U.S. Troops Blamed in Afghan Kids' Deaths
By AMIR SHAH
Associated Press Writer
December 17, 2002, 2:12 PM EST
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Furious parents of Afghan children killed by a stray mortar fired during a U.S. military training drill accused American special forces Tuesday of ignoring their desperate pleas and letting their sons bleed to death.
Four boys died and three were injured in Saturday's incident at a firing range about six miles east of Kabul. The accident occurred as the U.S. 5th Battalion, 19th Special Forces Group from Fort Carson, Colo., was training Afghan soldiers in mortar and rifle fire.
The U.S. military says it is investigating and denies there was any delay in helping the injured children. But in interviews with The Associated Press, family members told a different story.
The brother of one victim said he begged for help, but that U.S. soldiers wouldn't believe him and kept firing. Two fathers said the Americans made them wait for hours before bringing them their sons, who died soon after.
"The American officers are responsible to God for the children they have killed, and one day they will have to answer for their actions," said Mohammed Akram, whose 15-year-old son Saeed Imran was killed. "No Americans even came to the funeral to show their condolences. Out of respect for my wife as a human being, they should at least have come to pay their respects."
Abdul Zaher, an Afghan military officer whose 14-year-old son Hafizullah was killed, said U.S. soldiers ignored his other son's pleas.
"After the accident, my son Habibullah ran to tell the Americans what had happened, but they did not take him seriously," said Abdul Zaher. "They kept firing."
Habibullah went to get his father, and Abdul Zaher says he and another man rushed to the scene, but were kept off the range by American and Afghan soldiers. He said they were made to wait in an office for four hours.
"My son Habibullah said 'Father, it is too late! Hafizullah is bleeding. He may die,' but there was nothing we could do," Abdul Zaher said.
A spokesman at the Kabul Military Training Center denied any delay. "It is completely false," said Sgt. Don Dees, adding that a team was sent to rescue the children the minute the army was notified.
Dees also said the army had warned residents of the exercises through patrols, and had shot flares before beginning the drills. He said the boys sneaked onto the range from behind the hill, and that soldiers were not aware of their presence.
"The area was physically checked before firing started. I have had no reports of children reporting the injuries and being ignored," said Col. Roger King, U.S. army spokesman at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.
Dees said the army sent condolences, but would not discuss whether the families would be compensated.
Two of the injured boys were treated at a hospital run by international peacekeepers, the third at an American army hospital at Bagram, the U.S. military headquarters north of Kabul.
An Afghan Defense Ministry official said authorities felt terrible about the deaths, but that the military had adequately warned residents in the area. He said the boys walked more than a mile from their homes to get to the firing range.
"In the future, the Defense Ministry must pay more attention to keep children out of danger, but children must also learn not to stray onto military grounds," Saleh Mohammed Rigistani said.
The families said about 10 boys were hanging around the area when they heard firing from the range and decided to watch. But Dees said children often go to places where mortar rounds have been fired, to collect semiprecious lapis lazuli stones that are sometimes uncovered by the impact of the mortars.
Noor Gul, 14, said he and the others were sitting on a nearby hill when a mortar suddenly exploded among them. Two boys died instantly, he said, and five others lay bleeding. Several others ran to get help, he said.
Noor Gul said he bought a white cloth to put on Saeed Imran's grave, a sign of respect. Flags and brightly colored cloth on graves show that the victim was a martyr.
One father acknowledged that the U.S. military had warned residents not to go near the firing range, but he said there were no flags or fences to keep people out.
"Children don't know any better," Mohammad Akram said. "There is nothing to do in Afghanistan, and so when the shelling started the children decided to watch from the hill, because they have nothing else fun to do."
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-afghan-children-killed1217dec17
U.S. Troops, Interpreter Wounded in Kabul
By TODD PITMAN
Associated Press Writer
December 17, 2002, 11:22 AM EST
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Attackers hurled a grenade into a jeep carrying two U.S. soldiers and an Afghan interpreter in the heart of Kabul on Tuesday, wounding all three, the U.S. military said.
One of the soldiers was wounded in the head and "in the lower extremities," while the second soldier suffered wounds to the lower right leg, said Lt. Tina Kroske. She did not identify the soldiers or say how serious their injuries were.
The interpreter's condition was not immediately known.
Kroske said three suspected assailants were arrested, but Kabul Police Chief Basir Salangi said only two men were in custody.
He identified them as Amir Mohammed, of Khost in eastern Afghanistan, and Ghulam Saki of Jalalabad, the capital of Afghanistan's eastern Nangarhar province.
