Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Unprecedented' challenge to save Chilean miners

By BRADLEY BROOKS, Associated Press Writer
SAN JOSE MINE, Chile – The effort to save 33 men trapped deep in a Chilean mine is an unprecedented challenge, mining safety experts said Tuesday. It means months of drilling, then a harrowing three-hour trip in a cage up a narrow hole carved through solid rock.
If all of that is successful, the freed men will emerge from the earth and "feel born again," said an American miner who was part of a group dramatically rescued in 2002 with similar techniques. But that rescue pulled men from a spot only one-tenth as deep.
"They're facing the most unusual rescue that has ever been dealt with," said Dave Feickert, director of KiaOra, a mine safety consulting firm in New Zealand that has worked to improve China's dangerous mines. "Every one of these rescues presents challenging issues. But this one is unique."
First, engineers must use a 31-ton drill to create a "pilot" hole from the floor of the Atacama Desert down 2,200 feet (700 meters) to the area in the San Jose mine where the men wait.
Then, the drill must be fitted with a larger bit to carve out a rescue chimney that will be about 26 inches (66 centimeters) wide — a task that means guiding the drill through solid rock while keeping the drill rod from snapping or getting bogged down as it nears its target.
Finally, the men must be brought up one at a time inside a specially built cage — a trip that will take three hours each. Just hauling the men up will itself take more than four days — if there are no problems.
"Nothing of this magnitude has happened before; it's absolutely unheard of," said Alex Gryska, a mine rescue manager with the Canadian government.
Gryska said he is confident Chile's state-run Codelco mining company, with its vast expertise in the world's top copper-producing nation, would successfully drill the hole out. But he said he is worried about the three to four months officials say it will take to do so — and the key role the miners themselves will play in their own rescue.
Chilean officials said the miners will have to remove upward of 3,000 tons of rock as it falls into the area where they are trapped. There is little danger to the men — the area includes a shelter and about 500 meters (yards) of a shaft outside that. But as the rock starts to fall a month from now, the men will work in nonstop shifts to remove it with wheelbarrows and industrial sweepers.
"The thing that concerns me is welfare of workers, their mental state. That will be real tough," said Gryska. "From a health perspective, it's hot down there. They're talking about working 24/7 in 85 degrees for two months. Their mental state for that work will be critical."

Chilean Miner

Early on, Chile's Health Minister Jaime Manalich said at least five of the men showed signs of depression. But spirits have improved with a supply of water, food, special clothes to keep them dry in damp conditions and the first verbal communication with loved ones this week.
Chilean officials met with four "life sciences" specialists from NASA on Tuesday in Santiago.
Michael Duncan, NASA's deputy chief medical officer who is leading the team in Chile, said his group had been asked to provide help in nutrition and behavioral health.
Duncan, speaking at a news conference in Santiago, said his team viewed two videos the miners made of themselves and their surroundings — and they clearly raised some concern about weight loss.
He said a priority was increasing the miners' caloric intake, getting them on a regular sleep schedule and ensuring they remain optimistic.
"These miners showed us tremendous strength in surviving as long as they did without any contact with the surface," he said. "What we want to try to avoid is any kind of situation of hopelessness on the part of the miners."
That could mean increasing their contact with the outside world — including bringing in celebrities or even astronauts who have survived long periods of isolation in space, Duncan said.
If the miners remain healthy during their long period underground and if the drilling goes as planned, they will then face the ordeal of being stuffed into a tubular, metal cage for three hours as they are slowly pulled up.
Experts say one of the few times such a technique was used was when nine U.S. miners were hauled out of the flooded Quecreek Mine near Somerset, Pennsylvania, in 2002. But those men were trapped for just three days 73 meters (240 feet) underground.
Quecreek survivor Mark Popernack noted the Chilean miners "already went through more than what we went through," but the Somerset, Pennsylvania, resident said no matter the method, "to come up is the best thing in the world."
"If they make it, if they get that hole drilled, when they come out of there, they'll feel like they're being born again," said Popernack.
"Enjoy the ride, that's my advice to them," he said. "It'll be a long ride, but they'll enjoy it. Because when they see the light of day, they're going to feel pretty good."
(This version CORRECTS in first paragraph that not all 33 miners are Chilean; one is Bolivian.)

