May 2002

Updated July 10, 2020 | Infoplease Staff


  • UN Drops Plans for Jenin Fact-finding Mission (May 2): Secretary General Kofi Annan disbands team that would have investigated deadly Israeli attack on Palestinian refugee camp after Israel refuses to cooperate.
  • Dozens Die in Colombia Fighting (May 2): Mortar launched by rebel guerrillas aimed at right-wing paramilitaries strikes a church in the remote northwest, killing 117 people inside. Country's highest death toll in two decades.
  • Israel Releases Arafat (May 2): Palestinian leader free to leave Ramallah compound after five-month confinement in exchange for the imprisonment in Jericho of six Palestinians. U.S. brokered deal.
  • Chirac Reelected in a Landslide (May 5): Outpolls far-right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, 82% to 18% in the second round of France's presidential election.
  • Burmese Pro-democracy Leader Freed (May 6): Aung San Suu Kyi released after 19 months of house arrest.
  • Dutch Politician Killed (May 6): Pim Fortuyn, far-right, anti-immigration populist, had been a leading contender in upcoming elections.
  • Madagascar's President Sworn In Again (May 6): Marc Ravalomanana takes oath of office a week after recount of December vote favors him over rival and former president Didier Ratsiraka.
  • Suicide Bomber Kills 16 in Tel Aviv (May 7): Blast at a crowded pool hall prompts Israeli prime minister Ariel Sharon to cut short Washington visit.
  • Pakistan Blast Kills 11 (May 8): Victims in Karachi are French naval engineers. Al-Qaeda blamed.
  • Siege at Bethlehem Church Ends (May 10): Deal calls for withdrawal of Israeli troops, who had surrounded the Church of the Nativity, and the exile of 13 Palestinian militants to several European countries.
  • U.S. and Russia Reach Landmark Arms Agreement (May 13): President Bush and Russian president Vladimir Putin announce a pact to cut both countries' nuclear arsenals by up to two-thirds over the next 10 years.
  • Military Camp Attacked in Kashmir (May 14): More than 30 Indians, including 10 children, die in Jammu and Kashmir. India blames Pakistani militants.
  • UN Overhauls Iraq Sanctions (May 14): New rules, unanimously approved by the Security Council, allow import of more goods for civilians but tighten restrictions on items that could also be used by the military.
  • Carter Urges U.S. to End Cuban Trade Embargo (May 14): While visiting Cuba, former president also criticizes Fidel Castro and his communist regime for suppressing human rights and democracy.
  • Arafat Vows to Reform Regime (May 15): In a speech to parliament, Palestinian leader calls for elections and a total overhaul of the Palestinian Authority.
  • Netherlands Turns to the Right (May 16): Christian Democrats return to power after eight years of liberal leadership. Jan Peter Balkenende becomes prime minister.
  • Sierra Leone President Reelected (May 19): Ahmad Tejan Kabbah wins second term in a landslide.
  • Sharon Ousts Cabinet Members (May 20): Fires ultra-Orthodox Shas Party ministers after they vote down economic reform legislation.
  • East Timor Declares Independence (May 20): World's newest country, led by José Gusmão, debuts to grand celebration and daunting economic woes.
  • Palestinian Militants Deported to Europe (May 22): Italy, Spain, Greece, Ireland, Portugal, and Belgium accept 12 of the 13 who took refuge in Bethlehem's Church of the Nativity. One will remain in Cyprus.
  • Pakistan Tests Ballistic Missiles (May 25 et seq.): Move infuriates international community, as tensions between India and Pakistan over Kashmir reach boiling point.
  • Colombia Elects New President (May 26): Alvaro Uribe, who vowed to crack down on rebel groups, wins in the first round of the election, taking 53% of the vote.
  • Madagascar's Former Prime Minister Arrested (May 27): Tantely Andrianarivo, ally of ousted president Didier Ratsiraka, captured in a raid. Andrianarivo and Ratsiraka have been orchestrating roadblocks to protest presidency of Marc Ravalomanana.
  • Russia Joins NATO as Junior Partner (May 28): Russia-NATO council to focus on terrorism, arms control, and regional crises. Russia will not have say in alliance's use of force or veto power on new members.
  • Libya Reportedly Makes Offer to Lockerbie Families (May 29): Lawyers for victims say Libya offered $2.7 billion to compensate families of the 270 victims of 1988 crash. Payment would follow the lifting of sanctions by the U.S. and the UN.


