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Tuesday, May 27, 2003

WHO puts Toronto back on SARS list TORONTO — Precautions at Toronto hospitals since last month's SARS outbreak failed to prevent dozens of possible new cases, health officials conceded Monday as the World Health Organization put Canada's largest city back on its list of SARS-affected places.

The WHO designation is routine for transmission of new cases of severe acute respiratory syndrome, and a spokesman for the U.N. agency said Toronto was nowhere near another WHO warning against travel to the city.

Elsewhere, the number of new cases reported in China was down to eight, while Taiwan reported 15. The health chief for Taiwan's capital resigned to take responsibility for a SARS outbreak at a hospital.

Hong Kong researchers said a SARS vaccine developed with their mainland Chinese counterparts was ready for testing on animals, with results expected in six months.

Mexico hopes to X-ray vehicles crossing border MEXICO CITY — Mexico is developing a vehicle X-ray system it plans to install at crossings along its northern and southern borders in order to better catch would-be terrorists as well as drug and people smugglers, Foreign Secretary Luis Ernesto Derbez said Monday.

Derbez said that by the end of the year, the government hopes to equip commercial and passenger border crossings with Guatemala and Belize to the south and the United States to the north with enough X-ray machines to scan every vehicle entering the country.

Bulldozers demolish damaged buildings BOUMERDES, Algeria — Diggers and bulldozers began demolishing buildings damaged beyond repair by last week's devastating earthquake as the government pledged Monday to investigate why so many new apartment blocks collapsed so easily.

As of Monday, the number of dead was at least 2,217, with another 9,087 people injured, Algerian national radio reported, citing the Interior Ministry. One newspaper reported Monday that an estimated 2,000 people were missing.

As the demolition teams began their work, thousands of people left homeless by Wednesday's quake woke up from a fifth night of sleeping on the streets. Those whose homes were still standing had little idea when, or if, they could ever return.

Malfunction blamed for Soyuz problem MOSCOW — A technical malfunction, not crew error, caused the unexpectedly steep and off-course landing of the Soyuz spacecraft that brought two American astronauts and a Russian cosmonaut home from the international space station, Russian investigators announced Monday.

Nikolai Zelenshchikov, who headed the investigative commission, said the Russian Soyuz aircraft "entered a tough, ballistic descent because of a malfunction in the control system," the ITAR-Tass news agency reported.

Russian cosmonaut Nikolai Budarin and American astronauts Kenneth Bowersox and Donald Pettit landed in the barren Kazakh steppe on May 4 nearly 300 miles short of their planned arrival site after enduring severe gravitational overloads.

Their rough descent — and the nearly two hours it took rescuers to find them — gave Russian and U.S. officials a scare. Tension had already been high because it was the first return to Earth since the shuttle Columbia broke up during re-entry in February, killing all seven crew members.

Strong quake shakes northeastern Japan TOKYO — A powerful earthquake rocked northeastern Japan on Monday, knocking out power, starting fires and disrupting road and rail traffic. At least 54 people were hurt, mostly with minor injuries caused by falling objects.

The quake registered a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was the strongest to hit Japan in more than two years, the nation's Meteorological Agency said. Skyscrapers swayed in Tokyo, 260 miles away. An agency official suggested the impact of the quake might have been mitigated by its depth.

The temblor was centered 44 miles below the sea floor about 12 miles off the coast of northeastern Miyagi state, the agency said.

A magnitude 7.0 quake can cause major damage over a widespread area. More than 6,000 people were killed in the western city of Kobe when a magnitude-7.2 quake struck there in 1995.

5 arrested as suspects in Afghan bomb plot KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan authorities on Monday confirmed the arrest of a senior Taliban commander who was allegedly planning terror attacks in the south of the country.

Mullah Janan was arrested in the southern city of Kandahar on Saturday, said Han Mohammed, a military division commander in the city.

Janan was taken into custody with four other men accused of plotting to explode a bomb in a populated part of Kandahar near an unspecified government facility.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Abdullah described Janan as "one of the notorious links of al-Qaida among the Taliban." Like many Afghans, Abdullah uses only one name.

Mohammed said Janan served as a Taliban commander in the northern provinces of Badghis and Faryab. Before that, he also was a commander loyal to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former prime minister now waging an insurgency against the government.

Philippine police arrest Muslim extremist MANILA, Philippines — One of the Philippines' most-wanted Muslim guerrillas, allegedly trained by al-Qaida and linked to numerous Southeast Asian terrorist plots, was in police custody Monday.

Saifulla Yunos, the suspected leader of the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front's special operations group, was arrested Sunday with an Egyptian man at southern Cagayan de Oro airport as they tried to catch a flight to Manila.

Authorities became suspicious when an ambulance pulled over and delivered Yunos, whose leg was in a cast as part of a disguise and who was traveling under an assumed name.

The Egyptian, Al Gabre Mahmud, apparently is on an international terrorist watch list, police intelligence director Chief Supt. Jesus Verzosa said, without elaborating. The Egyptian Embassy could not be reached for comment Monday.

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