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By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published August 18, 2000


Bombs injure at least 21 shoppers in Latvia

RIGA, Latvia -- Two bombs exploded in a shopping center in downtown Riga on Thursday evening, injuring 21 people, three of them seriously, police said.

Police spokesman Krists Leiskalns said the bombs went off minutes apart about 5:30 p.m. at the five-story Centrs shopping center in the heart of Riga's medieval-era old town. Police cordoned off the building, and employees milled around the cobblestone streets outside.

"I felt the whole situation was unreal and couldn't be happening in Riga," said Oksana Smirnova, a Latvian television reporter who was outside the shopping center when the explosions occurred. "When I saw the injured, I knew it was for real."

No warnings or threats were reported before the explosions, and police knew of no immediate motive for the bombings, Leiskalns said.

Elsewhere

AUSCHWITZ DISCO: An investor has obtained permission to operate a discotheque in a former tannery where Auschwitz inmates worked and died, an official said Thursday, and a TV report said it was already open for business.

"We have such a law that once an investor fulfills formal requirements, he will get permission," said Adam Bilski, the administrator for Oswiecim, the Polish name for the city of Auschwitz. "One can consider whether it is moral or not, but that's another matter."

The former tannery is about a mile from the Auschwitz camp, where 1.5-million died in the gas chambers or from disease and starvation. It is now a museum.

PHILIPPINES HOSTAGES: Government negotiators scrambled to put the release of Western hostages held by Muslim rebels back on track after President Joseph Estrada rejected a plan that would have left three French journalists still in captivity.

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