ASIA

U.S. Military Court Acquits Army Driver

SEOUL -- A U.S. military jury acquitted an American soldier of negligent homicide charges yesterday, five months after the vehicle he was driving on a training mission struck and killed two South Korean girls.

The acquittal of Sgt. Mark Walker was expected to prompt further outcry from South Korean activists already angered by Wednesday's acquittal of the vehicle's commander, Sgt. Fernando Nino, on the same charges.

While the jury deliberated for 41/2 hours, dozens of activists threw eggs and paint bottles into Camp Casey, the U.S. military base north of Seoul where the trial took place.

Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, commander of the Eighth U.S. Army, appealed to South Koreans to trust the judgment of the jury panels.

"Taken together, the verdicts in the two trials that were rendered by two different impartial panels indicate that what occurred was a tragic accident without criminal culpability," he said.

"This was a tragic loss of life, and we are deeply sorry," he added.

Walker and Nino, who belong to the 2nd U.S. Infantry Division, were on a training mission June 13 near the border with North Korea when their mine-clearing vehicle struck Shim Mi Son and Shin Hyo Sun, both 13.

Associated Press

EUROPE

Military Officers Cleared of Charges

A Croatian judge exonerated eight former military officers suspected of torturing and killing ethnic Serbs in a wartime prison, but human rights activists said the decision was biased.

District prosecutors indicted the eight men this year over accusations that they made random arrests and tortured and killed Serbs and Yugoslav army officers at the Lora military prison in 1992. Their war crimes trial highlighted a dark chapter in Croatia's successful 1991-1995 war against Serbs, supported by the Yugoslav army, who opposed Croatia's secession from Yugoslavia. "There is no doubt that war crimes were perpetrated at the prison. But there is not a shred of evidence to suggest that any of these suspects committed them," Judge Slavko Lozina said.

The prosecution's report alleged two inmates died of severe abuse and beatings, and at least two others were seriously injured at the prison in the coastal city of Split.

"Dozens of witnesses were subjected to abuse and threats until they agreed to alter their pretrial testimonies," said Tonci Majic, head of an independent human rights group that monitored the trial.

Associated Press

British Firefighters Begin Walkout

Britain's 50,000 firefighters walked off the job, beginning an eight-day strike over pay as the government accused the union of holding the country for ransom.

The firefighters, in turn, accused Prime Minister Tony Blair's "dictatorial" Labor government of wrecking a last-minute deal.

While the two sides bickered, thousands of soldiers using outdated firefighting equipment replaced the strikers, in one case racing to a factory blaze broadcast on national television.

Firefighters stopped working for 48 hours last week, their first national strike in 25 years.

Associated Press

FOR THE RECORD

A Kuwaiti police officer said to have a history of mental problems was arrested in Saudi Arabia, a day after he allegedly shot two U.S. soldiers and fled across the border, a Kuwaiti official said. The suspect, Khaled Shimmiri, was picked up in eastern Saudi Arabia near the border, the state-run Kuwait News Agency reported. He was expected to be extradited to Kuwait, the agency said. . . . An Iraqi Kurd arrested in Afghanistan carrying about 22 pounds of explosives belonged to an international terror group that previously tried to attack the Afghan president, a government statement said. Akram Taufiq Muramy is suspected of planning a suicide bombing attack against President Hamid Karzai or Defense Minister Mohammed Fahim, the statement said.