In Brief | Nation & World 7-7-13


Islamic extremists attack school in Nigeria and kill 30; some victims burned alive

POTISKUM, Nigeria — Islamic militants attacked a boarding school before dawn Saturday, dousing a dormitory in fuel and lighting it ablaze as students slept, survivors said. At least 30 people were killed in the deadliest attack yet on schools in Nigeria’s embattled northeast.

Authorities blamed the violence on Boko Haram, a radical group whose name means “Western education is sacrilege.” The militants have been behind a series of recent attacks on schools in the region, including one in which gunmen opened fire on children taking exams in a classroom.

“We were sleeping when we heard gunshots. When I woke up, someone was pointing a gun at me,” Musa Hassan, 15, told The Associated Press of the assault on Government Secondary School in Mamudo village in Yobe state.

He put his arm up in defense, and sustained a gunshot that blew off all four fingers on his right hand, the one he uses to write. His life was spared when the militants moved on after shooting him.

Hassan recalled how the gunmen came armed with jerry cans of fuel that they used to torch the school’s administrative block and one of the dormitories.

Snowden’s fate unclear despite asylum offers from Latin American countries

MOSCOW — Edward Snowden has found supporters in Latin America, including three countries who have offered him asylum. But many obstacles stand in the way of the fugitive NSA leaker from leaving a Russian airport — chief among them the power and influence of the United States.

Because Snowden’s U.S. passport has been revoked, the logistics of him departing are complicated. Venezuela, Nicaragua and Bolivia have made asylum offers over the past two days, but the three countries haven’t indicated they would help Snowden by issuing a travel document, which he would need to leave Russia.

The former NSA systems analyst, who is charged with violating U.S. espionage laws, is believed to be stuck in the transit area of Moscow’s main international airport after arriving June 23 from Hong Kong.

Russia doesn’t appear willing to help him leave the airport, with Kremlin spokesman Alexei Pavlov saying Saturday the issue of Snowden’s travel documents is “not our business.” On Monday, President Vladimir Putin said Snowden would be offered asylum in Russia if he stopped leaking U.S. secrets. Snowden then withdrew his Russian asylum bid, a Russian official said.

While President Barack Obama has publicly displayed a relaxed attitude toward Snowden’s movements, saying last month that he wouldn’t be “scrambling jets” to capture him, other senior U.S. officials have used unusually harsh language that they want him back.

Koreas resume talks on industrial complex

SEOUL — North and South Korea held talks Saturday to revive their touchstone economic cooperation project, which the North suspended three months ago during a period of back-and-forth military threats.

The attempt to reopen the jointly operated Kaesong Industrial Complex, located just north of the demilitarized border, represents a critical test as the neighbors try to repair badly frayed relations.

The meeting, which began around noon local time in a pavilion near the border, continued into the late evening, according to South Korea’s Ministry of Unification.

The Kaesong complex has been shuttered for the past three months, a period in which the governments in Seoul and Pyongyang first cut all ties, then showed guarded interest in dialogue and reconciliation. But they’ve found little common ground. The meeting Saturday follows a planned sit-down three weeks ago at a hotel in Seoul, canceled at the last minute when the sides couldn’t agree on their representatives.

Former Syrian political prisoner with Saudi ties becomes head of main opposition group

BEIRUT — A former Syrian political prisoner with close links to Saudi Arabia was picked Saturday to lead Syria’s main Western-backed opposition group, filling a post long vacant due to divisions among President Bashar Assad’s opponents.

Inside Syria, government troops advanced into rebel-held areas of the central city of Homs, pushing into a heavily contested neighborhood after pummeling it with artillery that drove out opposition fighters, an activist said.

The election of Ahmad al-Jarba as the head of the Syrian National Coalition came during a meeting in Turkey in what was the second attempt in recent months by Assad’s opponents to unify their ranks.

The opposition bloc is primarily composed of exiled politicians with little support among Syrians back home who are trying to survive the third summer of conflict that has killed more than 93,000 people and forced millions to flee their homes.

Al-Jarba’s election suggests the opposition is trying to unite despite its differences after Assad’s forces gained ground last month in and around the strategic town of Qusair near the border with Lebanon.

W.Va. suspect in shooting of 2 sheriff’s deputies killed after he emerges from house with gun

CRAIGSVILLE, W.Va. — An 84-year-old West Virginia man who shot and injured two deputies was killed by police Saturday after he emerged from his barricaded house with a weapon, police said.

