– Colombia’s Uribe to Fight Rebels
CHECHNYA – Feature: Humanitarian crisis in Chechnya
VENEZUELA – Nine Shot After Venezuelan Coup Ruling
DR CONGO – Congo Rebels Say Kinshasa Arms Hutus,
SULAWESI – Fear Rises Among Christians In Tentena
Over Possible Islamic Attack
GUJARAT – India poll chief tours riot state
DR CONGO – UN Warns of Possible Flare-Up Among Rival
Colombia’s Uribe to Fight Rebels
By VANESSA ARRINGTON
VALLEDUPAR, Colombia- President Alvaro Uribe is pressing ahead with
plans to equip 1 million Colombians with radios to report on rebel activity,
even after the insurgents showed new daring with a mortar attack that
killed 19 people on his inauguration day.
Uribe hopes that next time, making the public his eyes and ears will
help stop something similar to the shelling that 20,000 troops and police
who packed the capital were helpless to prevent.
"We must overcome fear," Uribe said in the provincial capital
of Valledupar on Thursday, a day after the shelling. "We do that
by everybody getting involved."
Uribe’s visit to this northern town came less than 24 hours after the
inauguration-day shelling. But he was unruffled Thursday, determined
to convince the country that an end to the violence would require teamwork.
"Those in danger are 40 million Colombians," he said, dressed
in khaki pants and a short-sleeved yellow shirt with no tie. "If
we all work together, we’ll get rid of this risk for everyone."
Some say the plan to recruit citizen informants and equip them with
radios to report on rebels, a cornerstone of Uribe’s election campaign,
may not be enough to prevent well-planned attacks like the one on Wednesday.
"We didn’t notice anything – if we had, I would have fulfilled
my duty and told the authorities," said Jesus Beltran, who owns
a restaurant two blocks from the house where the mortars were launched.
"A politician could be living right next door to you and you might
Authorities blamed the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC,
for the attack. The FARC, the largest leftist rebel group in Colombia
with some 16,000 combatants, only rarely claims responsibility for its
actions and has said nothing about Wednesday’s attack.
Police had not known the rebels possessed projectiles with such range.
This capability may mark a new stage in the war – one in which neighbors
with radios may be no match for the determined rebels.
Two of the mortars, fired from over a mile away in the house near Beltran’s
restaurant, damaged the presidential palace and wounded police and bodyguards,
while at least two others apparently went astray and hit a slum and
a middle-class house blocks from the palace.
"It wasn’t known that this type of attack was within the capabilities
of the terrorists," said Gen. Hector Dario Castro, Bogota’s chief
At least 14 mortars were launched throughout the city, although some
did not detonate.
Security officials also had 20,000 troops and police posted throughout
the city, as well as helicopter gunships and a U.S. radar-equipped plane
Of the 19 people who died, three were children, hospital officials said.
Twenty-four people remained hospitalized in serious condition.
As part of his informant plan, Uribe said he may also consider arming
the citizen groups. Some participants will receive a small monthly stipend
– about $40.
"Initially, (they) will not have guns because people will kill
them to take the weapons, but the defense minister and the high commanders
will study under what circumstances the use of arms could be authorized,"
Uribe’s plan to recruit informants worries human rights groups, who
fear civilians will be targeted even more frequently by the outlawed
groups, or that they might align themselves with right-wing paramilitaries.
In Valledupar, officials told Uribe of the problems in their conflict-torn
region, saying travel was nearly impossible because rebels have taken
over the highways and kidnapped dozens of people.
Uribe hopes the citizen watch groups, or observer patrols, will make
the highways safer.
In the meantime, most Colombians continue to live in fear as they cross
their fingers that Uribe will deliver on his promises.
"We really have to be ready for anything here," said Luis
Patino, 42, who lives near where the mortars were launched. "But
we hope that this government will solve the problems that most affect
us – security and unemployment."
Feature: Humanitarian crisis in Chechnya
By Yasmin Sati
From the International Desk
Published 8/8/2002 10:34 PM
WASHINGTON, Aug. 8 (UPI) — Medecins Sans Frontieres, the Paris-based
Doctors Without Borders, dealt another blow to humanitarian efforts
in Chechnya by announcing Thursday it was suspending all but emergency
aid for at least another two weeks.
