September 15, 2007 in Nation/World

In brief: U.N.: Mass graves found in village

The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

An Indonesian woman weeps outside her house in Lais, which was destroyed by an earthquake. Associated Press
(Full-size photo)

Three mass graves have been discovered in an eastern Congo village where fighters loyal to a rebel warlord recently battled government troops, the U.N. said Friday.

Maj. Gabriel De Brosses, a spokesman for the U.N. peacekeeping force in Congo, said the graves were found Monday in Rubare, a village about 40 miles north of the regional capital, Goma. He did not know how many bodies had been found or who killed the victims.

Rubare was controlled by fighters loyal to former army Gen. Laurent Nkunda until clashes broke out earlier this month between his men and the army.

Michel Bonnardeaux, a spokesman for the U.N. mission in Congo, said the graves were found by residents, who reported them to U.N. officials.

Eastern Congo has been wracked by fighting between local militias, renegade soldiers and the army for years.

MOSCOW

Prime minister gets boost from Putin

Vladimir Putin rewrote the rules for Russia’s closely watched presidential succession Friday, naming his new prime minister as one of a handful of people with a fighting chance of replacing him in the Kremlin next spring.

Putin anointed Viktor Zubkov as a strong candidate hours after parliament approved his nomination as premier. Zubkov’s lightning-fast ascent from obscurity is seen as part of the Russian leader’s plan to maintain tight control during a bruising election season and keep a hand on Russia’s reins after he steps down.

“A year, a year and a half ago, people were saying that we have an empty field and there’s nobody to choose from. Now they name a minimum of five people who can realistically aspire to be elected president of Russia in March 2008,” Putin said in televised remarks at his residence in the resort city of Sochi.

“If another realistic candidate emerges, then Russian citizens will be able to choose among several people,” he said. And Putin said Zubkov “said the right thing” when he told journalists a day earlier that he would not rule out a presidential bid if he does a good job as premier.

The president stopped short of endorsing Zubkov over any other potential successor. But he mentioned nobody else by name.

PADANG, Indonesia

Displaced villagers seek shelter

Days of colossal earthquakes and tsunami warnings have forced traumatized Indonesian villagers to seek safety in the last place imaginable: graveyards.

With only plastic sheeting to keep her family dry, Dasima joined hundreds camping in the mud between headstones on the flat, high ground, far from the ocean’s reach.

“I am very afraid of another tsunami,” the 50-year-old said two days after a magnitude 8.4 temblor sent a towering wave into her remote fishing village. “We will stay here until we feel it is safe.”

Seismologists warn, however, the worst may be yet to come.

Kerry Sieh of the California Institute of Technology has spent decades studying the fault line that runs along Indonesia’s western coast. He is among several experts predicting a repeat of the powerful earthquake that triggered the 2004 Asian tsunami, which killed more than 230,000 people in a dozen Indian Ocean nations.

“No one can say whether it will be in 30 seconds or 30 years,” he said. “But what happened the other day, I think is quite possibly a sequence of smaller earthquakes leading up to the bigger one.”

Wednesday’s quake shook four Southeast Asian countries, damaged hundreds of houses and spawned a 10-foot-high tsunami. At least 17 people were killed.

A series of powerful earthquakes and dozens of strong aftershocks followed — including one measuring 7.8 and another 7.1.

From wire reports


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