Sunday, August 29, 2010

100 Russian skinheads attack concertgoers

MOSCOW – Scores of bare-chested skinheads attacked a crowd of about 3,000 people at a rock concert in central Russia on Sunday, beating them with clubs, media reports said.
Dozens of people were left bloodied and dazed in the attack, television and news agencies reported, and state news channel Rossiya-24 said a 14-year-old girl was killed at the concert in Miass, 900 miles (1,400 kilometers) east of Moscow.
Fourteen ambulances were called to the scene, the channel said, citing witness accounts. The motive for the attack was not known, and authorities couldn't be reached for comment. The ITAR-Tass agency said local police had refused comment.
Many of Russia's top rock acts were attending the "Tornado" rock festival, the agency said.
Russia has an ingrained neo-Nazi skinhead movement. Attacks on dark-skinned foreigners in Moscow and St. Petersburg have been relatively common in recent years. The January 2009 murder of lawyer Stanislav Markelov and journalist Anastasiya Baburova prompted a Kremlin crackdown on ultranationalists, who were blamed for the killings.
In April, a Moscow court banned the far-right Slavic Union, whose Russian acronym SS intentionally mimicked that used by the Nazis' infamous paramilitary. The group was declared extremist and shut down. Then the group's leader, Dmitry Demushkin, told The Associated Press it tried to promote its far-right agenda legally and warned that the ban would enrage and embolden Russia's most radical ultranationalists.
Russia's ultranationalist movement is so deeply embedded in the country's culture that militant groups have sprouted up around Russia to fight it. Anti-racist groups regularly spearhead attacks on ultranationalists, sparking revenge assaults in an intensifying clash of ideologies.
Neo-Nazi and other ultranationalist groups mushroomed in Russia after the 1991 Soviet collapse. The influx of immigrant workers and two wars with Chechen separatists triggered xenophobia and a surge in hate crimes.
Racially motivated attacks, often targeting people from Caucasus and Central Asia, peaked in 2008, when 110 were killed and 487 wounded, an independent watchdog, Sova, said. The Moscow Bureau for Human Rights estimated that some 70,000 neo-Nazis were active in Russia — compared with a just few thousand in the early 1990s.

New video shows emotional trapped Chilean miners

SAN JOSE MINE, Chile – A new video released Sunday of 33 men trapped in a mine under Chile's Atacama Desert shows them sending greetings to their families, talking about how they are doing better since receiving food and breaking into tears as they talk about loved ones.
In the video, the men are shirtless because of the heat in the mine and wearing what look like white surgical pants, special clothing sent down to help keep them dry.
Most are upbeat, expressing gratitude to their families and the rescuers for the support they are receiving via handwritten notes sent to them through three small bore holes. Authorities also send food, water, medicine and other goods to them through the three holes.
But when it comes time to speak about their wives and children, many of the men break down.
"I'm sending my greetings to Angelica. I love you so much, darling," said 30-year-old Osman Araya, as his voice chokes and he begins to cry. "Tell my mother, I love you guys so much. I'll never leave you, I will fight to the end to be with you."
Araya and 32 fellow miners were trapped by the Aug. 5 collapse of the main shaft of the San Jose gold and silver mine in northern Chile. They only gained contact with the outside after 17 days — during which they rationed 48-hours worth of food and dug for water in the ground. On Monday, the men will equal a mark set by three miners who survived 25 days trapped in a flooded mine in southern China last year. Few other rescues have taken more than two weeks.
One miner explains to the family of 28-year-old Ariel Ticona that he didn't want to appear on camera — apparently because he is shy — but that he was sending his love to them and that, according to an unidentified speaker, he "is super happy and he is super, super, super well!"
This video, in contrast to the first 45-minute video released by the government on Thursday, shows little of the men's surroundings. Instead, it appears meant as a video postcard for loved ones, as each of the 12 men who speak to the camera are given about 30 seconds to talk.
At one point, the camera pans to a larger group of men, and several animated, joking voices can be heard throughout the tape.
One unidentified man, who squints in the light shone on his face as do most of the miners, said he is thankful "for all your efforts out there."
One man shown says he is doing much better because of the food and water the miners have received.
Throughout the interviews, as the men start to choke up when speaking about their families, a voice behind the camera urges them on. "Let's go, let's go! You can do it!" the unidentified man said.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Politician raffles breast implants

