While a big anti-Syria rally in Lebanon made the front page of the NY Times Feb. 15, a nationwide coordinated campaign of protests for restoration of democratic rule in Nepal—harshly put down with hundreds of arrests—rated only a small blurb in the "World Briefing" section at the bottom of page 6. Nepal has almost completely dropped from the news since the seizure of dictatorial emergency powers by the king Feb. 1, but repression is escalating. Student protest leaders are wanted for arrest and have gone into hiding; newspaper editors who report on the protests are themselves hauled before the police and held "for questioning"; the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders has called for a thorough investigation in the recent shooting of an editor in east Nepal, and for the immediate release of detained journalists.
Amidst ongoing pro- and anti-Syria protests in Lebanon, Damascus is beginning to call home some units stationed in the country—starting with the intelligence agents in Beirut and Bekaa Valley.
President Bush has tapped Defense Deputy Secretary Paul Wolfowitz to take over as head of the World Bank. Bush told a news conference March 15 that Wolfowitz, now Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's top deputy, is "a compassionate, decent man who will do a fine job at the World Bank. That's why I put him up." (AP, March 16)
The UN International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR), being held in Tanzania, has sentenced a former Rwandan civic leader to six years in prison after he pleaded guilty to involvement in the 1994 genocide. Vincent Rutaganira, 60, is the fourth man to have pleaded guilty before the tribunal. Former Rwandan Prime Minister Jean Kambanda was the first to plead guilty, and is serving his life sentence in Mali.
Twenty-two imprisoned militants of the Abu Sayyaf group and at least 17 others are dead in the Philippines, 24 hours after they launched a rebellion at Camp Bagong Diwa maximum security prison at in Taguig City. The dead are said to include three top Abu Sayyaf leaders, Alhamser Limbong (alias Kumander Kosovo); Ghalib Andang (Kumander Robot); and Nadjmi Sabdula (Kumander Global). Authorities reporteldy gave the militants a non-extendable 15-minute deadline to lay down their weapons and surrender before launching the assualt.
Newsday reports March 15 that militant settlers gathered at the Hebron tomb of Baruch Goldstein to mark the 11th anniversary of his massacre of 29 Palestinians as they prayed at the Tomb of Patriarchs, where Abraham is believed to be buried. (The 39-year-old native Brooklynite was beaten to death by survivors.) A photo accompanying the story shows one settler reverentially kissing Goldstein's tomb. The gathering served as a rallying point for settlers pledging to resist any attempt to evacuate them from the Occupied Territories. Israeli security services are said to be bracing for a violent backlash from the armed settler right.
A short commentary piece in Israel's largest circulation daily Yediot Aharonot claimed March 10 that armed youth are hitch hiking to Gush Katif, the illegal Jewish settlement bloc in the occupied southern Gaza Strip, where they are being hosted by the local community, sometimes sleeping out, and preparing for confrontation with the army to come. They say they will stop the disengagment with their bodies. No one's stopping them from entering the Gush bloc. (Of course if they were left activists the area would be declared a "closed military zone" and they wouldn't be allowed in- WW4). They were wearing batik shirts, sported rasta-locks, and brought thier sleeping bags. They're hippies, yet they have M16s, Yediot commentator Zeev Tsachor noted with some irony.
In Nam Khem, a poor coastal village in Thailand, when displaced survivors returned to the ruins to search for the remains of their loved ones and rebuild their homes, they found the area had been sealed off my armed men. The thugs told them the land now belonged to the "Big Boss," a nameless real estate speculator who had been battling for control of the land in the courts for years, hoping to cash in on the local boom in tourist resorts.