- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

EGYPT

Al Qaeda figure’s kin held by police in Cairo

CAIRO — Egypt acknowledged for the first time yesterday that it is holding Mohammed al-Zawahri, the brother of al Qaeda’s No. 2 man.

Al-Zawahri had been believed in Egyptian police custody for at least three years, but the government never acknowledged it. He was sentenced in absentia in 1999 for his role in attacks by the militant group Islamic Jihad.

His older brother, Ayman al-Zawahri, is the top aide to al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and reportedly once led the military wing of Egypt’s Jihad group.

ISRAEL

Troops raid Gaza town

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — Israeli forces raided the southern Gaza town of Rafah early yesterday, killing a 14-year-old boy, bulldozing houses and damaging the water and electricity networks, Palestinian officials said.

The Israeli army said it was searching for secret tunnels Palestinian militants use to smuggle weapons across the border with Egypt. Military sources said the soldiers were attacked by militants shooting rifles and throwing hand grenades, but had no reports of the soldiers returning fire.

Hospital officials said nine Palestinians were wounded.

VENEZUELA

Chavez opponents stage protest march

CARACAS — Hundreds of opponents of President Hugo Chavez yesterday marched in the capital demanding the release of some 350 people arrested during a week of protests and rioting that have left at least eight dead.

The latest death occurred in a protest yesterday in the western town of Machiques, when gunfire from an undetermined source killed a 50-year-old woman, a National Guard statement said.

CHINA

Premier opposes Taiwan independence

BEIJING — Prime Minister Wen Jiabao said today at the opening of the annual session of parliament that China would firmly oppose Taiwanese independence and never allow anyone to split Taiwan from China. His remarks came on the eve of elections on the island.

The prime minister also vowed continued growth and increases in rural incomes with plans for a decidedly noncommunist notion: enshrining the notion of private property in the country’s constitution.

Also on the agenda at the annual meeting of the National People’s Congress was a new military budget, to be released tomorrow.

UKRAINE

Radio station head killed in car crash

KIEV — The head of a Ukrainian radio station that was considering broadcasting U.S.-funded Radio Liberty programming died in a car crash, police said yesterday. The death came the same day that another station transmitting the programs was pulled off the air.

The death Wednesday of Yuriy Chechyk — combined with Radio Liberty’s losing its second outlet in Ukraine in a month — raised suspicions of foul play amid complaints that Ukrainian authorities are rolling back media freedom.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said the United States was concerned by Ukrainian authorities’ attempts “to limit public access to independent news and information” and said the decision to shut down broadcasters was “an assault on democracy.”

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