Venezuelan opposition candidate for a National Assembly position, Gustavo Rojas with a contestant     
CARACAS (Reuters) – A Venezuelan politician is offering breast implants as a prize in a raffle to raise funds for his parliamentary election campaign.
"Some people raffle TVs and we decided to offer this. It's an interesting prize and there's a lot of interest," Gustavo Rojas, an opposition candidate for a National Assembly position, told Reuters while campaigning in Caracas.
Cosmetic surgery, especially breast enlargement, is widespread in image-conscious Venezuela, whose beauty queens have won numerous international pageant titles.
Even a recession has not diminished Venezuelans' appetite for cosmetic surgery, with many people taking out loans for operations.
Rojas, of the opposition First Justice party, said he was not too worried about potential feminist criticism or the medical details of his offer.
"The raffle is a financing mechanism, nothing else. It's the doctor who will do the operation, not me," he said.
"When someone raffles a TV, some people think it's a good TV but others don't like it. It's the same. I'm not showing disrespect to anyone."
Venezuelans vote on September 26 for a new parliament.

NKorean leader appears to be headed home

 A Chinese paramilitary police man gestures for a photographer to stop shooting pictures

CHANGCHUN, China – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il apparently headed home Saturday after a secretive and surprise trip that reportedly included a meeting with China's top leader to appeal for diplomatic and financial support for a succession plan involving his youngest son.
Reporters have followed a motorcade — apparently used by the reclusive Kim — around several cities in northeast China. The 35-vehicle convoy accompanied by police cars with flashing lights was seen headed to the train station in Changchun.
Kim rarely leaves North Korea and when he does he travels by special train. South Korea's Yonhap news agency reported the train left the station, although it did not give a destination.
North Korea does not announce Kim's trips until he returns home, and China has refused to say if he is in the country, even though a Japanese television station had a grainy picture of him.
Kim was reportedly accompanied by his son, Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his 20s. Many North Korea watchers predict the son will be appointed to a key party position at a ruling Workers' Party meeting early next month — the first such gathering in decades.
To pull off the event with sufficient fanfare, North Korea will need Chinese aid, particularly following the devastating floods that battered the country's northwest this month, analysts said.
"The convention needs to be festive with the party giving out food or normalizing day-to-day life for its people, but with the recent flood damages they are not able to," said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank outside Seoul.
"The most important thing on Kim's agenda is scoring Chinese aid, which will ensure that the meeting will be well received by the people."
Asked whether Kim was visiting China, a duty officer with the press office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said: "China and North Korea consistently maintain high-level contacts. We will release the relevant information in good time."
Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi sidestepped a question from his visiting Japanese counterpart about widespread reports saying Kim was visiting China, Japanese Foreign Ministry spokesman Satoru Satoh said. Yang made no response to the query but said China will continue cooperating with Japan on the North Korea issue, Satoh said.
South Korea's Chosun Ilbo newspaper and Yonhap both reported that Kim was believed to have met Chinese President Hu Jintao in Changchun on Friday.
The Dong-a Ilbo newspaper carried a similar report, saying the two are believed to have discussed the North's succession, the resumption of six-nation talks on North Korea's nuclear program, and ways to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation.
China, as North Korea's biggest diplomatic ally and a major source of food aid and oil, would expect to be kept in the loop about major political transitions in the North, but the Beijing leadership is not likely to be enthusiastic about the prospect of another dynastic succession next door, said Zhu Feng, director of Peking University's Center for International and Strategic Studies.
Kim also badly needs Chinese aid because of flooding earlier this month that damaged or destroyed more than 7,000 homes, and inundated 17,800 acres (7,200 hectares) of farmland close to the border with China, the North's official Korean Central News Agency reported this week.
KCNA said China has already agreed to deliver some aid to help North Korea cope with the disaster but didn't give specifics.
The North faces chronic food shortages and has relied on outside aid to feed much of its 24 million people since a famine that is believed to have killed as many as 2 million people in the 1990s.
In an attempt to improve its meager economy, it has experimented with limited market reforms and sought foreign investment, mostly from China and South Korea. But tensions with the South have caused trade and joint economic projects with the South to wither and raised the importance of Pyongyang's ties to Beijing.
Associated Press writers Hyung-jin Kim in Seoul, South Korea, and Scott McDonald in Beijing contributed to this report.

