Brazil will investigate whether recent construction projects meant to improve runway conditions at South America’s busiest airport might have contributed to Tuesday’s TAM airlines crash, which killed at least 189 people.
Officials on Wednesday emphasized that it was too soon to determine a specific cause of the crash. But the disaster, the world’s worst plane crash in five years, has sparked sadness and outrage in Brazil, where critics of runway conditions at Congonhas airport have long warned of the possibility of an accident like Tuesday’s.
The plane, an Airbus 320, touched down in the rain on the airport’s main runway and was not able to stop before the runway’s end. Officials said they believe the pilot realized he could not stop and tried to take off again, narrowly clearing an elevated roadway choked with rush-hour traffic before crashing into a nearby TAM-owned fuel station and cargo office.
As rescue crews slowly continued the grim job of recovering bodies on Wednesday, authorities confirmed at least 189 fatalities, including all 186 people aboard the plane.
Militants ambush, kill 17 soldiers
Militants in Pakistan’s restive northwestern tribal region kept up their pressure on government forces Wednesday with an ambush on a military convoy that killed 17 soldiers, authorities said.
The attack in the North Waziristan region was the latest in an upsurge of bloodletting that has left more than 100 people dead in the past six days and posed a severe challenge to the rule of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.
Musharraf, whom the U.S. considers a key ally in the battle against Islamic terrorism, called on Pakistanis to support him in rooting out extremists, whom he blamed for a suicide bombing in the capital of Islamabad on Tuesday. At least 16 people were killed in that assault.
He warned that intelligence reports suggested more attacks were imminent.
Ramallah, West Bank
Abbas calls for new elections
Eighteen months after his Fatah movement was trounced at the polls, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Wednesday that he will call new legislative elections in a move seen as seeking to further isolate the Islamic militants of Hamas.
Hamas said early elections would be illegal and warned they could lead to new violence.
Abbas’ aides said they expected the ballot by the end of this year or early 2008. His announcement came as the U.S. and other international mediators were moving to revive Mideast peace efforts.
Police allege assassination plot
Police said Wednesday they had arrested a man suspected of plotting to kill Boris Berezovsky, the exiled Russian tycoon and vehement Kremlin critic who is one of the key figures in the escalating tensions between Moscow and London.
The Metropolitan Police said the man was arrested June 21 and turned over to immigration authorities two days later. The police did not further identify the man, and British immigration officials declined to comment.
The police statement came hours after Berezovsky said he had fled the country for about a week in mid-June after police warned him his life was in danger.
Berezovsky was a close associate of Alexander Litvinenko, a former KGB agent who was killed in London last year.
From wire reports