Anger at extradition: Russian officials reacted with fury this week after a Thai court ruled that Russian arms dealer Viktor Bout should be extradited to the United States to face charges of arming terrorists. The decision was “unlawful and political,” said Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov. “We will continue to do everything necessary to push for his return.” Bout, 43, is known as the “Merchant of Death” for allegedly delivering Russian weapons to brutal militant and insurgent groups around the world, including those in Liberia and Sierra Leone. He was arrested in Bangkok in 2008 in a sting set up by U.S. agents posing as members of a Colombian terrorist group. American analysts suspect that Bout’s access to Russian weaponry was enabled by Russian officials.
Beijing-Tibet Highway, China
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Epic traffic jam: A 60-mile line of traffic has stranded thousands of cars and trucks, which for two weeks have been inching toward Beijing. What is likely the world’s worst traffic jam began when construction work closed three lanes on the Beijing-Tibet Highway along with several nearby arteries. Police have tried to reroute trucks carrying essential supplies, but with traffic moving just one-third of a mile a day, authorities don’t expect the road to clear for another three weeks. Local villagers, meanwhile, have been selling drivers food at inflated prices. Overcrowded roads are becoming commonplace in China, where road construction has failed to keep pace with booming auto sales.
Botched hostage rescue: Philippine officials apologized this week for a hostage rescue attempt that went tragically awry. As a worldwide audience watched live on TV, Philippine officers tried to storm a Chinese tour bus on which a recently fired police officer held 20 tourists hostage. The police banged at the bus windows, prompting the gunman to begin shooting. By the time a sniper killed him, eight hostages—five from Hong Kong and three from Canada—were dead. Amid a storm of domestic and international criticism, Philippine Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo acknowledged that the rescue team should have been “better prepared, better equipped, better trained.”
Disease spreads: Hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis have been stricken with diseases stemming from the country’s massive floods, and millions more are at risk. The U.N. said this week it had seen more than 120,000 new cases of malaria, and many more cases of skin infections and severe diarrhea. At least 2 million people still lack access to drinking water, and international health officials fear a cholera epidemic may be next. Refugee camps are so overcrowded and undersupplied that they are turning away thousands of people. Economic losses could mount to more than $40 billion. Said President Asif Ali Zardari: “I don’t think Pakistan will ever fully recover.” The U.S. State Department has set up a mobile-phone cash donation line; donors can text “FLOOD” to 27722 to give $10.
‘Massive war’ declared: An al Qaida–linked Islamist group, Al-Shabab, claimed responsibility for a suicide attack on a Mogadishu hotel that killed more than 30 people, including seven members of parliament. Witnesses said three gunmen dressed in army uniforms killed security guards and then went door to door through the hotel, shooting everyone they saw. When the gunmen ran out of bullets, they blew themselves up. Al-Shabab said the attack was the beginning of a “massive war” against the 6,000 peacekeeping troops from Uganda and Burundi stationed in Mogadishu to protect the U.N.-backed Somali government. In July, the group carried out its first international attack when it bombed two restaurants in Uganda, killing 76 people.
Albinos hunted: Human-rights activists called on the Kenyan and Tanzanian governments to increase protections for albinos this week after a Kenyan man was jailed for trying to sell a Tanzanian albino for body parts. Witch doctors in the region use the skin and organs of albinos in rituals intended to bring riches or win elections, a cause of dozens of murders of albinos every year. With the election season under way in both Kenya and Tanzania, albino-rights activists fear an increase in kidnappings and killings. Activists in both countries are asking their governments to list albinism as a disability that would qualify for protected status. Those who try to sell albinos for parts “should be sentenced to death,” said Tanzanian activist Churchill Omondi.
Luvungi, DR Congo
Mass rape: Rwandan rebels gang-raped almost 200 women during a raid of villages in eastern Congo last month, the U.N. said this week. Each victim reported being raped by two to six armed men, often in front of their children and husbands. Rape was a major tool of warring sides in Congo’s 1998–2003 civil war, and militant groups roaming the country continue to terrorize villages. Victims said soldiers of the FDLR, a Rwandan Hutu militia based in Congo that seeks to overthrow the Rwandan government, were responsible. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited the region last year to raise awareness about the rape epidemic, calling it “evil in its basest form.”
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