14 militants, 2 policeman killed in Russia

NALCHIK, Russia – At least 14 suspected militants and two police officers were killed during security raids in Russia's volatile North Caucasus, police said Saturday.
Nine suspected militants were killed in two separate shootouts with police in the Kabardino-Balkariya republic late Friday, a police spokesman Roman Golubev told The Associated Press. Two of those killed were suspected of organizing a bombing in May that killed one man and wounded dozens, Russia's Investigative Committee, the country's main investigative body, said in a statement.
Separately, five suspected militants and two police officers were killed in another shootout Friday in the nearby republic of Dagestan, local police spokesman Magomed Tagirov said.
Those militants allegedly had ties to warlord Magomedali Vagabov, who was behind the Moscow metro bombings in April that 40 killed people and left scores wounded, the investigative agency statement said. Vagabov himself was killed in a shootout with security forces in Dagestan last week, authorities said.
Security forces were searching the mountains outside the village of Gubden on Saturday for the group's remaining members, Dagestan police spokesman Vyacheslav Gasanov said.
Russia has been fighting an Islamic insurgency in its southern regions following two wars in Chechnya in the past 15 years. The militants say they seek an Islamic emirate across the North Caucasus. While violence has subsided in Chechnya, militants are becoming increasingly active in neighboring regions.
More than 30 militants have been killed in raids in North Caucasus this month and a number of "terrorist attacks" have been prevented, federal security chief Alexander Bortnikov told President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday in remarks broadcast on state-run television.
Rights activists say the militants' attacks have been provoked in part by extrajudicial killings, torture and kidnappings allegedly carried out by police under the pretext of fighting terrorism.
Dagestan's leader appealed to Medvedev earlier this month to bolster security forces in the republic, citing a surge in terrorist activity.
Associated Press writers Sergey Venyavsky in Rostov-on-Don and Nataliya Vasilyeva in Moscow contributed to this report.