MSF stopped its relief efforts — medical supplies as well as care —
on July 29 in protest of the kidnapping of a Russian humanitarian aid
worker six days earlier. The United Nations mission in Chechnya, with
whom Nina Davidovich’s organization had affiliation, also suspended
Davidovich, head of a Russian non-governmental organization called Druzhba,
has helped coordinate UNICEF pr
ograms in Chechnya to educate and counsel children victimized by nearly
10 years of conflict between Chechen separatists and Russian troops.
The situation has led Russia’s special envoy to Chechnya to declare
a crisis in humanitarian aid. But at a Moscow press conference Monday,
Abdul Khakim Sultygov told reporters the cause lay not with the incident
and other dangers documented daily in the breakaway Russian province
but with the weakness of the human rights organizations themselves.
"Corruption and irresponsibility displayed by officials of the
international human-rights movement in the North Caucasus are the main
reason for the crisis in the international human rights activities in
this region," Russia’s official news agency Tass reported Sultygov
MSF, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1999, no doubt remembers its
own experience in January with the Chechen business of kidnapping, when
American MSF worker Kenny Gluck was held for 25 days before being released
unharmed. A statement on the group’s Web site said it would re-evaluate
its position regarding Davidovich’s kidnapping on Aug. 20.
Meanwhile, MSF and other aid organizations decry human rights violations
on both sides but particularly accuse Russian security forces of exacerbating
the humanitarian crisis. The troops have continued to detain hundreds
of civilians without charges in Chechnya and Ingushetia, which neighbors
Chechnya, despite the end of large-scale fighting, aid organization
representatives told United Press International.
In a country-by-country report on human rights practices in 2001, the
U.S. State Department also noted human rights violations still continue
in many areas in Chechnya.
"Its (Russia’s) record was poor in Chechnya, where the federal
security forces demonstrated little respect for basic human rights and
there were credible reports of serious violations, including numerous
reports of extrajudicial killings," said the report, released in
MSF, Human Rights Watch and others believe that the situation in Chechnya
will not improve until the major international players speak strongly
about the human rights violations there. Unfortunately, they add almost
in unison, these days the United States, the United Nations and the
European Union are paying much more attention to the war on terrorism.
"Since the Sept. 11 attacks against the United States international
criticism of Russia’s methods in Chechnya has waned, as Russia has become
a key partner in the international coalition against terrorism,"
said Anna Neistat, HRW’s Moscow director. "But Russia’s role in
the coalition should not shield it from scrutiny or criticism."
Michel Hofman, head of the MSF mission, agreed, saying that the international
community had raised the problem in Chechnya as a major issue before
Sept. 11, but now "this has completely disappeared" because
Russia has become a major partner in the fight against terrorism.
"At this moment, the willingness of the international community
to address Chechnya has reduced dramatically," Hofman said.
Russian officials disagree. A spokesman for the Russian embassy in Washington
told UPI the United States is following the situation very closely,
as are human rights groups and the American media. However, he asserted,
the situation in Chechnya is an "internal problem and we won’t
accept pressure from the outside world."
The spokesman, Yevgeniy Khorishko, added: "Russia and the U.S.
have developed close relations on the issue of terrorism and I’m sure
that they will discuss links between terrorists in Chechnya and al Qaida."
Discussions need to happen soon because the human rights situation in
Chechnya has gotten worse in the past nine months, said HRW’s Neistat.
The Russian authorities have been surrounding villages with military
vehicles and conducting house-to-house searches in Chechnya and recently
in Ingushetia. She said all men between the ages of 15 and 55 are subject
to sweep operations — being detained — for no apparent reason. Some
of them are released after spending time in detention, but many of them
disappear "without a trace," and this is a major concern,
"There has been quite a major shift in the leadership in Ingushetia,"
explained Hofman of MSF. The past leadership opposed removing the Chechens
from the camps; however, the current leadership is in favor of removing
the internally displaced people from their current locations, Hofman
"Since May of this year (the new leadership) has allowed Russian
federal troops to operate on the territory of Ingushetia, which up to
this point has never been allowed by the previous leadership,"
"We have found that civilians in Chechnya and Ingushetia continue
to suffer both from ruthless sweep operations by federal forces and
abusive guerilla tactics employed by rebel fighters," Neistat said.
"In recent months, we have documented numerous cases of arbitrary
detention, torture, forced disappearance, extra judicial execution,
extortion, and looting of civilian property."
