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Explosion kills 15



Published: Sun, February 16, 2003 @ 12:00 a.m.



Explosion kills 15

BOGOTA, Colombia -- A massive explosion rocked the southern city of Neiva today as police searched a house for explosives. Fifteen people died and about 30 were wounded, authorities said.

Sandra Tatiana de Serrato, an official with the state governor's office, said nine police officers and an investigator from the prosecutor's officer were among the dead.

Five houses were destroyed and 30 were severely damaged in the blast, which occurred in a residential neighborhood near the city's airport.

President Alvaro Uribe, who has survived several rebel assassination attempts, was scheduled to visit Neiva on Saturday. Hernando de Valenzuela, chief of the local prosecutor's office, said he believed the rebels had planned to detonate the bomb as the president's plane passed overhead at a low altitude to blow it out of the sky.

Other authorities theorized that the rebels had called the police, pretending to be civilian informants. The theory held that the rebels told police of the explosives cache and then detonated it when officers were inside the building.

Volcano erupts

MEXICO CITY -- A volcano southeast of Mexico City erupted early today, spewing glowing fragments of rock as far as two miles away and sending up a three-mile-high smoke column. The 5:34 a.m. eruption of the Popocatepetl volcano lasted four minutes and caused grass fires but no other damage.

No evacuations of nearby villages were necessary, said scientists at the National Center for Disaster Prevention. The 17,886-foot high volcano, 40 miles southeast of Mexico City, has been active since December 1994.

Virus shows signsof thwarting HIV

BOSTON -- An ancient virus that has tagged along harmlessly through human evolution appears to improve people's chances of surviving AIDS by blocking HIV's ability to infect blood cells, new research shows.

Several recent studies have found that people who are infected with the recently discovered bug, called GB virus C, are substantially less likely than usual to die from AIDS. Experts assumed that GBV-C somehow interferes with HIV, but just how this protection works has been a mystery.

Now experts think they have the answer: It thwarts HIV's ability to infect cells by wiping away one of the chemical docking posts that HIV needs to make its entry.

"There is not a way for the virus to get into the cells. The doors are gone," said Carolyn Williams of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Search for Americanscontinues in Colombia

FLORENCIA, Colombia -- The United States searched for four Americans and a Colombian who were reportedly on an intelligence mission when their U.S.-government plane crashed in a southern region swarming with leftist rebels.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said the single-engine Cessna Caravan went down Thursday morning while trying to make an emergency landing in Florencia, near an area dotted with fields that produce coca, the main ingredient of cocaine.

American officials refused to discuss the flight's purpose or identify those aboard. The Colombian Army's high command said the plane was on an intelligence mission, and Colombian investigators reported seeing two bodies in the wreckage.

Associated Press




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