Afghan militants in US uniforms storm 2 NATO bases

 KABUL, Afghanistan – U.S. and Afghan troops repelled attackers wearing American uniforms and suicide vests in a pair of simultaneous assaults before dawn Saturday on NATO bases near the Pakistani border, including one where seven CIA employees died in a suicide attack last year.
The raids appear part of an insurgent strategy to step up attacks in widely scattered parts of the country as the U.S. focuses its resources on the battle around the Taliban's southern birthplace of Kandahar.
Also Saturday, nearly 50 female pupils and teachers were rushed to the hospital after an apparent toxic gas attack at a Kabul high school, the government said. It was the second case of poisoning at a girls' school in the capital this week. Officials suspect the Taliban, who oppose female education.
The militant assault in the border province of Khost began about 4 a.m. when dozens of insurgents stormed Forward Operating Base Salerno and nearby Camp Chapman with mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons, according to NATO and Afghan police.
Two attackers managed to breach the wire protecting Salerno but were killed before they could advance far onto the base, NATO said. Twenty-one attackers were killed — 15 at Salerno and six at Chapman — and five were captured, it said.
Three more insurgents, including a commander, were killed in an airstrike as they fled the area, NATO said.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said two Afghan soldiers were killed and three wounded in the fighting. Four U.S. troops were wounded, NATO officials said.
U.S. and Afghan officials blamed the attack on the Haqqani network, a Pakistan-based faction of the Taliban with close ties to al-Qaida. Camp Chapman was the scene of the Dec. 30 suicide attack that killed the seven CIA employees.
Afghan police said about 50 insurgents took part in the twin assaults. After being driven away from the bases, the insurgents approached the nearby offices of the governor and provincial police headquarters but were also scattered, said Khost provincial police Chief Abdul Hakim Ishaqzai.
"Given the size of the enemy's force, this could have been a major catastrophe for Khost. Luckily we prevented it," he said.
Small-arms fire continued through the morning, while NATO helicopters patrolled overhead. The dead were wearing U.S. Army uniforms, which can be easily purchased in shops in Kabul and other cities, possibly pilfered from military warehouses.
The twin attacks appeared to be part of a growing pattern of insurgent assaults far from the southern battlefields of Kandahar and Helmand provinces, which have been the main focus of the U.S. military campaign. Last December, President Barack Obama ordered 30,000 reinforcements to Afghanistan, most to the Kandahar area where the Islamist movement was organized in the mid-1990s.
Late Friday, insurgents stormed a police checkpoint in Takhar province near the northern border with Tajikistan. The Interior Ministry said nine insurgents were killed and 12 wounded with no losses on the government side. The day before, Taliban fighters killed eight Afghan policemen in a raid on a checkpoint outside the northern city of Kunduz.
And on Wednesday, an Afghan police driver with family links to the Taliban killed three Spaniards — two police trainers and their interpreter — at a training center in the northern province of Badghis.
Although the Afghan capital is relatively secure, incidents apparently directed at female students have raised concern about Taliban intimidation within the city.
The Health Ministry said 48 pupils and teachers at the Zabihullah Esmati High School were rushed to hospitals after falling ill with breathing problems and nausea. All but nine were treated and released after blood samples were taken to try to determine the cause.
On Wednesday, dozens of students and teachers at another Kabul girls' school became sick when an unknown gas spread through classrooms, education officials said. The cause of that incident has not been determined, but officials fear the apparent poisonings could be part of an insurgent campaign to frighten girls from attending school.
Also Saturday, the government criticized U.S. media reports that alleged numerous Afghan officials had received payments from the CIA. A presidential office statement did not address or deny any specific allegations, but called the reports an insult to the government and an attempt to defame people within it.
The New York Times reported Thursday that the CIA had been paying Mohammed Zia Salehi, the chief of administration for Afghanistan's National Security Council, who was arrested last month as part of an investigation into corruption. The Washington Post reported the next day the agency was making payments to a large number of officials in President Hamid Karzai's administration.
"Afghanistan believes that making such allegations will not strengthen the alliance against terrorism and will not strengthen an Afghanistan based on the law and rules, but will have negative effects in those areas," the statement by Karzai's office said, without commenting on the substance of the reports.
"We strongly condemn such irresponsible allegations which just create doubt and defame responsible people of this country," it said.
Meanwhile, NATO issued a statement saying coalition helicopter pilots were not responsible for the deaths of three Afghan policemen killed Aug. 20 in what had been considered a friendly fire incident in Jowzjan province's Darzab district.
It said the helicopters showed up hours after fighting began and it was possible the three had been killed earlier.
All Afghan forces had also been ordered to remain inside compounds at the time the two helicopters fired a missile and 80 30-millimeter rounds at an insurgent firing position, NATO said.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Violence targets police, media in Mexico massacre

