Russian troops battle Chechen rebels for strategic gorge...

Foreign Digest

March 05, 2000

Russian troops battle Chechen rebels for strategic gorge

STARIYE ATAGI, Russia -- Federal troops battled rebel forces along Chechnya's southern Argun Gorge yesterday, and the Russian military said that both sides were suffering significant casualties.

Despite Russia's earlier claims to controlling much of the gorge, fighting raged yesterday in villages in and around the canyon. The clashes were accompanied by incessant salvos of Russian artillery and the roar of warplanes flying farther south to bomb suspected rebel positions.

The strategic Argun Gorge cuts south from Russian-occupied regions in Chechnya's north to rebel-controlled territories in the mountains. The militants have many bases hidden on the slopes, and move supplies and reinforcements along the gorge.

Retired star athlete abducted in Colombia

BOGOTA, Colombia -- Military troops and police combed the mountains south of Bogota yesterday after suspected leftist rebels kidnapped a national cycling hero -- the second to be abducted this year.

Luis Alberto Herrera, the 1987 Vuelta de Espana champion, was snatched by seven heavily armed men from his parents' farm near the town of Fusagasuga, police said. The abduction came a month after rebels from the National Liberation Army freed cyclist Oliverio Rincon after keeping him for two weeks.

The gunmen -- who cut the farm's telephone cable before abducting the retired sportsman -- claimed they were guerrillas but didn't say to which faction they belonged, Herrera's mother told local radio news.

More Albanian refugees seek safety in Kosovo

PRISTINA, Yugoslavia -- Dozens of ethnic Albanian women and children fled into Kosovo yesterday after an exchange of gunfire in a town just outside the province's border, NATO peacekeepers said.

The group of some 175 people was the latest exodus from Dobrasin, a predominantly ethnic Albanian town in eastern Serbia. Hun- dreds of people have fled the area in the past two months, streaming into the closest Kosovo town of Gnjilane, about 30 miles southeast of Kosovo's provincial capital, Pristina.

Portuguese counsul missing; police find bloody trail

RIO DE JANEIRO, Brazil -- A Portuguese consul in southern Brazil has disappeared, and police said yesterday they found a bloody trail leading through his house.

A maid reported Miguel Jose Fawor missing after finding his home empty and the door open when she reported for work Friday in Curitiba, 420 miles southwest of Rio de Janeiro, police said. A blood trail was found leading from an upstairs room to the garage, police chief Fauze Salmen said, and Fawor's Mercedes was found nearby, a bloody towel and hood in the trunk.

Fawor was last seen at his house late Thursday by a security guard, Salmen said.

U.S. military contingent delivers aid in Philippines

LEGAZPI, Philippines -- More than a dozen U.S. soldiers arrived here yesterday to distribute relief goods and set up tent shelters for some of the more than 66,000 people displaced by the recent eruption of Mayon volcano.

The contingent, led by U.S. Navy Capt. Bob Harward, met with disaster relief officials in the city of Legazpi to plan for the distribution of $418,000 worth of goods donated by the U.S. government.

The relief goods were to be delivered today aboard a U.S. C-130 plane. About 20 American soldiers were accompanying the cargo and will help set up the tents in the town of Daraga, also in Albay province, about 215 miles southeast of Manila.

Students on hunger strike over West Bank arrests

JERUSALEM -- More than 100 students at the West Bank university of Bir Zeit began a hunger strike yesterday to protest the detention of students who attacked visiting French Prime Minister Lionel Jospin, a student organizer said.

About 35 students remained in jail, said Mohammed Zumlot, a student council member at the 5,000-student university in the northern West Bank.

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