July 19, 2006 in Nation/World

World in brief: Vice and Virtues Ministry to reopen

The Spokesman-Review

The Afghan government announced plans Tuesday to re-establish a Vice and Virtues Ministry, but it assured the public the office would not resemble the Taliban version that became a symbol of the brutal regime toppled by U.S. forces in 2001.

Afghanistan’s powerful religious and tribal leaders have been pressing U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai to reinstate the ministry, which many considered the most powerful in the ousted Taliban government. It employed 32,000 people to enforce the Islamic zealots’ bans on girls’ schools, television, card- playing and other gambling, and even kite-flying and women’s public baths.

New York-based Human Rights Watch said the move “raises serious concerns about potential abuse of the rights of women and vulnerable groups.”

Karim Rahimi, Karzai’s spokesman, said Afghans should not be worried.

“The people were scared of the Vice and Virtues Ministry under the Taliban, but this new ministry won’t be like the Taliban’s,” Rahimi said. “It will take into consideration moral and religious activities to help improve Afghan society.”

SEOUL, South Korea

Floods, heavy rains devastate N. Korea

More than 100 people are dead or missing in North Korea because of floods and landslides, an aid group operating in the communist nation said Wednesday.

The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies said heavy rains last week and this week had caused flash floods that destroyed or partially damaged 11,524 houses, leaving more than 9,000 families homeless.

More than 100 people were dead or missing, the group said in a statement.The group gave no further details on casualties. The damage has cut off telephone connections, making collecting reliable information difficult, it said.

South Korea has also suffered from the heavy rains, which have led to at least 25 deaths as of Wednesday, according to the South’s Yonhap news agency.

The federation said the heavy weather could also affect North Korea’s food supply — critical to the country that suffered a famine in the 1990s believed to have killed as many as 2 million people.

BOGOTA, Colombia

Hundreds flee amid fighting

Fighting between the army and leftist guerrillas in western Colombia has forced hundreds of civilians from their homes and trapped others in their villages, the United Nations said Tuesday.

In Narino province, near the southern border with Ecuador, more than 1,300 people have fled since fighting broke out last week between the army and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, Latin America’s oldest and best-equipped guerrilla force.

Most of the displaced are being sheltered and given medical treatment by the Roman Catholic Church and local authorities in Ricuarte, 340 miles southwest of Bogota.

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