The State Department also reports "politically motivated"
disappearances by the government. It said that there were credible reports
that Russian forces regularly beat, tortured and abused Chechen detainees
"Arbitrary arrest and detention and police corruption remained
problems," said the report, which is entitled "Country Reports
on Human Rights Practices 2001." It continued, "The government
prosecuted some perpetrators of abuses, but many officials were not
held accountable for their actions."
Another major concern for HRW and MSF is the fact that the 150,000 internally
displaced people living in tent camps in Ingushetia are being forced
by the Russian government to return to Chechnya by October, where living
conditions are even worse.
"Most of them don’t feel it’s safe to return back to their homes,
because especially for the males in the family, it’s highly risky to
be back in Chechnya because they are subject to arbitrary arrests and
violence," Hofman said. He added Russian authorities are persistent
in getting rid of the camps in Ingushetia and move people back to Chechnya
to prove that the situation is "normal and completely under control,"
when in fact, it’s not.
Embassy spokesman Khorishko said he had heard some rumors about this
but he declined to comment on the issue.
Chechnya was part of the Soviet Union from 1936 until 1991, when it
tried to follow the lead of Georgia, Azerbaijan and its other neighbors
and declare itself independent. The Russian government refused to recognize
Chechnya’s independence, and in December 1994 Russian troops invaded.
Fighting between Russian and Chechen forces, resulting in more than
40,000 deaths and causing the displacement of many thousands more people,
continued until mid-1996. Russia conceded autonomy while retaining Chechnya
as a province.
But fighting between the two sides broke out again in 1999 following
a series of bomb attacks in Moscow and southern Russia that authorities
blamed on Chechen separatists. Since then much of Chechnya is in ruins
and under Russian military occupation.
"Although Russian authorities have been continuously claiming that
the conflict in Chechnya is winding down, the Chechen Republic still
remains the only place in Europe where civilians are killed on a daily
basis in armed conflict," Neistat said. "In the absence of
meaningful government investigations into abuses, Russian forces continue
to operate with an undiminished sense of impunity," she said.
Russian embassy officials insisted the situation in Chechnya is indeed
improving, however. "The Russian government is taking all the necessary
steps to improve the economic, human rights and agricultural situation
in Chechnya," Khorishko said.
Nine Shot After Venezuelan Coup Ruling
By Patrick Markey
CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) – Nine people were shot and wounded in
violent disturbances in Venezuela on Thursday after the Supreme Court
rejected a proposal to put on trial four military officers accused in
April’s uprising against President Hugo Chavez.
After police clashed with supporters of the populist leader clamoring
against the ruling, at least eight civilians were wounded by gunfire
and a police officer was shot in the leg, authorities said.
"They have taken eight people wounded by gunfire to Lidice Hospital,"
police commissioner Leobaldo Navas told local radio.
Navas said police defended themselves after coming under gunfire. Eyewitnesses
interviewed by local media said at least seven civilians were wounded,
two seriously, when police opened fire on demonstrators.
With National Guard troops ringing the building, Supreme Court magistrates
earlier voted for a second time against a trial on rebellion charges
in a case that last week triggered three days of street clashes.
"They have rejected the proposal … and once again defeated the
attorney general who has tried by all means to prove a crime of rebellion
that doesn’t exist," Rene Buroz, an attorney for the accused officers,
The four high-ranking officers and others accused in the April 11-14
coup remain under investigation and still face possible trial on other
charges. One of the supreme court magistrates, who rejected the rebellion
trial proposal, will make another ruling on the case within a few days,
Venezuela’s Attorney General Isaias Rodriguez, a close ally of Chavez,
wanted to put the officers on trial, alleging they had committed military
rebellion by taking part in the president’s short-lived ouster.
Hundreds of troops in riot gear, backed by armored vehicles and at
least one light tank, surrounded the court building. Thick black smoke
from burning tires rose from nearby streets as news of ruling filtered
out to pro-Chavez groups protesting outside.
Last week’s eruption of street violence was the worst since loyal troops
put Chavez back in office after he was briefly ousted by rebel military
officers four months ago. Police fired tear gas and riot pellets to
control pro-Chavez demonstrators after the Supreme Court postponed the
ruling until this week.
One officer and at least four civilians were wounded on Friday when
snipers with rifles ambushed a police patrol in a poor neighborhood
in western Caracas.
