More than 950 people killed in Congo attacks

NAIROBI, Kenya

At least 966 people were killed in attacks on more than a dozen villages in northeastern Congo last week, U.N. officials said yesterday after a preliminary investigation.

It is not clear who carried out the attacks, which occurred in Ituri province, the scene of some of the most vicious battles in Congo’s 4 1/2-year-old civil war. Rival tribal fighters, rebel factions and Ugandan troops all have been involved in the fighting in the mineral-rich province.

Witnesses told the U.N. investigators that the attackers included women and children while others were men in military uniforms, said Manodje Mounoubai, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo.

“This is the worst single atrocity since the start of the civil war.” Mounoubai told The Associated Press by telephone from Kinshasa, Congo’s capital.

The killing spree occurred over a period of just a few hours Thursday in the Roman Catholic parish of Drodro and 14 surrounding villages in Ituri.

“The attack started with a whistle blow and lasted between five and eight hours,” Mounoubai told The Associated Press by telephone

Lubanga, who is head of the rebel Union of Congolese Patriots, or UPC, said Ugandan troops and Lendu tribal fighters used mortars, small arms and machetes to attack three towns in Ituri, killing 942 people.


U.S. prison population reaches record high

WASHINGTON

The number of people in U.S. prisons and jails last year topped 2 million for the first time, driven by get-tough sentencing policies that mandate long terms for drug offenders and other criminals, the government reported yesterday.

The federal government accounted for more inmates than any state, with almost 162,000, according to a report by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, part of the Justice Department. That number includes the transfer of about 8,900 District of Columbia prisoners to the federal system.

California, Texas, Florida and New York were the four biggest state prison systems, mirroring their status as the most populous states. But Texas, California, New York, Illinois and five other states saw their inmate populations drop compared with the year before as prison releases outpaced admissions.

Some states modified parole rules to deal with steep budget shortfalls, leading to an overall growth rate in state prison populations of just under 1 percent from June 2001 to June 2002. The federal prison population grew by 5.7 percent.


Honduras prison riot kills 69, injures 31

LA CEIBA, Honduras

A search for fugitives was called off yesterday, a day after a prison riot in northern Honduras that left 69 people dead, including three visitors, and 31 others injured.

Authorities said all inmates had been accounted for and were back in their cells at the El Porvenir prison in the town of La Ceiba, 220 miles north of the capital, Tegucigalpa. The prison remained locked down.

Authorities originally thought an unknown number of inmates had escaped and soldiers and police searched nearby streets and fields through the night.

Meanwhile, a bloody picture emerged of the battle between members of one of Central America’s toughest street gangs, who were armed with guns, clubs and even hand grenades, and other inmates, including some from rival gangs.


Palestinian leader’s murder trial begins

JERUSALEM

The murder trial of Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti began yesterday, but his top aides refused to cooperate on the stand with prosecutors. One witness covered his ears to block out questions.

In the Gaza Strip, Israeli troops killed a Hamas gunman and a 14-year-old boy in a raid on a small village. Also yesterday, an American activist shot in the jaw a day earlier, allegedly by Israeli troops, was conscious in an Israeli hospital, communicating with visitors by writing notes.

Barghouti, seen as a possible successor of Yasser Arafat, is the most senior Palestinian to be tried by Israel in 30 months of fighting. He is a Palestinian legislator, and until his capture a year ago, he was the leader of Arafat’s Fatah movement in the West Bank.


Va. Tech reinstates afrmative action

BLACKSBURG, Va.

Virginia Tech reinstated its affirmative action policy yesterday, despite assertions from the attorney general’s office that some of its diversity programs are unconstitutional.

The school’s Board of Visitors voted 7-5 with one abstention to rescind a March 10 ban on preferences for racial minorities and other underrepresented groups in hiring, admissions and scholarships.

The vote came after a four-hour meeting punctuated by outbursts from a crowd of about 250 people, most supporters of affirmative action. The board called yesterday’s special meeting after weeks of protest over its resolution in closed session to dismantle affirmative action.

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