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World in brief: Day-care ‘field trip’ a hijacking, protest

Wed., March 28, 2007

A day-care center owner hijacked a busload of his students and teachers and drove them to Manila’s city hall Wednesday to demand better housing and education for the children.

Jun Ducat and at least one other hostage-taker scribbled in large letters on a sheet of paper, taped to the bus’ windshield, that they were holding 32 children and two teachers and were armed with two grenades, an assault rifle and a pistol, officer Mark Andal said.

They said they were demanding improved housing and education for 145 children in a day-care center in Manila’s poor Tondo district where the incident, televised live around the world, appeared to have begun.

“I love these kids; that’s why I am here,” Ducat, identified by police and parents as the day-care center owner, told DZMM radio by cell phone. “We have a field trip. I invited the children for a field trip.”

There were no details released on the ages of the children but the ones that could be seen through the bus windows appeared to be in early grades or preschoolers.

CAIRO, Egypt

Fraud alleged in referendum

A state-appointed human rights body accused Egypt’s government of fraud Tuesday, saying that public-sector workers were forced to vote in a referendum on constitutional reform. But the government said the people overwhelmingly endorsed the amendments.

Justice Minister Mamdouh Marei told a news conference that the ‘yes’ vote in Monday’s referendum on 34 constitutional amendments was 76 percent. Officials said only 27 percent of the 36 million voters had bothered to cast their ballots.

Opposition groups had urged voters to boycott the referendum, arguing the amendments were a setback to democracy as they increased the president’s security powers and the chances of fraud in elections – a long-term problem in Egypt.

President Hosni Mubarak greeted the results announced Tuesday as a victory for the people and promised further unspecified political reform. He did not mention the low turnout.

But the National Council for Human Rights, a state-appointed body headed by former U.N. Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali, reported numerous flaws.

The U.S. government expressed skepticism about the referendum, saying the vast majority of Egyptians chose not to participate.


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