  • U.S. Withdraws from International Court Treaty (May 6): State department informs UN of its decision, saying it fears Americans overseas may be unfairly targeted and subject to arbitrary charges.
  • Pentagon Looks to Scrap Artillery System (May 8): Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld plans to cancel $11 billion Crusader and develop new technology.
  • House Passes Defense Bill (May 10): Votes, 359–58, in favor of $400 billion wartime legislation that funds Crusader artillery system, which the defense department wants to cancel.
  • Bush Signs Farm Bill (May 13): Ten-year, $100 billion measure will increase farm subsidies.
  • White House Acknowledges Hijacking Warning (May 15): Administration criticized for not launching an investigation last August, when the CIA told President Bush that it believed al-Qaeda was planning to attack U.S.
  • House Votes to Revamp Welfare (May 17): Votes, 229–197, to increase work requirements for welfare recipients.
  • FBI Warns of Terrorist Attacks (May 20): Officials say al Qaeda may be targeting high-rise buildings in the U.S. FBI Director Robert Mueller calls future attack “inevitable.”
  • Bush Refuses to Lift Trade Embargo on Cuba (May 20): Says sanctions will remain until President Fidel Castro initiates economic and democratic reforms and releases political prisoners.
  • FBI Lawyer Criticizes Bureau in Letter to Director (May 21): In a 12-page memo, Coleen Rowley accuses FBI headquarters of thwarting efforts to investigate Zacarias Moussaoui, a suspected terrorist.
  • FBI Agent Testifies About Memo (May 21): Kenneth Williams answers questions before the Senate Judiciary Committee about his July 2001 memo that posited that large numbers of al-Qaeda members enrolled in U.S. flight schools could use their training to launch a terrorist attack against the country.
  • Senate Passes Trade Bill (May 24): Votes, 66–30, to give President Bush power to negotiate trade agreements that Congress can approve or defeat but not amend.
  • FBI Announces Sweeping Changes (May 30): Following harsh criticism for handling of Sept. 11 attacks, director Robert Mueller outlines plan that will have bureau focus on counterterrorism rather than domestic crimes.


  • Spider-Man Smashes Box-Office Records (May 5): In first three days of release, blockbuster grosses more than $114 million.
  • Arthur Andersen Trial Begins (May 7): Accounting firm faces one charge of obstruction of justice for allegedly shredding Enron documents.
  • College Student Charged in Pipe Bombings (May 7): Lucas Helder, 21, admits that he planted 18 pipe bombs in mailboxes in five states.
  • Cardinal Law Testifies in Court (May 8): Embattled Roman Catholic archbishop of Boston says he delegated most decision making in the John Geoghan sex abuse case to subordinates and claims he has forgotten many of the details surrounding the scandal.
  • Merrill Lynch Agrees to Pay Fine (May 21): Brokerage firm to pay $100 million to settle conflict-of-interest case brought by New York attorney general.
  • Former Intern's Remains Found in DC Park (May 22): Bones of Chandra Levy discovered in a remote section of Rock Creek Park. She disappeared in April 2001.
  • Former Klansman Convicted of First-Degree Murder (May 22): Bobby Frank Cherry sentenced to life in prison for his role in the death of four young black girls in the 1963 bombing of Birmingham, Alabama's 16th Street Baptist Church.
  • Hormone Linked to Obesity Identified (May 23): Ghrelin believed to slow metabolism, cause hunger, and limit ability to burn fat.
  • Plane Crashes into Taiwan Strait (May 25): China Airlines Boeing 747–200 breaks into four pieces, killing all 225 aboard.
  • Tom Brokaw Announces Retirement (May 28): Longtime anchor to leave NBC Nightly News after the 2004 presidential election. MSNBC anchor Brian Williams will assume the helm.

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