- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 12, 2007

SOMALIA

2 journalists critical of government killed

MOGADISHU — Two prominent Somali journalists were assassinated yesterday, one outside his office, the other as he returned from his fallen colleague’s funeral, authorities said.

The victims were Ali Iman Sharmarke, owner of the HornAfrik Media Co., and Mahad Ahmed Elmi, who hosts a popular radio talk show for the same company. HornAfrik’s broadcasts criticized the government and the Islamist militants who have been trying to topple the administration through a bloody insurgency.

The government accused independent radio stations of airing programs “likely to cause unrest.” On Friday, police raided Mogadishu-based Shabelle radio and detained eight journalists for several hours, said the editor of the station’s English-language service. Other stations, including HornAfrik, also were forced off the air for days at a time.

Mr. Elmi, 30, was shot as he headed to work early yesterday, according to witnesses. Mr. Sharmarke, 50, was killed by a remote-controlled land mine as he drove home from Mr. Elmi’s burial, authorities said.

EGYPT

Christian convert hides after Muslim threats

CAIRO — An Egyptian Muslim who converted to Christianity and then took the unprecedented step of seeking official recognition for the change said he has gone into hiding after death threats.

Mohammed Hegazy, who sparked controversy when pictures of him posing with a poster of the Virgin Mary were published in newspapers, was shunned by his family and threatened by an Islamist cleric vowing to seek his execution as an apostate.

Mr. Hegazy said he received telephone death threats before he went into hiding in an apartment with his wife, a Muslim who took the name Katarina when she converted to Christianity several years ago. She is four months pregnant.

There is no Egyptian law against converting from Islam to Christianity, but in this case, tradition takes precedent. Under a widespread interpretation of Islamic law, converting from Islam is apostasy and punishable by death.

NORTH KOREA

Nuclear negotiator in Beijing for talks

TOKYO — North Korea’s chief nuclear negotiator, Kim Kye-gwan, arrived in Beijing yesterday for possible talks with his U.S. counterpart, Christopher R. Hill, ahead of next week’s meeting aimed at denuclearizing the reclusive state, the Kyodo News agency said.

Last month, energy-starved North Korea shut its Soviet-era reactor and a plant that makes arms-grade plutonium in exchange for 50,000 tons of heavy fuel as part of a Feb. 13 disarmament deal struck by the two Koreas, China, Japan, Russia and the United States.

Mr. Hill will arrive in Beijing tomorrow, an embassy spokeswoman said, ahead of a six-party working-group meeting in Shenyang on Thursday to discuss ways to denuclearize North Korea.

Kyodo reported that a team of U.S. nuclear experts visited North Korea, including the Yongbyon complex at the heart of its nuclear program, and confirmed that it is no longer operational.

PHILIPPINES

Hunt for militants drives off residents

ZAMBOANGA — Thousands of people fled their homes in the southern Philippine island of Jolo as troops pursue Muslim militants blamed for killing more than 20 soldiers, officials said yesterday.

More than 10,000 people fled their homes in the towns of Maimbung, Indanan and Parang, for fear of getting caught in the crossfire, an official said. Government evacuation centers were set up to house those who escaped, he added.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the head of the army, Gen. Romeo Tolentino, to temporarily move his headquarters to the southern city of Zamboanga to oversee the offensive.

About 120 additional soldiers arrived on Jolo island by a transport plane yesterday with about 300 others due to follow soon, military sources said.

ECUADOR

U.S. told to move drug surveillance

QUITO — Ecuadorean President Rafael Correa said yesterday the U.S. should move its anti-drug surveillance flights to Colombia after its lease runs out on an Ecuadorean air base in 2009.

Mr. Correa, who took office in January, repeatedly said he will not extend the agreement letting the U.S. military use the Manta base for the air operations. In his weekly radio address, he denied that the decision would result in increased drug trafficking.

GAZA STRIP

Hamas detains 32 Fatah supporters

GAZA CITY — Hamas militiamen detained 32 Fatah supporters across Gaza, half of them after breaking up a bachelor party and beating guests with clubs and chairs, Fatah officials and witnesses said yesterday. Ten persons were hurt.

Fatah-affiliated Palestine TV broadcast footage of the arrests and later of the interrogation of a prisoner who Hamas claimed was tortured to death by rival security forces loyal to President Mahmoud Abbas.

After taking control of Gaza by force in June, Hamas promised amnesty to Fatah loyalists, and it was not immediately clear whether the arrests late Friday and early yesterday signaled the start of a crackdown on Fatah or were isolated incidents.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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