- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 6, 2006

GERMANY

$10 million paid for Iraq hostages

BERLIN — The German government paid more than $10 million in ransom to win the freedom of two men held hostage in Iraq for 99 days, public television station ARD reported yesterday, quoting security sources.

German weekly magazine Der Spiegel also reported a ransom had been paid for the two engineers brought home last week, putting it at several million dollars more than the sum paid for Susanne Osthoff, a German woman held in Iraq last year.

Reports at the time quoted unidentified diplomats as saying the government paid a ransom of $5 million to Miss Osthoff’s captors.

Berlin has refused to comment on whether it did so for Miss Osthoff or the two kidnapped men from Leipzig, Rene Braeunlich and Thomas Nitzschke, whose release was announced Tuesday.

VATICAN CITY

Pope thanks Swiss Guard

VATICAN CITY — Pope Benedict XVI thanked the Swiss Guard for 500 years of service as papal protectors yesterday, telling the world’s smallest army to carry on with courage and loyalty and be “the true friends of God.”

The pope led a Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica to remember the 147 guards who died in the May 6, 1527, sacking of Rome, the army’s biggest loss since its creation five centuries ago. The surviving members saved the life of Pope Clement VII.

The Mass was a highlight of months of celebrations honoring the elite corps which protects the pope and guards the Vatican.

ITALY

‘Unabomber’ seen in bottle blast

ROME — A bottle exploded on a beach in northern Italy, injuring a man who picked it up, in what police said yesterday was probably the latest attack by Italy’s “Unabomber.”

The attacker has since 1994 planted exploding eggs and booby-trapped tubes of tomato paste, bottles of blowing bubbles and church electric candles in northern cities.

The original Unabomber was sentenced to life imprisonment in the United States in 1998. Theodore J. Kaczynski, a reclusive former mathematics professor, carried out a 17-year bombing campaign that killed three persons and injured 23.

Weekly notes …

Northern Ireland is Britain’s poorest region, with more than half of its population living on less than 50 percent of the country’s average monthly income, according to a government report last week. The study found that most people in the province earn less than $554 with retired elderly people poorest of all. … Builders renovating a house in Hungary got more than they bargained for when they discovered a corpse in a 66-gallon barrel of Jamaican rum they had drunk dry, a police news Web site reports. A coroner’s examination identified the body as that of a Hungarian diplomat who had died 20 years ago in Jamaica. His wife, who owned the house and recently died, apparently smuggled the corpse home in the barrel, then decided against paying to bury it.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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