Brandon Sun (Newspaper) - June 24, 2002, Brandon, Manitoba
Golf Scramble 2002
Iranians bury dead following earthquake
ABDAREH, Iran — In a matter of seconds, Zahra Gholamzadeh lost her husband, son and home. Yesterday, she stood on the rubble of her mud house, recalling how her life was suddenly turned upside-down by the Iranian earthquake that killed at least 220 people.
“It had a big sound. The horrible sound remains in my ears,” she said, sobbing uncontrollably, her surviving son and daughter by her side.
Gholamzadeh was one of the survivors of Saturday’s magnitude-six earthquake that flattened nearly IOO villages in northwestern Iran and killed at least 220 people.
“We lost our dear ones and all we had. In a few seconds, we became miserable. We were never rich, but at least we had something. Now everything has become dirt,” she said.
State-run media lowered the death toll in the remote quake zone from earlier estimates of 500 or more. An Iranian Red Crescent relief organization official told state-run radio that earlier casualty number reports were wrong.
The official, identified only by his last name, Sahraie, said there was no figure for those injured. Official Iranian media has reported that more than 1,600 people had been injured. Other Red Crescent officials have put the figure at about 1,300.
The quake struck at 7:30 a.m. when most people were in their homes of brick, stone or mud. It left thousands homeless, mainly in the Qazvin provincial town of Bou’in-Zahra, the quake’s epicentre, the official Islamic Republic News Agency reported.
Desert and hills mark Qazvin’s terrain. The area, inhabited by tens of thousands of people, is rural but is home to many small factories and businesses producing goods ranging from plastics to medicine and food.
Among the hardest-hit places was Abdareh, a tiny village some 225 kilometres west of Tehran. The quake toppled its mosque, demolished 40 homes and killed at least 20 people.
In nearby Changooreh, only two of the village’s IOO houses were intact. The death toll there was at least 120. —AP
Israeli forces surround Arafat compound, detain Hamas spiritual leader
JERUSALEM — Israeli forces entered Ramallah early today and began to surround the shell-shattered compound of Yasser Arafat, who had accused Israel of moving toward a return to the days of complete control over Palestinians’ lives.
The move into Ramallah widens the Israeli military’s scope of control over once-autonomous Palestinian areas. Israeli troops now control most Palestinian population centres in the West Bank, including Nablus, Jenin, Tulkarem and Bethlehem, placing residents under curfew.
The incursion came moments after word that Palestinian authorities had placed the spiritual leader of the Islamic militant group Hamas under house arrest in the Gaza Strip. Yesterday, the Palestinians arrested dozens of Hamas members in Gaza.
An order had been issued for the house arrest of Sheik Ahmed Yassin, Palestinian security sources told The Associated Press. Seven Palestinian police cars blocked the street on either side of the Gaza home of Yassin, who has been placed under house arrest in the past.
Arafat and his aides were inside as a half-dozen Israeli tanks took up positions around his Ramallah compound.
Palestinian intelligence officials said about 40 tanks were seen entering the city from the northeast to the northwest. Two Israeli helicopters covered the incursion from above.
“A large number of tanks and Israeli jeeps are surrounding the president’s office from all sides,” Nabil Abu Rdeneh told The Associated Press from inside the compound.
Witnesses said two Israeli army jeeps have pulled up outside al-Aman refugee camp and three parked rn front of the government hospital.
Israeli officials earlier denied any intention to re-establish civil administration of the West Bank, which would make Israel responsible for municipal services, building permits, education and vital records.
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s Cabinet also approved a security plan that includes building concrete barriers and electronic fences in hopes of preventing attacks on its temtory.
Israeli Cabinet Secretary Gideon Saar said the government was considering the possibility of deporting families of Palestinian suicide bombers to the Gaza Strip, but would not act unless the Israeli judiciary said such action was legal.
— Associated Press
Troops find weapons stash in Afghan village compound
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Al-Qaida appears to be regrouping, U.S. legislators say
WASHINGTON — With or without Osama bin Laden, al-Qaida terrorists appear to be regrouping as a lethal threat, leading U.S. senators on said yesterday.
They cited recently publicized warnings from U.S. officials and one broadcast from bin Laden’s spokesman late Saturday to underscore the persistent danger from terrorists chased from their Afghan havens.
