Speech causes concern
With the armed forces fighting to contain two insurgencies and the police struggling against rising lawlessness, Indonesia's president suggested yesterday that she supported setting up vigilante groups. The announcement sparked immediate fears of a re-emergence of armed militia groups like those that rampaged through East Timor in 1999, killing hundreds, because they were angry that the territory voted for independence in a UN-sponsored referendum. "The lack of numbers of security officials makes it impossible for our police and military to guarantee our citizens' security," President Megawati Sukarnoputri said. "That is why we need to seriously consider the people's request to defend themselves, especially in regions that are suffering a security disturbance."
Floods kill four children
Floods killed four more children in Bangladesh, bringing the death toll from a weeklong monsoon deluge to 59 and afflicting about a million villagers in a third of the country, officials said yesterday. The latest fatalities occurred on Monday in the south and southeastern districts of Cox's Bazar, Bhola and Feni, government relief officials said on condition of anonymity. Two children drowned in flood waters in Cox's Bazar, 300km south of Bangladesh's capital, Dhaka.
Mosque attack injures 17
Seventeen people were injured when a bomb exploded at a mosque in the main southern Afghan city of Kandahar during evening prayers, local radio reported yesterday. The timed bomb was left in a vest inside the Abdul Rav Akhundada mosque in the centre of Kandahar and exploded during Monday evening prayers, it said. Ten boys and seven men were injured in the blast, three of them seriously, it said. A local official had said Monday that 10 were injured in the explosion. "It is an attack against Islam, an attack against Muslims," Kandahar provincial governor Gul Agha said in a radio broadcast.
Diggers seek extension
Government archaeologists have urged a court to give them another 15 days to complete excavations at the site of a demolished 16th century mosque to determine whether a Hindu temple once existed below it. The court was expected to rule yesterday on the application filed Monday by the Archaeological Survey of India. Mobs of Hindu hard-liners demolished the Babri Mosque in the northern town of Ayodhya in 1992, claiming the site was the birthplace of their principal deity, Rama. They want to build a huge temple there. The demolition of the mosque triggered religious rioting across India in which at least 2,000 people were killed.
`Smoking' gene uncovered
Japanese researchers believe they may have identified a gene that makes it more difficult for some smokers to give up cigarettes. The paradox is that the same gene might also offer protection against pulmonary emphysema, one of the lung diseases most linked to heavy smoking. A team from Keio University report in the journal Thorax yesterday that they took DNA samples from 203 smokers or ex-smokers with suspected chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and 123 non-smokers with few respiratory symptoms. They identified a variation of a gene called CYP2A6del, which seemed to play a role in processing nicotine through the body.
Military plane hits home
A military plane slammed into a house west of the capital Algiers on Monday. As many as 17 people were feared dead, including women and children on the ground, authorities said. Fire raged through several houses after the C130 Hercules transport crashed in the neighborhood of Beni Mered shortly after takeoff from the Boufarik military airport, 35km southwest of the capital. There was confusion about the number of deaths, with rescuers saying 17, state-run Algerian television putting the toll at 15 and Colonel Zoubir Sbaa of the Algerian military saying 12.