Among other items: A court cleared Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi of corruption charges in his long-running trial yesterday; and assailants set off a powerful time bomb next to an army truck parked in a teeming outdoor market in southwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 11 people mostly civilians and injuring more than two...
PHNOM PENH, Cambodia A shelter for women and girls forced into the sex trade temporarily shut its doors yesterday after gunmen kidnapped 92 of its occupants and made death threats against the staff, the shelter’s director said.
Attackers stormed the shelter Wednesday and abducted 84 women and girls who had been rescued from a Phnom Penh brothel the day before, director Somaly Mam said. An additional eight girls at the shelter were kidnapped. One resident escaped by hiding in a restroom.
The U.S. State Department strongly condemned the attack.
The shelter director said she and her staff no longer felt safe because the gunmen made death threats, and she would temporarily close her women’s-rights organization, Afesip, which handles various services for women and employs 180 people.
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Berlusconi cleared of corruption charges
MILAN, Italy A court cleared Premier Silvio Berlusconi of corruption charges in his long-running trial yesterday, sparing Italy the embarrassment of having its leader convicted of bribing judges.
The three-judge panel’s verdict also deprived the center-left opposition of fodder in the run-up to 2006 elections, and removed a burden that had been hanging over the billionaire politician’s head for nearly five years.
“Better late than never,” he said in a statement in reaction to the verdict. “I was right to be serene because my conscience was clear that I’d done nothing wrong.”
Judge Francesco Castellano read the verdict to the packed courtroom: acquittal on one count and a ruling that the statute of limitations had run out on the second corruption charge.
The defense said it would appeal the ruling on the second charge, saying it wanted a clear ruling of innocence.
Paramilitary group hands in its weapons
TIBU, Colombia The commander of Colombia’s paramilitary forces wept and apologized yesterday for his role in a war against Marxist rebels as 1,400 of his fighters surrendered their weapons in the largest demobilization of an outlawed armed faction in the country’s history.
The fighters demobilized at a ranch in remote northeast jungles near the border with Venezuela, where the main road is marked by crosses, burned vehicles and blown-up bridges the scars of a protracted and bitter battle between the right-wing faction and leftist rebels for control of the local cocaine industry.
Salvatore Mancuso, the chief of the paramilitary umbrella group known as the United Self-Defense Forces of Colombia (AUC), then handed his Beretta 9-mm pistol to government Peace Commissioner Luis Carlos Restrepo, beginning the formal demobilization of the AUC’s Catatumbo Bloc.
Bomb at market kills 11, injures dozens
QUETTA, Pakistan Assailants set off a powerful time bomb next to an army truck parked in a teeming outdoor market in southwestern Pakistan yesterday, killing at least 11 people mostly civilians and injuring more than two dozen others, police and hospital officials said.
The bomb, which was hidden on a bicycle, blew out windows and left bloodstained debris over a wide area of the market in Quetta, the main city in Baluchistan province, said police chief Rehmat Ullah.
The dead included one soldier and 10 vendors and passers-by, senior police official Pervez Bhatti told Pakistan’s private Geo television. Several of the 27 injured people were in critical condition, he said.
A little-known group, the Baluchistan National Army, claimed responsibility hours after the blast but said it never wanted to kill civilians.
An elite pilot was killed and another injured yesterday when two jets of Canada’s famed Snowbirds precision flying team collided and crashed during a training flight in southern Saskatchewan, an air force spokesman said. Capt. Miles Selby, 31, was killed when his CT-114 Tutor jet crashed near the small town of Mossbank, where the 11-member team practices.
Senegal yesterday became the fourth country in West Africa to abolish capital punishment for all crimes.
A Venezuelan military plane crashed in a mountainous area near Caracas yesterday, killing all 16 people on board, including two high-ranking military officers, officials said. The plane, a twin-engine M-28 Skytruck, was on its way from Puerto Ayacucho to a military air base just east of the capital.