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Pinochet probe hears details of body dumps

SANTIAGO -- At least 400 Chileans who "disappeared" under former dictator Augusto Pinochet's bloody rule were dumped into the ocean strapped to pieces of railroad track to make them sink, according to new court testimonies published yesterday in the newspaper La Nacion. The paper cited 12 retired helicopter mechanics who, breaking decades of silence, recounted macabre details of the operation to Judge Juan Guzman, who is investigating charges of human rights abuses under Pinochet's rule from 1973 to 1990. La Nacion said its report was based on leaks of confidential testimonies provided to Guzman and detectives. The mechanics, who all admitted to participating in some of the body-dumping flights over the Pacific Ocean between 1974 and 1978, said the scheme was planned and carried out by the Army Aviation Command in conjunction with Pinochet's secret police to hide evidence of massive human rights violations. (Reuters)


Four Hutus appointed to Cabinet positions

BUJUMBURA -- Burundi appointed former Hutu rebels to four Cabinet posts yesterday in the clearest sign yet of the central African country's wish to heal the wounds of a decade-long civil war that has killed 300,000 people. The appointment, which aims to give Hutus more jobs in the Tutsi-dominated government before elections, is part of a three-year transition to democracy brokered in 2000. A presidential statement named Pierre Nkurunziza, leader of the Forces for the Defense of Democracy rebel group, minister of state. Simon Nyandwi was named interior minister, Onesime Nduwimana communications minister, and Salvator Ntahomenyereye public works minister. Under the deal, the former rebels will make up 40 percent of the army and police. (Reuters)


Son of former dictator returns from exile

KINSHASA -- The eldest surviving son of former dictator Mobutu Sese Seko, Manda, returned from exile yesterday, and a spokesman said his party would run in elections due in two years' time. Manda, 43, who has lived in France, Ivory Coast, and South Africa, is the second of Mobutu's official sons to have returned since a peace deal was signed in April to end five years of war in Africa's third-largest country. He fled Congo a few months before his late father was ousted in 1997 by rebels led by Laurent Kabila. About 200 supporters cheered Manda, who returned with sister Yanga, outside the airport in the capital, Kinshasa. The return of Mobutu's family as well as some politicians from his era has been encouraged by President Joseph Kabila. (Reuters)


Four key members of opposition set free

RANGOON -- The military government released four top opposition party members yesterday, but prodemocracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi remained in detention. Nyunt Wei, 81, the treasurer of Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party, said police guards who had been camped outside his house for nearly six months dismantled their makeshift post and left. A senior military intelligence official, Brigadier General Than Tun, visited Nyunt Wei and told him that he and three of his colleagues were no longer being detained, Nyunt Wei said. (AP)


Supporters of Chavez mob foreign monitor

CARACAS -- With shouts of "Chavez gives the orders here," boisterous supporters of leftist President Hugo Chavez mobbed a prominent international observer yesterday as he monitored a progovernment referendum drive. Organization of American States Secretary General Cesar Gaviria visited polling centers in Caracas on the third day of a four-day collection of signatures seeking a referendum to remove 38 anti-Chavez parliamentarians. The pro-Chavez drive is testing Venezuela's political climate before a key opposition signature campaign starting Friday that will try to trigger a national referendum to vote the populist president from power. (Reuters)

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