The daily Nebraskan. ([Lincoln, Neb.) 1901-current, March 20, 2000, Page 2, Image 2

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Police: Hundreds dead after fire
KANUNGU, Uganda (AP) -
Rutemba Didas heard what sounded
like an explosion, then saw black smoke
billowing from the brick structure on a
hilltop compound where members of a
religious cult had been living for sever
al years.
The farmer and his neighbors heard
screams coming from the chapel, but
they couldn’t get close to the new build
ing inside the compound where mem
bers of the Movement for the
Restoration of Ten Commandments of
God lived in this remote corner of
southwestern Uganda.
Police said Sunday it may take them
a week to determine how many people
died in the Friday morning fire, but they
believe there were as many as 470 vic
tims - of mass suicide or mass murder.
Circumstances surrounding the
deaths - who the dead were and how the
fire was started - remain foggy. Little
was known about the cult, although it
appeared to incorporate Christian
beliefs, and local farmers said it was led
by a former prostitute.
Syncretic Christian religious sects
are mushrooming across Africa as
many people become disillusioned with
the inability of politicians to improve
their lives. In one case, also in Uganda,
a sect turned into a guerrilla movement
that used claims of religious powers to
attract fighters.
In Kanungu, cult members locked
themselves in the chapel early Friday
and nailed doors and windows closed,
then sang for a few hours before dous
ing themselves in gasoline and paraffin
and setting themselves ablaze, said
David Sseppuuya, deputy editor in
chief of the government-owned New
Vision newspaper, quoting investiga
“According to an eyewitness on the
site, they came around and bid farewell
to the people, and they heard that the
U They heard that the Virgin Mary would
appear on Friday, so they did expect to
die on Friday ”
David Sseppuuya
deputy editor in chief of New Vision newspaper
Virgin Mary would appear on Friday, so
they did expect to die on Friday,”
Sseppuuya said.
Didas said the cult was established
in 1994 by former prostitute Credonia
Mwerinde at her family’s compound.
Cult members from inside and out
side the compound had been invited to a
ceremony Friday to inaugurate the
chapel, which had recently been built
by Mwerinde on the graves of her par
ents, Didas said.
In other buildings on the com
pound, there were images of the Virgin
Mary and several rosaries.
Didas, whose farm adjoins the
compound, said two men, one identi
fied as Joseph Kibweteere and the other
an unidentified Catholic priest, were
Mwerinde’s deputies. It was not known
if any of the three had died in the blaze.
A report Sunday in the Monitor dis
puted that account, saying Kibweteere
was the sect leader. He had reportedly
predicted that the world would come to
an end Dec. 31 but changed that to Dec.
31, 2000 after nothing happened, the
newspaper said.
Fraternity house fire
kills 3 in Pennsylvania
in an off-campus fraternity house near
Bloomsburg University killed three
people early Sunday, while others
jumped to safety in their underwear
from a second-story window.
Six male fraternity members were
sleeping in the Tau Kappa Epsilon
house when the fire broke out about 6
a.m. Three managed to get out safely,
university spokesman Jim Hollister
Hollister said it was too soon to tell
whether the bodies were those of the
missing students. He said the victims
would be identified through dental
The cause of the fire was not imme
diately clear. The two-story wooden
house is located in a hilly neighborhood
about two blocks from campus.
Red-eyed students in sweatshirts
huddled in small groups and talked qui
etly as fire officials and construction
equipment sifted through still-smoking
ruins. A neighboring white three-story
home was scorched, and police said it
sustained severe damage inside.
Bloomsburg University President
Jessica Kozloff said the building was
owned by the fraternity and had been
maintained well. She said the university
had revised its procedures to offer edu
cation and training for off-campus stu
dents after a fraternity house fire in
1994 killed five students.
“These are young adults who do
make decisions on their own about their
lifestyle and where they’re going to
live,” Kozloff said. “We can’t protect
them from everything.”
City officials cleared the house for
occupancy after noting a dozen code
violations in October, including a bat
tery missing from a smoke detector,
five electrical heaters being run on an
inadequate electrical system, a missing
doorknob and an empty fire extinguish
er, said code enforcement officer Dean
Van Blohn.
He said the violations had been cor
rected by late January.
The house was required to have
three smoke detectors, Van Blohn said.