Venezuela’s bitter political divide has worsened since the coup as
reconciliation talks have collapsed and supporters and foes of the outspoken
president blame each other for more than 60 deaths during the April
Chavez, a former paratrooper elected in 1998 after promising to stamp
out corruption and aid the poor, faces mounting criticism from opponents
who blame his self-styled "revolutionary" reforms for driving
a wedge between the classes and edging the nation into recession.
The Supreme Court has become the focus of more recent political sparring
as opponents of Chavez eye constitutional measures, such as a referendum
or shortening his term, to topple the left-leaning Venezuelan leader.
Most proposals are still mired in legal wrangling.
The president’s political foes have filed a flurry of charges against
the president alleging his government is guilty of corruption, embezzlement
and even crimes against humanity.
Congo Rebels Say Kinshasa Arms Hutus, Breaks
By Finbarr O’Reilly
GOMA, Congo (Reuters) – Rwandan-backed Congolese rebels accused the
government on Thursday of continuing to supply arms to Hutu militias
and putting at risk a pact signed last week to help end Africa’s biggest
Kinshasa rejected the accusations and suggested the rebels were making
them because they were in a tough position after the deal, which provides
for the withdrawal of Rwandan troops in exchange for disarming the Hutus.
The fate of thousands of Hutus, accused of Rwanda’s 1994 genocide,
is key to ending a four-year conflict that has dragged in six armies
and left an estimated two million people dead, most from starvation
Rwandan and Congolese presidents signed a deal in South Africa last
week under which Rwanda agreed to pull out its troops in exchange for
the disarmament and return of the Hutus.
But the Rwandan-backed Rally for Congolese Democracy said on Thursday
it had evidence the government had supplied weapons at the towns of
Sala Mabila and Nzonvu in eastern Congo to Hutu Interahamwe and other
"A week after signing this deal, they are busy arming the negative
forces, so we are becoming very pessimistic about this Pretoria accord,"
rebel spokesman Jean-Pierre Lola Kisanaga told Reuters in the eastern
town of Goma.
Information Minister Kikaya bin Karubi told Reuters in Kinshasa that
the accusations were nonsense.
"We are committed to the Pretoria agreement and we want to see
it implemented. Those accusations are made because all those guys are
in a bad shape," he said.
HUTUS ACCUSED OF GENOCIDE
The Hutus, scattered in the forests and hills of lawless eastern Congo,
have little desire to return to a home where they are accused of joining
in the killing of 800,000 minority Tutsis and Hutu moderates.
The rebels’ military commander earlier told Reuters they could be disarmed
only if Kinshasa turned over the Hutu leaders.
"…their leaders are based in Kinshasa and Lubumbashi and if
(President Joseph) Kabila gives the order to hand them over, their troops
in the field will do as they are told and stop fighting," General
Jean-Pierre Ondekane said.
United Nations officials have already warned that the disarmament of
the Hutus within the proposed three-month timetable is near impossible
and would need a much bigger force than the current mission.
U.N. estimates put at about 12,000 the number of Hutu fighters in eastern
Congo. They also suspect some 5,000 soldiers of Rwanda’s former Hutu-dominated
army might have been integrated into Congolese forces.
Many of the Hutus, while loosely allied to the government, are actually
operating well behind rebel lines — putting them beyond the possibility
of disarmament by Kinshasa’s forces.
If the Rwandan army and its rebel allies had been able to reach them
for disarmament, the Hutus would already have been captured or killed.
The inevitable difficulty of disarming the Hutus leaves open the possibility
for either side to blame the other for not fulfilling the deal, which
was signed under heavy regional and Western diplomatic pressure.
Congo’s war started in 1998, when Uganda and Rwanda invaded to support
the rebels. Zimbabwe, Angola and Namibia sent troops to back the government.
"Our military will never get tired, we are made for this, but
the civilian population is exhausted and tired of war. We are from these
families who are suffering, so we need to find a political solution,"
"Kabila can’t say he doesn’t know where they (the Hutus) are and
he must also stop giving the Interahamwe logistical support because
without his supplies they will become weak and give up," he said.
