- The Washington Times - Friday, April 15, 2005

IRAQ

Sunni cleric wants insurgents released

BAGHDAD — An influential Sunni Muslim cleric urged President Jalal Talabani yesterday to fulfill his promise to pardon homegrown insurgents and resist U.S. pressure to keep them in prison.

Militants, meanwhile, set off three bombs in the capital, killing at least one civilian and wounding eight others, officials said, the latest in a series of deadly attacks across Baghdad.

Ahmed Abdul Ghafour al-Samarrai, a cleric in the influential Sunni Association of Muslim Scholars, said during Friday prayers that Mr. Talabani should free all Iraqi detainees and refuse to “obey and kneel to pressure” from Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

AFGHANISTAN

Toddler dies suddenly after heart surgery

KABUL — An Afghan toddler sent to the United States for surgery to fix a life-threatening heart condition died in his father’s arms yesterday, two days after his joyful return home, the U.S. military said.

Qudratullah Wardak, age 16 months, died at home in a refugee village outside the capital, the military said. He had been treated at a children’s hospital in Indianapolis after U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the Rotary Club learned of his condition and his family’s inability to find care.

ISRAEL

Gunman captured in Golan Heights

JERUSALEM — A Palestinian gunman infiltrated the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights from Syria and fired on Israeli troops yesterday in a rare flare-up on the border that the Jewish state blamed on Damascus.

The army said it captured the lone attacker, a 21-year-old militant belonging to Fatah, the Palestinians’ ruling faction, and that he told interrogators he had planned to abduct an Israeli soldier and take him back to Syria.

No casualties were reported, but media reports said the army had started an inquiry into how the gunman managed to breach defenses along the heavily fortified border.

VATICAN CITY

Chimney attached to Sistine Chapel roof

VATICAN CITY — Workers scaled the roof of the Sistine Chapel yesterday and attached the chimney pipe that will billow white smoke to alert the world that a new pope has been elected, as the Vatican made final preparations for next week’s conclave.

Attached by a safety clip and cable, a worker inched down the tiled roof and uncapped a small top that had covered the chimney. He replaced it with a tall, thin pipe passed to him by another man in dress pants and a tie who was standing in an opening in the chapel’s sloped roof.

The conclave begins Monday. Black smoke means no pope has been elected; white smoke signals a new pope. The smoke is made by the burned ballot papers from each vote, treated with special chemicals to make it black or white.

SWITZERLAND

Deadly virus samples reported missing

GENEVA — Health experts have destroyed two-thirds of the specimens of a killer influenza virus sent as part of routine test kits around the world, but were still trying to trace two shipments that were supposed to go to Mexico and Lebanon, U.N. officials said yesterday.

The World Health Organization has been urging thousands of labs in 18 countries which received vials of the nearly 50-year-old H2N2 virus to destroy the samples amid fears of a global pandemic should the virus be released.

WHO influenza chief Klaus Stohr said 10 of the countries which had received samples had confirmed their labs had destroyed the virus.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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