“I can assure you that if we discover
that this occurred because of any negli
gence ... we will certainly take measures
to make sure it doesn’t happen again,”
Kozloff said.
Two students escaped by jumping
from a second-story window in their
underwear, and a third fled out the front
door, police said. All reported awaken
ing and finding heavy smoke in the
building; one reported hearing a smoke
Hostages still held
by murder suspect
DUNDALK, Md. (AP) - A mur
der suspect holding three people
hostage for a third day repeatedly
fired bursts of gunfire out a window
at police Sunday while breaking off
his telephone contact with negotia
tors, officials said.
Authorities tried to avoid agitat
ing the suspect, who was believed to
be watching the ordeal on television.
Joseph Palczynski had been on
the run since March 7, when police
say he kidnapped his girlfriend, Tracy
Whitehead, and killed the couple she
was staying with and a neighbor. A
fourth person was killed and a boy
was wounded when Palczynski
allegedly caijacked a vehicle, police
Whitehead escaped unharmed;
police would not disclose her where
abouts. Palczynski later fled to
Virginia, where he stole guns and
forced a man to drive him back to
Baltimore County.
The five bursts of gunfire Sunday
morning were the first signs of activi
ty since Palczynski took Whitehead’s
mother and two others hostage Friday
night. No injuries were reported, and
police did not return his fire.
Palczynski stopped talking with
negotiators for about an hour and a
half Sunday morning, and police
moved in with an armored vehicle
and a bullhorn to urge him to resume
“Joby, we need you to pick up the
phone,” an officer said over the loud
speaker, using Palczynski’s nick
Palczynski responded with shots,
and the armored vehicle backed away.
He soon resumed talks, but then
fired more shots, spokesman Bill
Toohey said. Later, police used a
robot to send food into the house.
“Our main strategy is patience,
patience, patience,” Toohey said.
After Palczynski returned to the
area from Virginia, police searched
the area for more than a week. On
Friday, he broke into a house, tied up
the occupants and stole three guns.
He then shot his way into the
home of Whitehead’s mother, Lynn
Whitehead. Relatives said he was
holding Lynn Whitehead; her
boyfriend, Andy McCord; and 12
year-old Brad McCord.
Police refused to characterize
their negotiations with Palczynski but
confirmed that a psychiatrist was
helping negotiators.
r If % - T* 8 irH| §"* -
Partly cloudy Partly cloudy
high 57, low 42 high 55, low 38
Managing Editor: [“deYoung n. S22SS£!S5SiL»n,«
Associate News Editor: Dane Stickney Ask for ^ P?noiPn!ate,f|2t ed,t0r 3t
Associate News Editor: Diane Broderick yrl~,
Opinion Editor: J.J. Harder or ™'l
Sports Editor: Sam McKewon
A&E Editor: Sarah Baker General Manager: Daniel Shattil
Copy Desk Co-Chief: Jen Walker Publications Board Jessica Hofmann,
Copy Desk Co-Chief: Josh Krauter Chairwoman: (402) 477-0527
Photo Chief: Mike Warren Professional Adviser: Don Walton,
Design Co-Chief: Diane Broderick (402) 473-7248
Design Co-Chief: ;Tim Karstens Advertising Manager: Nick Partsch,
Art Director: Melanie Falk (402) 472-2589
Web Editor: Gregg Steams Asst. Ad Manager: Jamie Yeager
Asst. Web Editor: Jewel Mlnarik Classified Ad Manager: Nichole Lake
Fax number: (402) 472-1761
World Wide Web:
The Daily Nebraskan (USPS 144-080) is published by the UNL Publications Board, Nebraska
Union 20,1400 R St., Lincoln, NE 68588-0448, Monday through Friday during the academic year;
weekly during the summer sessions.The public has access to the Publications Board.
Readers are encouraged to submit story ideas and comments to the Daily Nebraskan by calling
(402) 472-2588.
Subscriptions are $60 for one year.
Postmaster: Send address changes to the Daily Nebraskan, Nebraska Union 20,1400 R St.,
Lincoln NE 68588-0448. Periodical postage paid at Lincoln, NE.
Test held to help determine
if FBI agents shot at Waco
KILLEEN, Texas (AP) - Aircraft
circled, tanks rumbled and combat
garbed shooters fired off rounds at a
Texas military base Sunday in a high
stakes field test to resolve whether
federal agents shot at the Branch
Davidians in the waning moments of
the 1993 Waco standoff.