(Additional reporting by Mark Dummett in Kinshasa)
Sulawesi: Fear Rises Among Christians In Tentena
Over Possible Islamic Attack
Tension is extremely high among the Christian community of Tentena (Poso
district, Sulawesi Island, Indonesia) over fears of an imminent attack
by Islamic extremists of the Laskar Jihad. The alert was launched today
by the International Christian Concern human rights group, based on
information from local sources. An unconfirmed number of Laskar Jihad
combatants – thousands according to residents – were spotted
near the Ranoncu bridge, less than 8km from Tentena, inhabited by 65-thousand
Christians. Numerous shots and blasts were heard in the same zone. The
Ranoncu bridge in fact represents the last point of defence of the villagers.
Last year on November 18 the Christians of the same village and soldiers
engaged in a six hour battle with the Laskar Jihad, managing to impede
the combatants to reach the village. A military post was set up near
the bridge last January, army officials underlined that for the moment
the regular troops cannot intervene. The behaviour of the Indonesian
soldiers was strongly criticised by local Christian leaders, who underlined
that the community is practically defenceless. Many villagers have crafted
their own weapons and are planning to defend Tentena at all costs.
India poll chief tours riot state
BBC – India’s independent Election Commission chief has begun a tour
of the riot-affected state of Gujarat to determine if elections can
be held there.
The visit follows the resignation earlier this month of the state’s
Chief Minister, Narendra Modi, who has called for polls seven months
ahead of schedule.
Mr Modi was heavily criticised for his handling of religious violence
in the state, which erupted in February after an attack on a train carrying
Hindu activists in Godhra.
More than 1,000 people – mainly Muslims – were killed in the riots,
thousands of survivors lost their homes and about 12,000 people are
still in relief camps.
Opposition parties are outraged at the call for early elections, saying
a fair poll would be impossible given the numbers of Muslim refugees
who are still too frightened to venture out to vote.
Chief Election Commissioner JM Lyngdoh is due to meet victims, civil-rights
groups, civil servants, policemen and politicians to establish whether
polls could be held.
Mr Lyngdoh, and his two colleagues on the three-member commission, began
by visiting the scene of some of the worst riots in the Gujarat capital,
He visited the Gulbarg Society residential complex, where former MP
Ehsan Jaffri and 38 others were burnt to death by mobs.
The team then travelled to Naroda Patiya, where at least 82 Muslims
were burnt alive by another mob.
The commission will have the final say on whether elections can go ahead
Mr Modi, who still has the backing of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party
(BJP), insists that life in Gujarat has returned to normal.
He has also rejected allegations that his Hindu nationalist administration
was complicit in the slaughter of Muslims following the Godhra attack.
The BJP itself is preparing for the polls with a meeting of its senior
Gujarat leaders scheduled to take place in Delhi on Friday.
Civil-rights activists maintain that elections would be an insult to
survivors, who are still waiting for compensation.
They also point out that thousands of people lost all their belongings,
including their identity documents, in the violence and would therefore
be unable to vote.
But Mr Modi insists he is justified in seeking a fresh mandate.
Analysts say by holding snap elections, Mr Modi and the BJP expect to
return to power on a wave of Hindu support.
UN Warns of Possible Flare-Up Among Rival Rebel
UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
August 8, 2002
Posted to the web August 8, 2002
An official of the UN mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo
(DRC) said on Wednesday that there was a high risk of fierce fighting
between rival pro-Ugandan rebel groups in the district of Isiro, 350
km north of the northeastern city of Kisangani.
"The situation in Isiro is worrying," Hamadoun Toure, spokesman
for the UN mission, known as MONUC, said at a news conference.
Two factions of the dissident Rassemblement Congolais pour la Democratie
– the RCD-K-ML (Kisangani – Mouvement de liberation) and the RCD-N (Nationale)
– as well as the Mouvement pour la liberation du Congo, led by Jean-Pierre
Bemba, have put their fighters on full alert. MONUC said RCD-K-ML fighters
loyal to Mbusa Nyamwisi had pushed back those of Roger Lumbala’s RCD-N
to Dungu, 130 km to the northeast, but that Bemba’s fighters had advanced
to support Lumbala’s retreating forces.
"We are not far from confrontations," Toure said, "but
we have appealed to each party to spare the civilians who would bear
the brunt of any confrontation."
There was no reason to resume hostilities, he said, now that Rwanda
and the DRC had signed a peace agreement. All the Ugandan-supported
factions in this zone were signatories to another accord – April’s power-sharing
deal signed in Sun City between the government in Kinshasa and the MLC.