Mohammed was arrested with at least two grenades in his pocket, Salangi told The Associated Press.
Four U.S. Humvees equipped with machine guns guarded the site of the attack, on a crowded corner in front of city's Blue Mosque. A policeman at the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity, said he saw a boy throw a grenade toward the vehicle and witnessed a second man, gearing up to throw another grenade, tackled by a fruit vendor.
Attacks against U.S. service personnel in eastern Afghanistan, and in particular in Khost, are routine.
Tuesday's attack was the latest in a series of sporadic attacks on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan, following a Nov. 28 incident in which a sniper shot a U.S. Special Forces soldier in the leg in eastern Afghanistan. The shooter escaped.
Fifteen U.S. servicemen have been killed in combat or hostile situations in Afghanistan since the U.S.-led anti-terror campaign began last year. The most recent fatality was on May 19.
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-afghanistan-grenade-attack1217dec17
Abortion Foe Faces Murder New N.Y. Charge
By BEN DOBBIN
Associated Press Writer
December 17, 2002, 1:56 PM EST
BUFFALO, N.Y. -- An anti-abortion extremist was indicted on a new murder charge Tuesday, almost a month after he admitted in a jail interview that he killed a doctor who provided abortions.
James Kopp, already charged with intentional second-degree murder, pleaded innocent to the new charge of reckless murder with depraved indifference to human life. If convicted, he could get 25 years to life in prison.
"There was new evidence that was brought to our attention that warranted the second count," prosecutor Joe Marusak said.
He would not elaborate, citing a gag order, but the indictment was clearly linked to Kopp's admissions in The Buffalo News interview last month.
Kopp, 47, who was captured in France after nearly three years on the run, told the newspaper he carried out the October 1998 sniper attack that killed Dr. Barnett Slepian, 52, in suburban Amherst. Kopp said he meant only to wound the doctor, but "the bullet took a crazy ricochet."
Kopp, a militant known as "Atomic Dog" in anti-abortion circles, said he shot Slepian because of his outrage over abortions. He and his lawyer, Bruce Barket, intend to turn his trial into a forum for the abortion debate.
The new charge suggests prosecutors are questioning "whether or not Jim intended the death of Dr. Slepian," Barket told reporters after the arraignment. "There's not a mystery as to who shot Dr. Slepian any longer. The only interesting question in this is the morality of abortion."
The prosecutor countered that personal opinions about abortion are "irrelevant to what's going to happen in the court."
Kopp is scheduled to go on trial in February.
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-abortion-doctor1217dec17
U.S. Loses Vote at Population Conference
By VIJAY JOSHI
Associated Press Writer
December 17, 2002, 1:07 PM EST
BANGKOK, Thailand -- The United States lost a vote at an international conference Tuesday as Asia-Pacific countries rejected the Bush administration's stand against abortion and condom use among adolescents.
The vote was held at the end of the U.N.-sponsored Asian and Pacific Population Conference, which adopted a plan of action on population policies in a bid to reduce poverty in the region.
U.S. delegates had said some of the wording, including "reproductive health services" and "reproductive rights," could be read as advocating abortion and underage sex. But U.S. demands for changes or deletions were overwhelmingly rejected in a vote that allowed the plan to be adopted as the conference ended Tuesday.
"We wanted a development oriented conference, but the issue we had a heated debate on was abortion and underage sex," said Kim Hak-Su, executive secretary of the U.N. Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.
The fifth Asian and Pacific Population conference was attended by UNESCAP's member nations, including the United States, India, Pakistan and China, as well as several activist organizations.
Delegates said the ministerial meetings were often heated, with the United States seeking to pressure other countries.
Faced with a deadlock, the conference took a vote -- highly unusual at United Nations conferences -- on two key chapters of the plan. The United States lost the first vote 31-1 with two abstentions, and the second 32-1 with two abstentions.
The United States ended up agreeing on the plan being adopted without change, said Thoraya Obaid, executive director of the U.N. Population Fund. Its concerns were attached in a separate document that will not affect the plan.
"By joining the consensus they were part of the whole group. It is not loss or gain. It is multilateralism," she said.
The 22-page plan includes a series of recommended steps to implement an international family planning agreement reached in Cairo in 1994. It suggested fighting poverty by concentrating on 12 areas including family planning, gender equality and combatting HIV/AIDS.