The test’s participants, emerging
from the tightly controlled, nonpublic
test conducted at Fort Hood, said the
demonstration had gone well.
“The test today went smoothly, but
we’re really kind of limited right now
as to what we can share with you,”
said U.S. Attorney Mike Bradford,
one of the government’s lead lawyers
in ongoing Branch Davidian litiga
Government officials have always
insisted that their forces fired no shots
on the siege’s final day, when the FBI
launched a tear-gassing operation
designed to end the 51 -day standoff.
But Branch Davidian plaintiffs
suing the government for wrongful
death insist Sunday’s field test will
confirm their experts’ analysis: that
rapid-fire bursts of light appearing on
the FBI’s 1993 aerial infrared surveil
lance footage represent gunfire from
government positions into the
Davidians’ retreat.
“If we... show that there are flash
es from gunfire, I am hopeful FBI
leaders will acknowledge that guns
were fired, and the FBI will find out
who fired and on what orders,” the
plaintiffs’ lead counsel, Michael
Caddell, said before the test at the
Army outpost, 50 miles southwest of
the site of the 1993 Waco siege.
FBI officials have suggested the
flashes come from sunlight glinting
off water, metal or other debris strewn
on the ground while the government’s
tanks pierced the compound’s walls to
insert tear gas.
Davidian leader David Koresh and
some 80 followers perished during the
fire that consumed their compound
several hours into the tear-gassing
operation. The government contends
their deaths, whether from fire or gun
shot wounds, came by their own hand.
The plaintiffs argue government gun
fire cut off the Davidians’ only avenue
of escape as the inferno raged.
■ Washington
Starr’s successor enlists more
help in Clinton investigation
Independent Counsel Robert Ray
said Sunday he is adding investiga
tors to help him determine whether to
file criminal charges against
President Clinton.
It marked the first time that Ray,
who took over for Kenneth Starr in
October, has publicly discussed the
possibility that Clinton might be
prosecuted for his statements and
actions in the Monica Lewinsky mat
A federal judge in Little Rock,
Ark., has held the president in civil
contempt for 10 alleged lies in a
deposition that “no reasonable person
would seriously dispute.”
Presidential lawyer David
Kendall did not immediately return a
message left at his office.
■ Taiwan
President quits after protesters
storm party headquarters
TAIPEI, Taiwan (AP) - Storming
the Nationalist Party’s headquarters, a
stone-throwing crowd demanded -
and got - President Lee Teng-hui’s
promise Sunday to quit as the party’s
leader, one day after its humiliating
election defeat.
Many of the thousands of protest
ers blamed Lee for fielding a weak
candidate who was trounced by the
opposition in Saturday’s presidential
The vote will bring to power an
untested leader, Chen Shui-bian, who
some fear could spark a devastating
war with Taiwan’s longtime rival,
China, through his party’s support for
the island’s formal independence.
The two sides split amid civil war
in 1949, and China insists Taiwan
must eventually reunify with the
■ Israel
Israeli Cabinet approves par
tial withdrawal of West Bank :
transfer that stalled Israeli
Palestinian peace talks for five weeks
easily cleared a final hurdle Sunday
with Israel’s Cabinet approving maps
for the withdrawal from 6.1 percent
of the West Bank.
The transfer will take place
Tuesday, just before negotiators con
vene near Washington for peace talks,
and will leave the Palestinians in con
trol of 41 percent of the West Bank.
The Palestinians had suspended
the talks last month after it became
clear Israel was not going to give
them populated suburbs of Jerusalem
as part of the troop withdrawal. The
revised maps approved Sunday give
the Palestinians three suburbs near
but not abutting Jerusalem.
■ India
Clinton forced to scale down
Bangladesh visit
NEW DELHI, India (AP) j
President Clinton opened the first trip
to troubled South Asia in 22 years by
an American president Sunday niglft
and immediately was forced to seals
down his visit to Bangladesh wheh
the Secret Service raised concerns
about him going to a rural village.
The last-minute scramble under
scored Clinton’s recent description qf
South Asia as “perhaps the most dan
gerous place in the world today”
because of a nuclear arms race
between India and Pakistan and ten
sions over the disputed Himalayah
territory of Kashmir.
Also before his arrival, protest
in New Delhi burned an effigy of