Thousands more refugees were fleeing the intensified fighting in Chechnya, but Russian troops began a new tactic: restricting the movements of all males between 10 and 60. The move came, a Russian commander said, because the "softheartedness" of his troops toward civilians was to blame for recent setbacks there. Russian troops captured the Chechen lowlands last fall with ease, but have failed to dislodge Islamic rebels from the capital, Grozny, or from bases in the mountainous south.
A midnight Thursday deadline loomed for Islamic insurgents in Algeria to surrender to government troops or be "eradicated." Reports said Army units were deploying in regions where the militants are active, although diplomats predicted it would be several days before they initiated any action. The deadline is part of President Abdelaziz Bouteflika's "civil concord" plan to bring political stability to the troubled nation. The plan offers partial amnesty to rebels who have not committed murder or rape or set off bombs.
Leaflets were to be dropped by military planes on Indonesia's Molucca Islands, encouraging frightened residents to come out of hiding and return home. The islands remained tense following a new round of violence between Muslims and Christians. In daily street demonstrations in Jakarta, the national capital, Muslim demonstrators have been demanding a jihad, or holy war, against Moluccan Christians. Without identifying which countries, President Abdurrahim Wahid blamed "many" foreigners for inciting the violence.
In front of TV cameras in Ankara, the capital, two Turkish demonstrators set themselves on fire to protest the government's decision to delay the execution of convicted rebel chief Abdullah Ocalan. Bystanders helped put out the flames, and the demonstrators later received medical treatment. But theirs were among the few open protests of the decision to postpone hanging the Kurdish leader for treason while the European Union considers Turkey's membership application. Analysts said the government's move also shifted responsibility for keeping Ocalan alive to his followers in the Kurdish campaign for autonomy. An estimated 37,000 people have died in that 15-year fight.
Another "photo finish" was predicted for Sunday's runoff election to choose the next president of Chile. Only 30,000 votes separated rivals Joaquin Lavn and Ricardo Lagos in the first round of balloting Dec. 12. If he emerges the winner, Lagos would be Chile's first leftist president since Salvador Allende, who was ousted in a 1973 coup by Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Pinochet, ruled medically unfit Wednesday to stand trial in Spain for human rights abuses, was likely to influence the runoff, analysts said, since Lavn was once his media-relations adviser.
"Homosexuality will no longer be a bar to service" in Britain's armed forces, the Labour Party government announced. Defense Secretary Geoff Hoon said Britain would comply with a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights that an existing ban on military service by homosexuals constituted a "grave interference" in private lives. But he said they would face stern discipline if their behavior undermined the effectiveness of their units.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society