World briefs – May 31

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Far fewer people died or were left homeless by last year’s devastating earthquake than claimed by Haitian leaders, a report commissioned by the U.S. government has concluded — challenging a premise behind a multibillion-dollar aid and reconstruction effort.

Fewer people died in quake than estimated: report

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti — Far fewer people died or were left homeless by last year’s devastating earthquake than claimed by Haitian leaders, a report commissioned by the U.S. government has concluded — challenging a premise behind a multibillion-dollar aid and reconstruction effort.

The report, a copy of which was obtained Monday by The Associated Press, estimates that the death toll was between 46,000 and 85,000, far below the Haitian government’s official figure of 316,000. The report was prepared for the U.S. Agency for International Development but has not yet been publicly released.

The report has inconsistencies, however, and won’t be released publicly until they are resolved, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Preeti Shah said.

Haitian government officials said they had not seen the report and could not discuss it.


Footage proof of Sri Lanka war crimes: UN

GENEVA — A U.N. human rights expert says gruesome new footage from the final days of Sri Lanka’s civil war is authentic and proves war crimes took place there, challenging the government’s claim that videos showing the army executing captured rebels in May 2009 are faked.

The U.N.’s independent investigator on extrajudicial killings says the five-minute video obtained by Britain’s Channel 4 corroborates an earlier, shorter video showing blindfolded, naked men being shot dead.

“What is reflected in the extended video are crimes of the highest order — definitive war crimes,” the U.N. investigator, South African law professor Christof Heyns, said in a report released Monday to the global body’s Human Rights Council.

Heyns said he reviewed the new footage showing the apparent execution of unarmed men and women with technical and forensic experts. “The overall conclusion reached by the experts is that the video is authentic and the events reflected in the video footage occurred as depicted,” he told the council

Sri Lanka’s government has maintained that the video is not real.


Suicide attack on African Union base kills three

MOGADISHU, Somalia — Three people were killed after suicide bombers attacked an African Union peacekeeping base in the Somali capital Monday, the AU said in a press release.

Incidents on four other bases initially believed to be similar attacks appeared to be false alarms, a Nairobi-based diplomat said.

The AU press release said that suicide bombers had driven up to a key AU base and engaged the troops there in a firefight but had been unable to get in. Three would-be attackers were shot, the press release said. Two AU soldiers and one member of a government-allied militia were killed in the attack and when the body of one of the attackers blew up, the statement said.

The AU’s Chief of Staff Col. Innocent Oula paid tribute to the troops.

“But for their brave and speedy action, many more lives, including those of innocent civilians, would have been lost,” he said.

AU soldier Capt. Prosper Hakizimana said a minivan had pulled up at one base and four men got out of the vehicle. One suicide bomber was shot when he attempted to enter the base and blew up.


Obama picks Dempsey to lead Joint Chiefs

WASHINGTON — Army Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, President Barack Obama’s choice to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, holds three master’s degrees, fought two wars against Iraq, and survived one bout with cancer.

And he has one catchy hobby: singing.

He’ll belt out Frank Sinatra’s New York, New York at the drop of a hat.

Crooning is not among the qualities that pushed Dempsey to the top of Obama’s list in searching for a successor to Adm. Mike Mullen, whose term as Joint Chiefs chairman began under President George W. Bush and ends Sept. 30.

But Dempsey’s singing singles him out in a field of Army generals who are usually less publicly playful, and more rigidly aligned with a military culture of caution.

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