- The Washington Times - Monday, January 10, 2005

NORTHERN IRELAND

Ahern accuses IRA in record bank heist

BELFAST — Irish Prime Minister Bertie Ahern said yesterday that he thought the Irish Republican Army was behind a huge bank robbery in Northern Ireland last month and that the separatist group’s political leadership must have known it was planned.

Police had accused the IRA in the $50 million raid on Northern Bank’s Belfast headquarters, undermining efforts to resume power sharing between Catholics and Protestants in the British province.

“Unless somebody can show me to the contrary … this was an IRA job,” Mr. Ahern told Irish state broadcaster RTE. “This was a job that would have been known to the political leadership, that is my understanding.”

LEBANON

Israeli, U.N. officers die in border fire

KFAR SHOUBA — Hezbollah guerrillas killed an Israeli officer in a border attack yesterday, drawing Israeli strikes that the United Nations said appeared to have killed a French member of its observer force in south Lebanon.

Hezbollah’s Al-Manar television station said the group attacked an Israeli vehicle with a bomb in the disputed Shebaa Farms border zone, killing an Israeli officer. Shortly afterward, Israeli warplanes hit suspected Hezbollah posts in south Lebanon.

Israel’s Foreign Ministry confirmed the Israeli officer’s death, but said it was not clear how the U.N. officer died.

AFGHANISTAN

Amnesty weighed for drug traffickers

KABUL — Government leaders are considering offering amnesty to drug smugglers who get out of the country’s booming narcotics industry and invest their profits in national reconstruction, senior officials said.

President Hamid Karzai has declared a “holy war” against the narcotics trade, calling it his top priority during the five-year term he won in September elections.

His office would not say yesterday whether an amnesty was being discussed. But two senior officials told the Associated Press that such a proposal was under discussion.

SWEDEN

Storms leave 11 dead in northern Europe

STOCKHOLM — Eleven persons were killed and at least four were missing after gale-force winds battered northern Europe during the weekend, causing flooding and transport chaos and leaving hundreds of thousands without electricity.

The worst-hit was southern Scandinavia, which already was grieving over hundreds killed in the Dec. 26 Indian Ocean tsunami.

The Swedish TT news agency said seven persons died during the weekend, including three whose cars were hit by falling trees.

The winds left 400,000 Swedes without power and forced the closure of two nuclear power stations. Latvia’s state power company said 60 percent of that country’s population was without electricity yesterday.

VIETNAM

Hill tribespeople jailed during holiday season

BANGKOK — Vietnamese police rounded up hundreds of ethnic minority tribespeople from the hills before Christmas and held them during the holiday period, Human Rights Watch said yesterday.

The rights group said many of the arrested Montagnards, as the hill tribes are known, were church leaders organizing Christmas gatherings in villages of the region, where there was widespread support for the U.S. side in the Vietnam War.

The group said dozens of those arrested were Montagnards, many of whom are Christian, suspected of being protest leaders or making contact with U.S.-based groups that support them.

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