News In Brief

Eight major daily newspapers and four pro-democracy magazines were shut down "until further notice" by powerful hard-line fundamentalists in Iran. The move by the Justice Ministry left only five publications that support reform-minded President Mohamad Khatami still operating. It was the hardest blow yet to Khatami's agenda, which has encouraged an independent press. Without the ability to speak to ordinary Iranians through the press, a prominent analyst said, "he is in serious trouble."

Tobacco barns on another white-owned farm in Zimbabwe were on fire and its livestock had been slaughtered, observers reported. Even as the illegal farm seizures by armed black squatters ratcheted upward, however, the BBC reported that the "real intention" of the invaders is not to force whites off the land but to intimidate them into ceasing their support for political parties opposed to President Robert Mugabe. Mugabe has long complained about rural backing for his opponents.

An elite unit of Russian paratroopers was ambushed by Muslim rebels in southern Chechnya, with heavy casualties. Military spokesmen quickly upped the number of dead from five to at least 15. They said nine others were wounded and six vehicles were destroyed. The guerrillas claimed to have killed 80 Russians, but the claims of losses by both sides are regularly exaggerated.

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A leaked government report indicated that British forces involved in last year's hostilities in Kosovo came uncomfortably close to running out of ammunition. The document, reported by the BBC, also said medicines sent to British units in the volatile Yusoglav province were out of date and that pleas for secure field radios were rejected by the Defense Ministry as "not relevant." The ministry said only that the Kosovo campaign was "very successful and met all its objectives without a single combat casualty."

Police in Beijing were taking no chances that a first-anniversary protest might be mounted by Falun Gong followers. Surveillance of Tiananmen Square and of known adherents was stepped up, and three middle-aged people who attempted to assume a meditation pose yesterday were arrested and driven away within minutes. A year ago today, an estimated 10,000 members of the sect, which combines meditation with martial-arts exercises, surprised authorities with a silent demonstration outside government buildings in the capital. A massive crackdown soon ensued.

Foreign tourists were among 20 people taken hostage by heavily armed gunmen at a popular skin-diving resort in eastern Malaysia. Local authorities said the group issued no immediate demands and quickly fled in a fishing boat that appeared headed for the nearby southern Philippines. Officials there refused to discount the possibility that the captors were linked to the same Muslim rebel group that Filipino forces are attacking in an effort to free 27 people abducted last month from schools in the region.

(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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