REYNOSA, Mexico – A car explodes outside a police station, another outside a television station. A drug gang is suspected of massacring 72 migrants. A prosecutor investigating those deaths suddenly disappears.
Mexico's drug cartels seem to be adopting the tactics of war zones half a world away.
The violence has contributed to fewer migrants crossing the border into the U.S., officials say, because they have to traverse some of Mexico's most dangerous territory to get to Texas. Mexican officials, meanwhile, warn there likely will be more bloodshed in the coming months.
"Violence will persist and even intensify," President Felipe Calderon said Friday at a forum on security where he vowed he would not back down.
The two car explosions happened early Friday morning less than 45 minutes apart in Ciudad Victoria, the capital of the northern state of Tamaulipas near where the slaughtered migrants were found.
The first exploded in front of the offices of the Televisa network and the second in front of transit police offices. There were no injuries, though both caused some damage to buildings, and the Televisa blast knocked out the network's signal for several hours.
The network described the explosion as a car bomb, but the state attorney general's office could not confirm that.
If the explosions were car bombs, it would mean a total of four so far this year in Mexico — a new and frightening tactic that officials say the cartels are using in the escalating drug war.
The prosecutor, Roberto Jaime Suarez, disappeared Wednesday, a day after the 72 bodies were discovered at a ranch outside the northern town of San Fernando, officials said. A transit police officer in the cartel-dominated town was also missing.
No drug gangs claimed responsibility for the violence.
But the massacre's lone survivor, 18-year-old Luis Freddy Lala Pomavilla, said the killers identified themselves as Zetas, a group started by former Mexican army special forces soldiers and is now a lethal drug gang that has taken to extorting migrants.
Lala, who is recovering from a gunshot wound to the neck and is under heavy guard, told investigators the migrants from Central and South America were intercepted on a highway by five cars, according to his statement that The Associated Press had access to Friday.
More than 10 gunmen jumped out and identified themselves as Zetas, Lala said. They tied up the migrants and took them to the ranch, where they demanded the migrants work for the gang. When most refused, they were blindfolded, ordered to lie down and shot.
Lala's mother, who lives in the United States with her husband, said she spoke to her son Friday for the first time since the attack. She said she'd been trying to reach him since he didn't arrive at their home as scheduled.
"Every afternoon, I was buying phone cards to call the coyote (smuggler) and find out where my son is," she said. "I did nothing but call and call and call, and there was never an answer."
Then a Mexican hospital worker called and told them their son had been in "an accident."
The AP is not identifying the woman or her location because of potential danger.
Lala has been offered a humanitarian visa that would allow him to stay in Mexico, Immigration Commissioner Cecilia Romero said Friday. But his mother said he was pleading for her to help him get to the U.S.
Investigators have identified 31 of the dead migrants, whose bodies were taken to Reynosa, a city across the border from McAllen, Texas. Those identified include 14 Hondurans, 12 Salvadorans, four Guatemalans and one Brazilian.
The migrants were killed Sunday, Honduran Deputy Foreign Minister Alden Rivera said, citing a Mexican government report. The bodies were already decomposing when Mexican marines found them Tuesday, bound, blindfolded and slumped against a wall at the ranch outside San Fernando.
Rivera said only the 31 identified dead carried documents. Investigators are collecting DNA from the rest, but Rivera said it may be impossible to identify more.
Meanwhile, the bodies of 14 people were found dumped in various locations around the Pacific Coast resort of Acapulco on Friday, and the bodies of eight people who had been shot and burned were found in a car outside the border city of Ciudad Juarez.
The U.S. State Department issued a new warning for Americans living or traveling in Mexico, particularly in border cities. U.S. diplomats in the northern industrial city of Monterrey were told to move their children out of the area — which is also plagued by fighting between the Zetas and its rivals — after a deadly shootout last week in front of the American Foundation School, where many American students are enrolled.
The Mexican government, however, continued to stress that violence is limited to certain parts of the country.
Government security spokesman Alejandro Poire broke the wave of violence down to seven conflicts, and said 80 percent of more than 28,000 drug-related killings since late 2006 have been confined to just 162 of nearly 2,500 Mexican cities.
Kidnappings and attacks on government security patrols are rampant on the highways surrounding San Fernando. Last month, the bodies of 15 people were dumped in the middle of the road from San Fernando to Matamoros, a city across the border from Brownsville, Texas.
Drug gangs have terrorized news organizations in the area, where journalists have been killed and newspaper offices attacked to quiet coverage.
In Tamaulipas, many newspapers and TV stations have simply stopped reporting on the violence. The day after the massacre was discovered, local newspapers carried headlines about the new school year. Even the national Mexican media have covered the story without bylines, as did the Brownsville Herald in Texas.
Mexico's "increasing insecurity" has contributed to a sharp drop in the numbers of migrants in Mexico over the past year, the immigration commissioner said. But Romero said the U.S. economic slump and tighter border security are the main factors.
Mexican immigration agents have rescued 2,750 migrants this year, some stranded in deserts and others who were being held captive by organized crime gangs, Romero added. In Tamaulipas, alone, agents rescued 812 migrants kidnapped by drug gangs, she said. Many of those migrants told authorities the cartels tried to force them into drug trafficking.
"We perhaps saved them from being massacred like the 72 that we lost this time," she said.
Associated Press writers Olga R. Rodriguez, Katherine Corcoran and Alexandra Olson in Mexico, Juan Carlos Llorca in Guatemala and Samantha Henry in the United States contributed to this report.

