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Chaos, rising death toll reported

Published April 1, 2007


SOMALIA - Artillery fire and mortar shells rained down on Somalia's capital Saturday, killing and wounding untold numbers of civilians as government and Ethiopian troops fought Islamist insurgents.

The offensive, which started Thursday, has sparked the heaviest fighting in Mogadishu since the early 1990s. On Friday, insurgents shot down an Ethiopian helicopter gunship and mortar shells slammed into a hospital.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said dozens of people have been killed since Thursday and more than 220 wounded. But the fighting is so severe and widespread that bodies were not being picked up or tallied. Hospitals were overwhelmed, with patients sleeping on floors.

"All the commercial areas have closed, all the markets, all the stores, and now the people are looking for food. Where can we buy food?" said resident Farah Hassan.

Ethiopia says its forces have killed more than 200 insurgents since the assault started.


Activists assaulted in jail, doctors say

ZIMBABWE - Nine Zimbabwean opposition activists who were to be arraigned Saturday on charges of attempted murder and illegal weapons possession all required medical attention for injuries sustained since their arrests, doctors said.

One of the activists collapsed in the courthouse and the judge agreed to lawyers' appeals to adjourn the hearing and allow them to get medical treatment, opposition officials said at the Harare magistrates' court.

Doctors and staff at private medical facilities where the detainees were taken under police guard said the nine - who were detained on Tuesday and Wednesday - appeared to have been assaulted while in custody. The staff asked not to be identified, saying they feared reprisals.


Russian tycoon asked about poison death

BRITAIN - Boris Berezovsky, a self-exiled Russian tycoon and virulent foe of the Kremlin, said Saturday that he was interviewed Friday at Scotland Yard by a Russian investigator in the inquiry into the poisoning of former KGB officer Alexander Litvinenko.

The investigator also interviewed Akhmed Zakayev, an exiled Chechen leader and close associate of Litvinenko, Berezovsky said. They are the first interviews that Russian investigators are known to have made on British soil in the case. Litvinenko, a Berezovsky aide, died in a London hospital on Nov. 23,.


Beer run results from Chavez's Easter rule

VENEZUELA - For beer and whiskey-loving Venezuelans, Easter this year won't be an alcohol-soaked drinking fest. President Hugo Chavez imposed a ban on alcohol sales during Holy Week to try to reduce accidents and crimes, prompting a run on liquor stores.

The decree, which went into effect Friday, prohibits alcohol sales on Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter Sunday and restricts sales on other days through April 9 between 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., including at restaurants and bars. The sudden, unprecedented measure confused many Venezuelans who raced to stash up before Friday, thinking that would be their last chance to buy.


Tony Scott, jazz clarinetist, dies at 85

ITALY - Jazz musician Tony Scott, a clarinetist, composer and arranger who worked with such greats as Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker, 85, died Wednesday in Rome, the House of Jazz said Saturday. He had lived for decades in Italy, according to the Italian jazz center.

Mr. Scott, who also played the saxophone, worked with many of the greatest jazz musicians, playing with Dizzy Gillespie, Duke Ellington and Sarah Vaughan.


[Last modified April 1, 2007, 00:39:26]

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