The Tungurahua volcano spewed lava and rock Tuesday, prompting the government to urge four villages to evacuate. Ecuador's Geophysical Institute noted increased activity two days earlier, and authorities prepared shelters in case mandatory evacuation is required. Several communities surrounding Tungurahua, including the tourist town of Banos, were evacuated during the deadly eruption of 1999.
Though kidnappings are down dramatically compared with last year, there has been a surge in "express kidnappings," in which an assailant holds the victim for a few hours and demands money from his or her bank account. The chief prosecutor in the attorney general's Special Unit for Organized Crime blamed the surge on criminals allied with prison gangs. Despite the express kidnappings, the general trend is a positive for El Salvador as tourism continues to grow as a major sector in the economy.
Tensions rose again along the Israeli-Lebanese border after rockets were fired from southern Lebanon into Israel, prompting artillery responses from the Israelis. Though the exchange was small, it ended two years of quiet along the notoriously volatile border. It is not clear if Hezbollah, a militant organization in Lebanon backed by Iran and Syria, is responsible for the attack. If it is, the attack could be a foreboding sign of renewed conflict.
Islamic militants are believed responsible for a hotel bombing that killed three and injured 27 in Zamboanga City, in the troubled southern region of Mindanao. Many of the victims were wedding guests. The Abu Sayyaff militants, linked to al-Qaida, had planned a simultaneous explosion on Basilan island, though that plot was foiled when the explosives were found and defused. Abu Sayyaff was founded in the early 1990s and has been active in Basilan, Jolo, the Sulu Archipelago and Mindanao. The group is believed to be holding an American, an Indian, a Malaysian and a Japanese convert to Islam, along with a number of Filipino hostages.
The name Chernobyl calls to mind the 1986 nuclear disaster, but in December managers at the nuclear power station hope to start a new chapter for the Chernobyl "dead zone." Managers hope to open the site to tourists after a government review of safety rules. According to the rules under review, tourists would wear personal security badges and apply for a guided tour at least 10 days before visiting. A typical tour would visit the power plant's gates, the radiation-monitoring center and the abandoned town of Pripyat. Tours would be $100 to $300.
Compiled from news services and travel sources. For updates, check with the State Department at 888-407-4747, travel.state.gov.
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