The plan aims to halve the number of people in the Asia-Pacific region living on less than $1 per day by 2015. Nearly 67 percent of the world's estimated 1.2 billion people who live in extreme poverty are in this region.
Population policies "must encompass the principle of voluntary and informed decision making and choices, the preservation and protection of human rights, including the matters related to reproductive rights and reproductive health services," the plan says.
It also includes the phrase "consistent condom use" -- a phrase the United States wanted struck out -- as a way to reduce vulnerability to infection from the virus that causes AIDS.
The U.S. delegation was not available for comment, but the Americans had said Monday that their government cannot support any program that seems to promote abortion. The United States also prefers that adolescents practice abstinence instead of using condoms to avoid pregnancy.
U.S. support for population programs is important for the region. Earlier this month, the Bush administration blocked $34 million in funds appropriated by Congress for the U.N. Population Fund.
On the Net: http://www.unescap.org/
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-population-conference1217dec17
Explosion Sparks Israel Fuel Plant Blaze
By Associated Press
December 17, 2002, 7:14 AM EST
JERUSALEM -- An explosion set off a large fire in a compound of petrochemical plants in the northern port city of Haifa on Tuesday, sending a huge cloud of gray smoke over the Mediterranean.
Haifa's fire chief said he believed the blast was caused by an accident.
There has been growing concern in Israel that Palestinian militants will carry out a "mega attack" by targeting an oil refinery or fuel depot.
In May, Palestinian militants attached a bomb to a fuel truck, setting off an explosion after the vehicle drove into a large fuel depot in central Israel. At the time, the fire did not spread. Members of the Islamic militant group Hamas were later arrested in the failed attack.
Tuesday's explosion went off at about 6:40 a.m. at a fertilizer factory in Haifa Bay, and three warehouses quickly went up in smoke. Firefighters from all over northern Israel rushed to the scene, trying to keep the fire from spreading to nearby petrochemical plants and oil refineries, police said.
"There was an explosion, that is the first report we got," said the area's fire chief, Gershon Zalderman. He said that while investigators were not ruling out any explanations, they believed the blast was caused by an accident.
The fire caused huge morning rush hour traffic jams in Haifa, since the industrial compound is close to the coastal road, the main thoroughfare.
Copyright © 2002, The Associated Press http://www.newsday.com/news/nationworld/wire/sns-ap-israel-explosion1217dec17
Flesh-Eating Bacteria Hits Calif. Marine Base
Mon Dec 16, 5:25 PM ET Add Top Stories - Reuters to My Yahoo!
SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Reuters) - A flesh-eating bacteria has killed at least one young recruit at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot in San Diego, California and made 100 others ill, military officials said on Monday.
The bacteria, known as Group A streptococcus, also may be responsible for the unexplained deaths of two other teenage recruits at the training base since late November, officials said.
Strep A is a common bacteria people carry in their throats even when they're not sick. The bacteria commonly causes sore throats but can evolve into necrotizing fasciitis, the so-called flesh-eating bacteria, characterized by a flat red rash over large parts of the body.
About 6,000 others on the base, which trains about half of the U.S. Marine Corps' recruits each year, were tested for exposure to the bacteria and received antibiotics over the weekend, Lt. Mike Friel said.
Some 100 personnel who showed symptoms of Strep A infections or signs that they were carriers were hospitalized over the weekend, but many of them have returned to their units, Friel said.
Base officials are considering calling off training at the depot until they can solve the health crisis.
The latest death, that of 18-year-old Private Miguel Zavala of Greenfield, California, came on Sunday just three hours after Zavala sought medical treatment for a rash on his left ankle.
"While at the acute care area, the rash spread to the rest of his body," Friel said. "He was then taken to the Naval Medical Center in San Diego for evaluation and emergency medical care."
Four days earlier, Private Samuel Bruss of Kenosha, Wisconsin, died after completing a water survival training course. He had complained of chest pains after getting out of the base's swimming pool.
On Nov. 24, Private Neal Edwards, 18, of St. Clair, Missouri, died after collapsing during an obstacle course.
"Are they related? The answer to that is unknown," Friel said.
Strep A is a well-known enemy of U.S. military troops, who live and work in close proximity. The San Diego Marine Corps Recruit Depot commonly inoculates the 20,000 recruits it trains annually twice during their 13-week basic training to tamp down the disease, Friel said.
"This is something we have had a problem with since World War One," Friel said. The last outbreak of Strep A at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot was in 1991, he said. http://story.news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&u=/nm/20021216/ts_nm/health_bacteria_dc_3