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06/15/06 World News in Lao: Mine Blast Kills 64 on Sri Lankan Bus


SRI LANKA - ATTACK: At least 64 people have been killed in a land mine attack on a passenger bus in northeastern Sri Lanka. A Sri Lankan government spokesman blamed Tamil rebels for the blast, which he called "barbaric." Officials say it was the deadliest attack since a 2002 ceasefire.

The main Tamil rebel group denied responsibility and condemned the attack, which a spokesman said was aimed at discrediting the movement. Sri Lanka's military launched air strikes and fired artillery shells at rebel positions in the north of the country hours after the attack. The rebels appealed to Nordic truce monitors to stop the attacks by government forces, saying civilian houses had been damaged. The land mine struck the crowded bus Thursday morning as it was taking passengers to a market (in the district of Anuradhapura). Officials say the dead include women, children and several Buddhist monks. Most of those on the bus were from Sri Lanka's Sinhalese majority.

AFGHAN VIOLENCE: Afghan police say a powerfu l bomb blast has destroyed a mini-bus in the southern city of Kandahar, killing at least 10 people and wounding 15 others. Officials say the bus was taking Afghans to work at a Kandahar military airfield run by the U.S.-led coalition. They blamed Taleban militants for the attack Thursday.

A coalition spokesman (Major Quentin Innis) says the bomb may have been planted on or underneath the mini-bus. Several shops near the blast site were damaged. Elsewhere, U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces have killed 26 suspected militants in fierce fighting in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan, near the Pakistani border. Local officials say the clash took place in Paktika province Wednesday. The provincial governor (Akram Khelwak) says four civilians were also killed when a rocket hit their home in a separate rebel attack.

THAILAND - UNREST: Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra says authorities were aware of the possibility of attacks by militants Thursday in southern Thailand, but failed to prevent the series of bombings. Officials say at least two people were killed when about 40 bombs exploded within minutes of each other in the provinces of Yala, Pattani and Narathiwat, targeting local government offices and police stations.

Mr. Shinawatra says prevention methods were not good enough to stop the attacks. More than 13-hundred people have been killed in two years of unrest along Thailand's southern border with Malaysia. Thailand's government blames the unrest on Islamic militant separatists, organized criminals and corrupt local officials.

INDONESIA - BIRD FLU: The World Health Organization has confirmed that a seven-year old Indonesian girl who died last month was infected with bird flu. Indonesia's health ministry said Thursday that W.H.O. results from a Hong Kong laboratory showed that the girl tested positive for the H5N1 strain of the virus. The girl's death brings to 38 the number of people in Indonesia who have died from bird flu. Bird flu has killed more than 125 people around the world since late 2003. Most of the victims have been in Asia. Vietnam, and most recently Indonesia, have been the hardest hit. Health officials are worried that the virus may mutate into a form that is easily transmissible by human-to-human contact.

VIETNAM - GLITTER: A court in Vietnam has upheld the conviction of disgraced British rock singer Gary Glitter on child molestation charges. Glitter appeared before a Vietnamese court Thursday in Ho Chi Minh City to appeal his conviction. A Vietnamese court sentenced him in March to three years in prison for sexually abusing pre-teen girls. Glitter, whose real name is Paul Francis Gadd, has repeatedly denied molesting the girls in his rented house in the southern beach resort of Vung Tau last year. He has said his conviction was driven by a media conspiracy against him.

CENTRAL ASIA SUMMIT: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is calling for support from Central Asia in the international dispute over Tehran's nuclear development program. Speaking Thursday in China at a summit of Central Asian nations, Mr. Ahmadinejad appealed for their support and assistance in confronting what he calls "aggressive interference" by "domineering powers" in the West.

The Iranian leader told members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization they could make their organization more powerful by expanding economic cooperation and other ties, and he offered to host a meeting of oil ministers from all nations at this week's summit.

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