. Officials said Mr. Baumgartner was in his pickup truck and was alone.

Police said a sum of money was found in the truck when Mr. Baumgartner was arrested. Police earlier called it a “significant” sum.

Mr. Baumgartner, 21, had been on the run since Friday when four armed guards were shot, three of them fatally. He faces three counts of first-degree murder and one count of attempted murder.

Mr. Baumgartner was the fifth member of a G4S Cash Solutions crew that was reloading bank machines at a University of Alberta mall and residence where the shooting happened, police said.


13 inmates killed in fiery prison fight

ANKARA — Inmates in a prison in southeastern Turkey set mattresses and blankets afire, starting a blaze that killed 13 prisoners, authorities said Sunday.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said the inmates set their bedding on fire after a fight erupted inside a ward housing 18 people late Saturday. Five of the inmates in the prison in the mostly Kurdish and Arabic-speaking city of Sanliurfa were hospitalized, but none was in serious condition.

The prisoners also barricaded the ward’s entrance using beds and other furnishings, hampering rescue efforts by guards, Justice Minister Sadullah Ergin told reporters after he and other ministers visited the prison in the city near the border with Syria.

The five survivors escaped serious injury after shutting themselves in the ward’s bathroom, he said. Inmates in Turkey have set bedding afire in riots in the past to protest poor prison conditions, but authorities insisted that the incident was not a mutiny. There was no explanation, however, as to what sparked the dispute in the ward.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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