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August 26, 1996
Web posted at: 11:45 p.m. EDT (0345 GMT)

Child sex probe not hindered, Belgian official says


BRUSSELS (CNN) -- Amid growing concern of police complicity in the case, Belgium's Justice Minister Monday pledged that a probe into a child sex ring will continue "without any intervention."

"The investigation will continue with all possible means, without obstacles," said Stefaan De Clerck.

The Justice Minister issued assurances as the increasingly complex case widened to include a 10th arrest, a theft ring and heated speculation as to how a gang of child abusers operated for years.

The case widened Sunday when senior police detective Georges Zicot was arrested, along with three others, in connection with a theft ring that investigators now believe may have been linked to the sex case.

A storm of media outcry concerning possible police complicity has ensued, and it was exacerbated when the case prosecutor said he would successfully conclude the investigation "if I am allowed to."

The pedophile case broke when chief suspect Marc Dutroux, 39, said he starved two Belgian girls to death and led police to their bodies.

Related stories:

U.S. rejects China's opposition to Taiwan weapons deal

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The U.S. State Department rejected a demand by China to scuttle an arms deal with Taiwan, saying the weapons are "purely defensive" and consistent with existing agreements.

China objected to a Pentagon deal to sell Taiwan $420 million of American arms, including 1,299 stinger missiles, 74 guided missile launchers and 96 Humvee vehicles, among other items.

Beijing urged the Clinton Administration to cancel the contract, threatening "new damage" to fragile Chinese-U.S. relations.

U.S. officials said the weapons are defensive and the sale won't alter the military balance in the region.

India army rescues stranded pilgrims

SRINAGAR, India (CNN) -- Indian army helicopters rescued hundreds of Hindu pilgrims stranded since last week in the Himalayas.

They were trapped by torrential rains and a fluke snowstorm during an arduous three-day trek to a 13,500-foot-high cave honoring Lord Shiva, Hindu god of destruction.

Severe weather has already killed some 160 pilgrims, and thousands were pinned along a 30 mile path now strewn with bodies. Many ignored warnings to bring warm cloths, press reports said.

Helicopters for two days have delivered medicine and other supplies to the pilgrims, evacuating many to Pahalgam, the trek's starting point. Nearly all of the surviving pilgrims now are said to be safe.

South African police commander convicted of murder

PRETORIA, South Africa (CNN) -- A special commission Monday convicted the commander of a notorious police unit during South Africa's apartheid era of five counts of murder.

Eugene de Kock is the highest ranking officer ever convicted of crimes in defense of South Africa's former white government.

The verdict is still out on 116 other charges against him held before the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, established in 1994 to achieve full disclosure of apartheid- era crimes. The judge Tuesday will finish reading the verdict.

Sporting glasses and a gray suit, De Kock, a former colonel, reacted calmly to Monday's verdict and ate sandwiches while chatting with his legal team.

While operating from an isolated farm outside Pretoria, he was found guilty of killing five unarmed people driving in a van in eastern South Africa in 1992.

De Kock also has been accused of killing police officers he feared would incriminate him and of the death of an anti- apartheid lawyer who was killed when he opened a mail bomb.

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