Report Faults Many

In Irish Church Scandal

DUBLIN -- Bishops, police and state agencies did far too little to prevent the alleged sexual abuse of more than 100 children by Roman Catholic priests in southeastern Ireland over a 36-year period, a report published Tuesday said.

The 21/2-year probe, led by a retired Irish Supreme Court judge, found that two former bishops of the Ferns diocese protected, and even helped to promote, abusers within the clergy.

The report also said the national police force rarely investigated complaints of abuse properly and kept no records of such cases before 1988. It said officials at government-appointed health boards sometimes failed to act on reports of abuse.

The head of the church in Ireland, Archbishop Sean Brady, issued a statement that apologized to "all those people who have suffered lasting hurt at the hands of abusers in the Church."

Justice Minister Michael McDowell said the report would be referred to prosecutors. He also said the government would draft a law making it a crime to engage "in conduct that creates a substantive risk" of child abuse "or failing to take reasonable steps to alleviate such risk."

THE AMERICAS

* CARACAS, Venezuela -- A military court sentenced three former Venezuelan military officers and 27 Colombians to prison terms ranging from two to nine years for an alleged plot to kill President Hugo Chavez, the state news agency reported. Three ex-officers and 73 Colombians were acquitted.

* BOGOTA, Colombia -- The head of Colombia's state security agency said he had resigned and asked authorities to investigate accusations of wrongdoing against him recently published in the local press.

EUROPE

* LONDON -- The BBC World Service said it would launch an Arabic TV and information service and end radio services in 10 other languages to help pay for it. Broadcasts in Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Greek, Hungarian, Kazakh, Polish, Slovak, Slovenian and Thai will end by March. Online services in these languages will continue.

ASIA

* KABUL, Afghanistan -- Militants opened fire on a police vehicle near the capital, killing two senior police officers who were teachers at a police academy, officials said. The violence followed a botched ambush of a U.S.-led coalition convoy south of the city late Monday that left six Afghan civilians dead, including a child, the police chief in Logar province said.

* DIYARBAKIR, Turkey -- A Turkish court fined 20 people about $75 each for using the letters Q and W on placards at a Kurdish new year celebration, under a law banning characters not used in the Turkish alphabet, rights campaigners said.

Under pressure from the European Union, Turkey lifted bans on teaching and broadcasting in Kurdish, but bureaucratic resistance has delayed implementing the reforms.

* BAKU, Azerbaijan -- A former top aide to President Ilham Aliyev and the head of Azerbaijan's largest chemical company have been arrested on charges of participating in a coup plot, authorities said, in the latest wave of arrests targeting top officials.

THE MIDDLE EAST

* GAZA CITY -- An armed Palestinian splinter group, the Knights of the Tempest, released two Gaza men it had abducted last week after accusing them of collaborating with Israel, but not before shooting both in the leg as punishment.

Early Wednesday, Palestinian guerrillas fired two rockets into southern Israel from Beit Hanoun in northern Gaza, witnesses said. No casualties or damage were reported. The Israeli army directed artillery fire at northern Gaza in response, a military spokesman said.

AFRICA

* NYALA, Sudan -- Refugees took 34 aid workers hostage in Darfur's largest refugee camp, demanding the release of an arrested tribal leader, but later freed all but five, officials said.

-- From News Services