January 15 1996


January 15 1996




The Hamas Islamic movement’s master bomb maker, Yahya Ayyash, known as “the Engineer,” died when a boobytrapped cellular phone exploded. Blaming Israel’s secret police for the death of the man accused of masterminding a lethal suicide bombing campaign in Israel, Hamas vowed revenge. Almost 80 people have died in a wave of bombings, many of them on buses, since the 1993 Israeli-PLO peace accord.


In a key victory for Communist and nationalist hardliners, Russian Foreign Minister Andrei Kozyrev, a leading advocate of strong ties with the West and Boris Yeltsin’s longest-serving minister, resigned so he could take the parliamentary seat that he won in the Dec. 17 elections. Russian law does not allow government officials to serve simultaneously in parliament.


A Chinese cult leader who reportedly swindled money and possessions from hundreds of his followers was sentenced to death for raping 19 women disciples, according to Chinese press reports. Wu Yangming, 51, arrested a year ago in east China’s Anhui province, founded the anticommunist Anointed King cult in 1988.


The wife of Canadian aid worker Ahmed Khadr, who has been under arrest in Pakistan since shortly after the Nov. 19 suicide bombing of the Egyptian Embassy in Islamabad that killed 16 people and injured 60, said that her husband now faces unspecified charges in connection with the bombing. Khadr, 48, regional director of the Ottawa-based relief agency Human Concern International, is a Canadian national who was born in Egypt and maintains dual citizenship. Three militant Islamic groups in Egypt have claimed responsibility for the bombing.


French President Jacques Chirac said a series of nuclear weapons tests that his country has been conducting in the South Pacific will end next month. France has provoked international outrage with its five blasts so far. Chirac said France will sign a treaty declaring the South Pacific free of nuclear weapons, and wants a global ban on any further nuclear tests. “I want particularly to thank those countries which have understood the meaning of our action,” he told a diplomatic reception.


Organization leader Yasser Arafat holds his kafñyeh high and dances during an election rally in the Gaza Strip. About 700 candidates representing a dozen parties are running in the first-ever Palestinian elections, to he held on Jan. 20. International groups have criticized some measures taken by the Palestinian Authority operating in Gaza and the West Bank, including the detention of some critics of Arafat.

Stepping down

Japanese Prime Minister Tomiichi Murayama and his entire cabinet resigned, saying they would stay in place as a caretaker government until a new one can be formed, possibly this week. A special parliamentary session, which ministers said could take place as early as Thursday, was to elect a new prime minister, widely expected to be Trade Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, 58, a hardliner in negotiations with the United States.

Murayama, 71, became Japan’s first socialist prime minister in June, 1994, following a period of intense upheaval in Japanese politics. The previous year, political newcomer Morihiro Hosokawa had become prime minister at the head of Japan’s first coalition government. Felled by a money scandal, he was replaced by Tsutomu Hata last April. But that government lasted just two months before Hata was forced to resign in the face of a threatened nonconfidence vote. Murayama then took over as head of an odd-couple alliance that paired his liberal Socialists with their tradition-

al rivals, the conservative Liberal Democrats.

Hashimoto, best known in the West for his strong stand against American demands in auto talks, heads the Liberal Democrats, which dominated Japanese politics until Hosokawa took office in 1993. He now seems likely to be in charge when President Bill Clinton makes a scheduled visit in April. Hashimoto led the Japanese delegation in a key set of negotiations in Geneva last June, when the United States backed down from its insistence that Japan guarantee American cars and car parts a share of Japan’s market.

A warmer year

Scientists in Britain and the United States reported that the Earth’s temperature in 1995 was the warmest since global records began in the mid-1800s—further evidence of a warming trend that began in the mid-1970s. The previous warmest year was 1990. The British Meteorological Office said global surface temperatures have recovered from the cooling caused by the 1991 eruption of the Mount Pinatubo volcano in the Philippines.