- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 4, 2004

SRI LANKA

Rebel general splits from Tamil Tiger army

COLOMBO — A general commanding thousands of guerrillas in Sri Lanka split from the main Tamil Tiger army yesterday because of disputes over the deployment of fighters.

Rebel leader Karuna, who commands forces in the nation’s east, had been arguing with Tamil Tiger leader Vellupillai Prabhakaran over sending new recruits from the east to the north.

The division — a month before parliamentary elections — deals a serious blow to the rebels, who until now have been largely united in their 19-year war for a separate homeland.

YEMEN

Al Qaeda operative held in crackdown

SAN’A — Yemen’s security forces have arrested a Yemeni believed to be a senior al Qaeda member after surrounding a group of Islamic militants in a remote region, a government official said yesterday.

Officials declined to say whether Imam al-Sheriff, a prominent Egyptian militant, was among those surrounded in the mountainous region in the southern Abyan province as reported by local media.

Al-Sheriff set up the Jihad group that Osama bin Laden’s right-hand man, Ayman al-Zawahri, once headed.

FRANCE

Parliament adopts head scarf ban

PARIS — A law banning Islamic head scarves in France’s public schools was overwhelmingly adopted yesterday in the Senate despite protests by many French Muslims that the measure is discriminatory.

The 276-20 vote mirrored support in the National Assembly, the lower chamber of parliament, which passed it 494-36 on Feb. 10.

President Jacques Chirac must now formally sign it into law within 15 days. He had said such a law was needed to protect the French principle of secularism. The law is to take effect in September.

FRANCE

Rail tracks checked in bomb threat

PARIS — Nearly 10,000 rail workers hunted for bombs along thousands of miles of train tracks in France yesterday, after a little-known group threatened attacks unless it was paid millions of dollars.

Information from the group, called AZF, led to the recovery Feb. 21 of an explosive device buried in the bed of a railway line near Limoges in central France. Tests showed the bomb was powerful enough to rupture the track.

The group’s initials are those of a chemical factory that exploded in southwestern France in 2001.

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