The death of John Evans outside his central West Virginia home escalated after a 911 call from a neighbor who told police Evans threatened him with a firearm over an unspecified dispute, said Sgt. Michael Baylous, a state police spokesman.

When a Nicholas County deputy arrived at Evans’ house, Evans shot him with a shotgun, Baylous said. The second deputy was shot when he responded to the scene.

Both deputies were airlifted to Charleston for treatment of wounds that are not considered life threatening, Baylous said.

State police units and other law enforcement agencies then responded to Evans’ house, sparking sporadic exchanges of gunfire over several hours.

Solar powered plane on final leg of flight to NYC

WASHINGTON — A solar-powered aircraft lifted off from a suburban Washington airport before dawn Saturday, embarking on the final leg of a history-making cross-country flight.

The Solar Impulse flew out of Dulles International Airport a little before 5 a.m. Saturday en route to New York City. The flight plan for the revolutionary plane takes it past the Statue of Liberty before landing at New York’s JFK Airport early today.

The slow-flying Solar Impulse was expected to set down in New York around 2 a.m. Weather for the flight, which will take the plane over Maryland and Delaware, then up the coast past Atlantic City, was expected to be good.

The aircraft, powered by some 11,000 solar cells, soars to 30,000 feet while poking along at a top speed of 45 mph. The Solar Impulse left San Francisco in early May and has made stopovers in Phoenix, Dallas-Fort Worth, St. Louis, Cincinnati and Dulles.

The cross-country flight is a tune-up for a planned 2015 flight around the globe with an up-graded version of the plane.

1 dead after oil train derails in Quebec

LAC-MEGANTIC, Quebec — Provincial police say one person has died after a train carrying crude oil derailed, triggering several explosions and a huge blaze in a town in eastern Quebec.

Police Lieutenant Michel Brunet would not say how many people might be missing after the 73-car train derailed early Saturday in the town of Lac-Megantic, about 155 miles east of Montreal.

Officials say the explosions and fire destroyed a large part of the town’s downtown area. Up to 1,000 people were forced from their homes in the town.

Nepalese peacekeeping troops linked to Haiti’s cholera outbreak

The United Nations sent Nepalese peacekeeping troops to bring relief to Haiti after it was devastated by a 7.0 earthquake in 2010. A new study concludes that the peacekeepers brought something else too — cholera, triggering an epidemic that has sickened hundreds of thousands of Haitians and killed more than 8,000.

After sequencing the DNA of 23 samples of the cholera-causing bacterium from Haiti and comparing them to the DNA of strains found elsewhere, researchers said the outbreak could be traced to Nepal, where the disease is endemic. They also concluded that the outbreak in Haiti came from a single source, undermining the hypothesis that the disease was repeatedly introduced to the country over the last three years.

Cholera is caused by a bacterium called Vibrio cholerae. It is typically spread through contaminated food or water, causing symptoms like diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration. Treatments include oral rehydration salts, intravenous fluids and antibiotics.

The World Health Organization estimates that 3 million to 5 million people contract cholera annually, causing 100,000 to 120,000 deaths each year. The disease spreads quickly in areas with inadequately treated sewage and drinking water, as is often the case in places that have been hit by a natural disaster.

Cholera emerged in Haiti about nine months after the January 2010 quake that killed hundreds of thousands of Haitians. The outbreak was a surprise because the disease had never been documented in the small island nation.

Mexico volcano spits 2 mile-high ash cloud

MEXICO CITY — The Popocatepetl volcano just east of Mexico City has spit out a cloud of ash and vapor 2 miles high over several days of eruptions, and Mexico City residents awoke Saturday to find a fine layer of volcanic dust on their cars.

It has been years since the center of the nation’s capital has seen a noticeable ash fall because prevailing winds usually blow the volcanic dust in other directions. Ash fell earlier this week in some neighborhoods on Mexico City’s south and east sides.

The city’s legion of car washers quickly wiped the fine coating from cars on Saturday with no apparent ill effects.

Claudia Dominguez, spokeswoman for the Mexico City civil defense office, said the very fine ash had probably been floating around the city from eruptions in previous days and had been brought to Earth by a rainfall late Friday. She said no new ash fall had been reported Saturday, despite continuous eruptions of vapor and ash into the air from the 15,000-foot volcano.

By wire sources