NALCHIK, Russia

Chechen rebel attack kills at least 85

Militants attacked police and government buildings in Russia’s volatile Caucasus region yesterday, taking hostages and turning a provincial capital into a war zone wracked by gunfire and explosions that left at least 85 people dead, mostly insurgents.

Chechen rebels claimed responsibility for the offensive in Nalchik, the capital of the mostly Muslim republic of Kabardino-Balkariya, as a new front opened in the Kremlin’s decade-old battle against Islamic insurgents.

The rebels’ struggle against Russia, which was originally a separatist movement, increasingly has melded with Islamic extremism in the past decade and fanned out beyond Chechnya’s borders to encompass the entire Caucusus region.

The insurgent strategy of simultaneous attacks on facilities in Nalchik, a city of 235,000, was similar to a rebel siege last year in another Caucasus republic, Ingushetia, in what appears to be an attempt to target areas outside Chechnya and keep Moscow off-balance.

Kabardino-Balkariya is the fifth of seven republics in the mountainous region to be hit by the spillover of violence from the struggle in Chechnya.

 

MUZAFFARABAD, Pakistan

U.N. urges faster aid to quake survivors

With snow falling on parts of Kashmir, the U.N.’s emergency relief chief said yesterday that time was running out for many hungry, homeless survivors of a massive earthquake and urged aid agencies to speed up efforts in remote villages.

The plea came as aid workers struggled to reach remote areas and hours after an aftershock jolted parts of Pakistan, panicking people who had survived last weekend’s devastating temblor and forcing a rescue team to suspend efforts to save a trapped woman. She died before the rescuers returned to the precarious rubble.

U.N. Undersecretary General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Jan Egeland flew by helicopter to the hard-hit Kashmiri city of Muzaffarabad, where he said there was an urgent need to get food, medicine, shelter and blankets to millions of people. The U.N. estimates 2 million people are homeless ahead of the fierce winter in the Himalayan region.

The death toll was believed to be more than 35,000 and tens of thousands were injured. India has reported more than 1,350 deaths in the part of Kashmir that it controls.

 

WASHINGTON

Bush proposal could allow more polluting

The Bush administration proposed new regulations Thursday that could allow the nation’s dirtiest power plants to release more air pollutants each year – and possibly undercut lawsuits aimed at forcing companies to comply with the Clean Air Act.

The proposal follows a June federal court ruling that said power plants can throw more pollutants into the air each year when they modernize to operate for longer hours.

It’s the latest in a series of attempts by the Environmental Protection Agency to make the nearly 30-year-old Clean Air Act rules for coal-fired power plants more industry-friendly. Some changes were held up by lawsuits from environmentalists and state officials.

“We are now doing to smokestacks what we did to tailpipes,” said EPA Administrator Stephen Johnson, who predicted the regulations would spur greater technology innovation.

 

– Compiled from Daily wire reports

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