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World in brief

Explosion rips nightclub in Colombia; nine killed

Compiled from Times wires
© St. Petersburg Times
published February 8, 2003

BOGOTA, Colombia -- An explosion rocked an exclusive club in the Colombian capital Friday night, killing at least nine people, leaving more than 100 injured and setting the 10-story building afire.

The blast showered bricks and mortar onto a busy boulevard, damaging cars.

Police said nine people were dead and 114 were injured.

Bogota Mayor Antanas Mockus said it was unknown whether the explosion in the El Nogal Club, frequented by politicians and business executives, was accidental or caused by a bomb. Leftist rebels have recently begun bringing their four-decade war from the countryside into the cities.

Jorge Velandia, who works at the club's mini golf course, said the blast opened up a hole in one of the floors, and people tumbled through.

Black smoke poured from the building and flames licked out from upper windows. Media reports said people were still trapped inside.

Hamas: Let us, not Arafat, lead

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip -- Hamas, a militant group that espouses suicide attacks and a strict Islamic rule, says it is ready to take over the Palestinian leadership from Yasser Arafat.

The statements on Thursday by a senior Hamas official, Mahmoud Zahar, were a rare public expression of the rising political ambitions of the group as Israel works to weaken Arafat.

Zahar told the Associated Press the group is "absolutely" prepared to lead the Palestinian people. He said Hamas has the infrastructure to take over leadership "politically, financially (and) socially."

"And with respect to an army, we can create one with all capabilities," he said.

Zahar said Hamas would take over through elections, not by force. Palestinians had elections scheduled for Jan. 20 but postponed them because Israeli troops are in control of most West Bank cities.

Oil tanker captain gets out of jail

MADRID -- The Greek captain of the sunken Prestige tanker that caused one of Spain's worst environmental disasters was released from jail Friday after posting $3.2-million bond.

Apostolos Mangouras was taken off the tanker by helicopter Nov. 15 and arrested when he reached the mainland. The tanker was then towed out to sea where it broke apart and sank four days later off Spain's northwestern coast with a cargo of 20.5-million gallons of fuel oil. About a quarter of the cargo spilled, tarring hundreds of miles of coastline in Spain and France.

Mangouras is the only person arrested in connection with the disaster. He has been charged with disobeying authorities and harming the environment. An insurance company posted the bail.

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