Thousands of Muslims flee violence in Central African Republic; ICC opens war crimes probe
BANGUI, Central African Republic — Thousands of Muslims climbed aboard trucks protected by heavily armed Chadian soldiers in a mass exodus Friday from the capital of Central African Republic. Their flight follows months of escalating attacks on anyone perceived as supporting a now-defunct Muslim rebel government blamed for scores of atrocities during its rule of this predominantly Christian country.
In The Hague, Netherlands, the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court announced a preliminary investigation into potential war crimes or crimes against humanity in Central African Republic, saying the crisis has “gone from bad to worse” since September.
Along the streets of Bangui, crowds of Christians gathered to cheer the convoy’s departure for the neighboring country of Chad, which is mostly Muslim. It was an acrid farewell to their Muslim neighbors who had in some cases lived alongside Christians for generations here and have few ties to Chad.
Man suspected of trying to hijack plane to Sochi detained in Turkey as passengers evacuated
ANKARA, Turkey — A Ukrainian man tried to hijack a Turkey-bound flight to Sochi, Russia, as the Winter Olympics were kicking off Friday, but the pilot tricked him and landed in Istanbul instead, where he was stealthily detained after a four-hour stand-off on a plane full of passengers, an official said.
The hijacking drama came as the Winter Olympics opened in the Russian resort city, with thousands of athletes from around the world pouring into the tightly secured stadium amid warnings the games could be a terrorism target.
Violent anti-government protests spread across Bosnia; protesters set buildings, cars ablaze
SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina — Anti-government protesters stormed into the Bosnian presidency and another government building in Sarajevo and set them ablaze Friday as riot police fired tear gas in a desperate attempt to stop them.
Smoke was rising from several Bosnian cities as thousands vented their fury over the Balkan nation’s almost 40 percent unemployment rate and its rampant corruption. It was the worst social unrest the country has seen since the 1992-95 war that killed more than 100,000 people following Yugoslavia’s dissolution.
As night was falling Friday, downtown Sarajevo was in chaos, with buildings and cars burning and riot police in full gear chasing protesters and pounding batons against their shields to get the crowd to disperse.
Nearly 200 people were injured throughout the country in clashes with police, medical workers reported.
Bosnians have many reasons to be unhappy as general elections approach in October. The privatization that followed the war decimated the middle class and sent the working class into poverty as a few tycoons flourished. Corruption is widespread and high taxes for the country’s bloated public sector eat away at residents’ paychecks.
Children, women, elderly evacuated from besieged Syrian city in rare cease-fire deal
BEIRUT — Dozens of children and women along with elderly people in wheelchairs were evacuated Friday from besieged neighborhoods of Syria’s battleground city of Homs under a deal between the warring sides that included a three-day cease-fire.
The rare truce in Homs, which will also allow the entrance of aid convoys, may help build some confidence ahead of a second round of peace talks between the opposition and the government of President Bashar Assad, scheduled to begin in Geneva next week.
By nightfall, about 80 civilians were brought out of the city, many of them appearing frail and exhausted. Residents have endured a crushing blockade and severe food shortages for more than a year.
U.N. mediator Lakhdar Brahimi had pushed for aid for the estimated 2,500 civilians trapped in the ancient, rebel-held quarters known as Old Homs as a confidence-building measure during the first face-to-face meetings in Geneva last month.
The talks were adjourned until Monday with no tangible progress, as the Syrian government accused the opposition of capitalizing on human suffering in Homs to score points with the international community.
By wire sources