PR police arrest runaway Russian in homicide case

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico – A Russian man who walked out of a Puerto Rico courtroom before a judge could consider a negligent homicide charge against him has been detained at the airport.
Authorities say Dodik Siyunov was not under guard when he left the court. He was arrested later Friday before boarding a plane at the Luis Munoz Marin International Airport.
Prosecutor Ines Escobar says Siyunov's lawyer told the judge after his 27-year-old client left that he intended to travel back to New York, where he lives.
The judge approved the negligent homicide charge against Siyunov in absentia.
Siyunov is accused of running over a couple in Palmas del Mar on Aug. 10, killing a 21-year-old woman and injuring her 23-year-old husband.
(This version CORRECTS charge in headline to negligent homicide instead of murder.)

NKorean leader's trip spurs succession speculation

CHANGCHUN, China – North Korean dictator Kim Jong Il reportedly met top Chinese leaders on Friday in an apparent bid for Beijing's diplomatic and financial support for a succession plan involving his third and youngest son, who is said to be traveling with him.
Many North Korea watchers predict the son — Kim Jong Un, believed to be in his 20s — will be appointed to a key party position at a ruling Workers' Party meeting early next month — the first such gathering in decades.
To pull off the event with sufficient fanfare, North Korea will need Chinese aid, particularly following the devastating floods that battered the country's northwest this month, analysts said.
"The convention needs to be festive with the party giving out food or normalizing day-to-day life for its people but with the recent flood damages, they are not able to," said Cheong Seong-chang, a senior fellow at the Sejong Institute think tank outside Seoul.
"The most important thing on Kim's agenda is scoring Chinese aid, which will ensure that the meeting will be well received by the people."
Choi Jae-sung, an opposition lawmaker in South Korea's parliamentary intelligence committee, told The Associated Press that Kim Jong Il had breakfast Friday with a member of China's powerful Politburo Standing Committee in a hotel in northeast China's Jilin city, where he apparently stayed the night before.
Choi said Kim Jong Un accompanied his father, citing unidentified sources.
South Korea's MBC television reported Kim may later have met President Hu Jintao in Changchun, about an hour's drive from Jilin. It cited an unidentified diplomatic source in Beijing as saying Hu arrived in the afternoon and the two held talks at the city's South Lake Hotel.
South Korea's Yonhap news agency cited several unidentified diplomatic sources as saying Hu had gone to Changchun.
Asked whether Kim was visiting China, a duty officer with the press office of the Chinese Foreign Ministry said late Friday that "China and North Korea consistently maintain high level contacts. We will release the relevant information in good time."
China, as North Korea's biggest diplomatic ally and a major source of food aid and oil, would expect to be kept in the loop about major political transitions in Pyongyang, but the Beijing leadership is not likely to be enthusiastic about the prospect of another dynastic succession next door, said Zhu Feng, director of Peking University's Center for International and Strategic Studies.
Kim has three sons but is said to favor the youngest, despite his youth and inexperience. However, little is known about Kim Jong Un. The only known photo of him was taken when he was a child. If he assumes power, it will continue a dynastic tradition that began when Kim Jong Il took over after the death of his father, the late President Kim Il Sung.
"No, I don't think that China will be pleased to see that sort of succession, with Kim Jong Il's third son also now taking over as prince heir," said Zhu. "We would like to see the transition of power go smoothly but I don't think China will show any admiration for this sort of succession."
Kim Jong Il received years of support from his father, who appointed him to crucial posts, purged opponents, fostered contacts with powerful members of the government and created a cult of personality for him. Kim Jong Un has received little of this preparation.
Yet, withholding support is not a real option for Beijing because stability in North Korea remains a strategic priority for the Chinese government, said Shi Yinhong, a professor of international relations at Renmin University in Beijing.
"Whomever leads this regime, China has to accept it, and he will be at minimum a friend to China," Shi said. "I think China's relationship to this succession process is much simpler than most people around the world take into account."
"For China, this is an issue of having, at minimum, stability for its neighbor," he said.
Associated Press writers Jean H. Lee, Kwang-tae Kim and Sangwon Yoon in Seoul, South Korea, and Alexa Olesen in Beijing contributed to this report.