The terrorists appear to be more capable of attacking Americans than they were a month or two ago, said Senator Bob Graham (D-Fla.), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Added Senator Richard Shelby of Alabama, the committee’s top Republican: “They could hit us any day.”
The senators offered no evidence of an impending attack other than the uncorroborated warnings issued lately, including one that al-Qaida could use fuel tanker trucks against Jewish interests in America.
Officials have not established the authenticity of the tape broadcast to the Arab world in which bin Laden associate Sulaiman Abu Ghaith said the al-Qaida leader and most other top figures in the network are alive, well and ready to attack again.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai was asked on CNN’s Late Edition about Abu Ghaith’s claims. “I have no information as to where he is, though Osama bin Laden must know that whatever acts of terror he thinks he can commit will not be remain unanswered and that his days are anyway numbered,” Karzai said.
But Graham, at least, put some stock in the claims. “It’s not surprising that there is a statement that bin Laden is still alive,” he said on Fox News Sunday. “That’s the best assessment of U.S. intelligence.”
The best guess is that bin Laden is in the tribal lands of western Pakistan, he said. —AP
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BAGRAM, Afghanistan — British marines broke into a suspicious village compound and chanced upon one of the largest weapons caches uncovered in southeastern Afghanistan — rooms stacked high with hundreds of mortars, rockets and heavy weapons.
The marines said yesterday that the arsenal they found stashed in the village of Surwipan near the Pakistani border may have been left by al-Qaida and Taliban fighters. More than IO men were found in the compound, and some were held by the troops.
“We were taken aback by the amount of stuff here,” Sgt. Buck Ryan said. “In the last room, there was a curtain. When I pulled it back, it was like, ‘Oh my God.’ It was stacked up to the roof with weapons and ammunition.”
In the compound, nicknamed “the Alamo” by the marines, troops hauled box after box of arms out of five or six rooms with stone-arch doorways and piled them in the dirt courtyard, where chickens ran freely. In one room, a bomb expert peered with a light into stacks of rockets, looking for booby-traps.
The marines said it was one of the largest caches they have found after weeks of searching the area around the town of Khost, near the Pakistani border. Few al-Qaida or Taliban fighters have been found in the region — they
are believed to be hiding or to have fled into Pakistan.
The surprise find came Saturday morning when a patrol of marines from Zulu Company of Britain’s 45 Commando Group on a nearby hill spotted a large antenna array on top of the compound.
Their suspicions raised, they moved in. A man was peeking out the door of the compound, smiling, but when he saw the marines, he ducked inside and slammed the door. The marines heard men running around inside and shouting, Ryan said.
The troops smashed through the compound’s stone wall. The men inside, some wearing military fatigues, surrendered without a fight, although several Kalashnikov assault rifles were found nearby, ready to fire, Ryan said. The men destroyed two radios before the marines could get in.
Eight of the Afghans were brought to the military interrogation centre in Bagram, officials said. A family of about a dozen people was also found in the compound and told to leave.
While the site was being secured, a number of white vans were seen driving from the far side of the village, but the marines were unable to stop them. Villagers gathered outside the compound and shouted at the troops as they worked. — Associated Press
British Army Staff Sgt. Colin Hill of the Royal Engineers Bomb Disposal handles one of the booby trap devices found in the village of Surwipan, Afghanistan, yesterday.
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China allows all North Korean asylum seekers to leave country
BEIJING — A group of 24 North Korean asylum seekers holed up in South Korean diplomatic compounds for the past month left Beijing yesterday for an undisclosed location.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman confirmed the group flew out of the country yesterday evening, but declined to reveal their destination.
Two other North Koreans holed up in the Canadian Embassy also left China yesterday, embassy spokeswoman Jennifer May said. She declined to give other details.
China initially demanded that the asylum seekers be handed over, saying they posed a security risk. But its resolve appeared to crack on Friday when it said a pregnant woman among the group might be allowed to leave.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry statement then said the North Koreans would be allowed to leave after authorities veri fled their identities and ensured none had commuted crimes within China.
South Korea “fully understood and accepted” China’s demand that diplomatic offices not be used to as a channel for illegal immigration, Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao was quoted as saying in a report from the official Xinhua News Agency.
— Associated Press
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COLF SCRAMBLE 2002