The world at a glance . . . International
Beni Amrane, Algeria
Deadly bombings: Twin bombs killed more than a dozen people at a train station near Algiers this week, including a French citizen who died in the first explosion and 11 soldiers and firefighters who arrived on the scene five minutes later and were felled by the second blast. The attack was the latest in a series of bombings, including two just last week that killed six people and injured 11. Authorities suspect a group known as al Qaida in Islamic North Africa, which has targeted foreigners and the military. French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner acknowledged that the former French colony had become “a dangerous country,” but he urged French companies not to leave.
An Iraqi balancing act: Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met this week with Iranian leaders in an attempt to persuade them that his country could be a friend to both Iran and the U.S. “Iraq will not be used as a military launchpad” for strikes against Iran, al-Maliki told Iran’s foreign minister. But Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the U.S. occupation was “the main obstacle in the way of progress and prosperity of the Iraqi nation.” He warned al-Maliki to reject a proposed security agreement with the U.S. that would exempt American troops and contractors from Iraqi oversight and could permit the establishment of permanent U.S. military bases. Khamenei said Iraq should strengthen military ties with Iran instead.
Massacre shocks country: One of Tokyo’s busiest neighborhoods became the site of its deadliest crime in years this week, when a 25-year-old man drove a 2-ton truck into a crowd of pedestrians then went on a rampage with a knife, before being subdued by police. Tomohiro Kato killed seven people and wounded 10 in the bustling Akihabara district, the center of Japan’s videogame and comic book culture. Kato had sent a series of text messages about his plan to Internet bulletin boards, culminating in a message sent just 20 minutes before the attack that said simply, “It’s time.” Though violent crime is relatively rare in Japan, this was the country’s third slashing spree this year.
‘Quake lake’ is drained: After days of being pounded by dynamite and anti-tank weapons, a mass of boulders, trees, and mud that had been damming up a river near the epicenter of last month’s earthquake finally gave way, allowing water to pour safely into a man-made sluice. , ChinTangjiashan River was the largest of 30 rivers that had overflowed into unstable lakes in the wake of the earthquake, and more than 250,000 people living downstream had been evacuated. The draining water swamped the town of Beichuan, which had already been leveled by the quake. Resident Wang Guiru had hoped to return for his wife’s remains. “Now I guess we can never go back,” he said.
Monks arrested: Authorities in Tibet arrested 16 Buddhist monks and charged them in a series of bombings in April, the Chinese government announced last week. The arrests took place in mid-May, and the suspects have all confessed, Chinese officials said. The monks were inspired by “separatist propaganda from the Dalai Lama,” China said, allegedly carrying out three small bombings while planning others. China has been cracking down on Tibet since Lhasa was roiled by separatist riots in March. Scores of Tibetans arrested at the time, including many monks, were charged with subversion and forced to undergo “patriotic education.” Human-rights activists say it’s all a sham. “They don’t even pretend that they’re giving people a fair trial,” said Nicolas Bequelin, a researcher for Human Rights Watch.
New strong-arm tactics: Police last week prevented opposition candidate Morgan Tsvangirai from giving political speeches on two separate occasions, detaining him for eight hours each time and beating his associates. Tsvangirai is challenging President Robert Mugabe in a runoff election, and Mugabe has increasingly been resorting to force to ensure victory, international observers say. At least 36 people have been killed and more than 2,000 injured by Mugabe’s militias, Human Rights Watch charged last week. U.S. and British diplomats investigating political violence were also detained and harassed by authorities. Mugabe “is pretty impenetrable, and his henchmen are simply impervious to this sort of pressure” from the international community, said Tom Wheeler of the South African Institute for International Affairs.