Accord Signed to Silence Guns in Guatemala after 36 Years
OSLO, Norway (AP) -- Guatemalan rebels and the government signed a permanent cease-fire today to end Latin America's longest civil war, a 36-year conflict that has killed 140,000 people.
The cease-fire is one of three accords to be signed in Europe over the next six days, leading to a final peace pact signing Dec. 29 in Guatemala City.
"With this agreement we sign today, the weapons will be silenced forever," rebel commander Rolando Moran said at Oslo city hall.
Also signing the accord was Gustavo Porras, head of the Guatemalan presidential delegation that has been trying to negotiate an end to the war since meeting the rebels in the Norwegian capital in 1990.
"We Guatemalans want to make sure all this suffering was not in vain. We want to make sure this will never happen again," said Porras.
Among the 1,000 guests invited to today's signing was Rigoberta Menchu, the Guatemalan Indian who accepted the Nobel Peace Prize in the same building in 1992.
"I think the most important thing now is rebuilding Guatemala, and healing the wounds we have suffered," Menchu said today.
Victims of the war also were invited, including Trinidad Culajay, who accidentally smothered her own crying baby as she tried to protect others hiding from government troops.
In Esquipulas, Guatemala, birthplace of the Central America's peace process, Roman Catholic priests gave thanks today in the candle-lit whitewashed basilica of the Black Christ, the region's patron saint.
"We are so happy," said Abbott Gregorio Robeau Carmouche. "We pray for peace all the time."
Pope John Paul II visited the mountain town in February and called on Guatemalans to work together for peace. Israel Lopez, a resident, said today he believed the papal visit sparked renewed peace efforts.
"The visit of the pope reaffirmed the faith of all Guatemalans," Lope said. "Wherever he goes, he appeals for peace."
The many tragedies of the war have led to mixed feelings about whether mass murderers and torturers can be forgiven. Amnesty for wartime atrocities has been a key issue in talks.
Menchu, speaking through a translator, said she opposes a general amnesty: "I think peace without justice is only a symbolic peace."
The two sides met in Oslo on Monday and Tuesday to settle final details of the cease-fire, and are expected to continue negotiations elsewhere on the two other partial agreements.
Investigators Unearth Islamic Connection to Bombing
PARIS (AP) -- Clue by clue, a shadowy network of Algerian militants emerged Wednesday as the prime suspect in a deadly Paris subway bombing.
A gas canister. Black powder. Nails to cut flesh. All were hallmarks of a wave of bombings last year claimed by Algeria's Armed Islamic Group. All were present at the scene of Tuesday's attack, which killed two people and seriously wounded 35.
The black powder mix was the same. So was the timing and the target: evening rush hour on a train line shuttling thousands of suburbanites to and from Paris.
And, investigators note, despite dozens of arrests and 14 months of peace, an Algerian thought to be a ringleader of the 1995 bombing wave remains at large.
There has been no claim of responsibility for the bombing at the Port Royal station. But the evidence in hand forced investigators to focus on the theory that a network of Algerian radicals, thought to be all but decimated, had been reborn.
The bombing shares "great similarities" with those of the summer of 1995, when eight people were killed and 160 were wounded, Premier Alain Juppe told lawmakers.
Killed in Tuesday's attack were Lucien Devambez, a 41-year-old Frenchman, and an unidentified Canadian woman, French radio reported.
Rabah Kebir of the Islamic Salvation Front -- Algeria's banned opposition movement -- condemned the bombing Wednesday night, saying it "doesn't serve the Algerian cause."
But judicial sources said the black powder that filled a gas canister contained the same explosive mix as that used in the 1995 attacks.
The canister, hidden in a bag packed with nails, was tucked under a seat in the fourth car of the train. It exploded as the doors shut before departure.
The Port Royal station is just two stops up the line from the site of the July 1995 bombing at St. Michel, the first and most deadly in the wave of attacks that put France on edge for months.
"We're scared because we know there's danger, here or in the Metro (the subway)," said Dominique Chapuis. "I take the Metro every day and who knows what can happen."
Juppe tried to allay fears.
"All means," the premier told lawmakers, will be used to capture the criminals and protect the population from "the blackmail of fear and violence."
Hundreds of police and soldiers armed with assault rifles were deployed in airports, train stations, subways and high-risk areas from Paris to Marseille.
France closed some border crossings with Belgium, Germany and Luxembourg, and said it was temporarily suspending its participation in the accords that opened borders across much of Europe.
Investigators, who kept the Port Royal station sealed Wednesday, were examining all hypotheses, including Basque, Corsican and Moroccan connections. More than 30 Moroccans are to go on trial Monday for trying to destabilize the North African monarchy.
But Algerian Islamic militants, who claimed responsibility for the 1995 bombings as well as the deadly Christmas 1994 hijacking of an Air France flight, quickly surfaced as the prime suspects.
"Numerous alerts were brought to the attention of specialized services in the past few months," the daily Le Monde quoted an unidentified official as saying.
In an internal memo, France's counterespionage agency signaled that an Algerian Islamist living in Afghanistan was preparing in September to leave that country to "commit an attack against French interests," Le Monde reported, quoting the memo.
Government Names Ethiopian Airlines Hijackers
ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) -- Two unemployed high school graduates and a nurse were identified Wednesday as the hijackers of a jet that crashed off the Comoros Islands last month.
The Ethiopian Airlines jet made a crash landing off an Indian Ocean beach when it ran out of fuel on Nov. 23, killing 125 of the 175 aboard.
None of the hijackers had ever belonged to a political party in Ethiopia or neighboring Djibouti, where the nurse worked, Maj. Alem-Segued Gebre-Yonnishanis, the deputy federal police commissioner, told state radio.
The hijackers had claimed they were opponents of the government and had escaped from prison. They told the pilot they wanted to go to Australia.
The Ethiopian men were identified as Alemayehu Bekeli Belayneh, Mathias Solomon Belay and Sultan Ali Hussein. Officials did not say which was the nurse or how old they were.
All three are believed to have died in the crash.
The Boeing 767, en route to West Africa, was hijacked shortly after takeoff from Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa.