Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

The latest on this week's biggest stories

Issue: "Unto the breach," July 22, 2006


Shamil Basayev, a top Chechen terrorist leader, died at the hands of Russian forces on July 10. Basayev's violence started before the Soviet Union's demise but intensified when he began following Saudi Arabia's Wahhabi Islam in the late 1990s. He directed the 2002 Moscow theatre siege, in which Chechen men and women took 800 people hostage; 129 of them died when special forces tried to knock out the hostage-takers with narcotic gas. His worst work was the 2004 Beslan school siege, in which 331 died, mostly children. Basayev's death hamstrings the extremist wing of the Chechen separatist movement, but is not likely to affect the deeper problems underlying the Chechen conflict.


A Hezbollah raid on Israel, in which two Israeli soldiers were captured, grew into a fierce battle last week, as Israel imposed a naval blockade on Lebanon and launched an air campaign against Beirut's airport, Lebanese air bases, and Hezbollah targets. The Shiite terrorist group fired more than 100 rockets into Israel, according to Israeli authorities, killing two civilians and wounding more than 90 others. Israeli Brig. Gen. Dan Halutz did not rule out the use of ground troops as the conflict escalated and said "nothing is safe" in Lebanon. Read more.

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Meanwhile, shaken residents of Mumbai, India, returned in force to their trains and roads in the days after seven powerful bombs battered the city's congested railway system. The July 11 blasts ripped open carriages, killing some 200 and injuring about 800. The system carries six million commuters a day, and the rush-hour blasts stranded hundreds of thousands as officials shut down the system. The terrorist attacks were the worst Mumbai has seen since 1993, when several explosions killed about 250. The attacks threatened to stymie ongoing talks between India and Pakistan over normalizing long-troubled relations. Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh urged calm, saying "no-one can make India kneel."


Military prosecutors last week charged five U.S. soldiers from the Army's 101st Airborne Division in connection with the March 12 rape of an Iraqi girl and the murder of the girl, her sister, and her parents. Federal prosecutors had earlier also charged former soldier Steven D. Green with four counts of murder and one count of rape in the same incident; he pleaded not guilty in federal court in Louisville, Ky. Another soldier, Sgt. Anthony W. Yribe, was charged with dereliction of duty and making a false statement for failing to report the rape and killings.


Milena Delvalle of Boston died on July 10 when a three-ton concrete panel fell from the ceiling of a highway tunnel, hitting the car she was riding in with her husband. The accident in the "Big Dig," the city's massive underground highway system, shook up Massachusetts politics as Gov. Mitt Romney called for the resignation of Turnpike Authority Chairman Matthew Amorello, a longtime political rival. A preliminary inspection of the tunnel in which Delvalle died found at least 60 other signs of loose bolts. The Big Dig has a troubled history, with numerous cost overruns plaguing the project and faulty construction reportedly leading to many leaks.


Firefighters last week battled a Southern California blaze that burned thousands of acres of desert wilderness and destroyed at least 42 houses and 55 other buildings about a hundred miles east of Los Angeles. Lightning started the blaze, which by midweek was sending into the air a column of smoke that people as far away as Las Vegas and Ogden, Utah, could smell. About 1,000 people left their homes in and around Yucca Valley.


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