- The Washington Times - Monday, July 9, 2007

IRAQ

Terrorist warns Iran to stop support

DUBAI — The leader of an al Qaeda-linked group in Iraq vowed in an audiotape yesterday to attack Iranians unless Tehran cut off its support for the Iraqi government within two months.

“We give the … Persians in general, and leaders of Iran in particular, two months to withdraw their support and presence in Iraq,” Abu Omar al-Baghdadi, leader of the self-styled Islamic State in Iraq, said in a 50-minute audiotape.

In the first such threat by his group, al-Baghdadi said that unless Iran met his demands, the group would wage a “brutal war” against Iranians. He did not say whether the group would mount attacks inside Iran.

IRAQ

U.S. says al-Sadr returned to Iran

BAGHDAD — Fiery Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has gone back to neighboring Iran, U.S. military sources in Baghdad said yesterday.

Earlier this year, U.S. officials said the anti-American cleric was hiding in Iran to avoid a major security crackdown in Baghdad, although his aides say he never left Iraq. An absence of several months ended with a May 25 speech in the city of Kufa.

“Our sources do show Muqtada in Iran,” one U.S. military source said, declining to speculate on the reasons for the return. A senior aide to Sadr denied that the cleric had left Iraq.

NIGERIA

Kidnappers release British girl, 3

PORT HARCOURT — A British toddler was released by gunmen in southern Nigeria yesterday and reunited with her parents, who said she was fine but hungry and covered in mosquito bites.

Mike Hill, the father of 3-year-old Margaret Hill, told Sky News by telephone that no ransom was paid.

Gunmen seized Margaret while the car taking her to school idled in traffic Thursday in Port Harcourt, an oil-industry center. Her Nigerian mother, Oluchi Hill, said the abductors threatened to kill the girl if the parents did not meet their demands.

Her father has lived in Nigeria for years and works in the energy industry.

ISRAEL

Release approved for 250 Palestinians

JERUSALEM — The Cabinet agreed yesterday to release 250 Palestinian prisoners in the latest attempt to strengthen Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas after Hamas’ seizure of the Gaza Strip.

“I think this is a worthy gesture to make … because we want to use any means that can reinforce moderate elements in the Palestinian Authority,” Prime Minister Ehud Olmert told the Cabinet in broadcast remarks.

Mr. Olmert pledged to free prisoners of Mr. Abbas’ Fatah movement in a June 25 summit with the Palestinian leader as part of a Western campaign to bolster the new administration that he named after firing a unity government with Hamas Islamists.

AFGHANISTAN

Anti-narcotics chief quits after big crop

KABUL — The counternarcotics minister resigned only weeks after Afghan laborers finished cultivating an opium poppy crop that could exceed last year’s record haul. Much of the profit from the country’s $3.1 billion drug trade is thought to fund Taliban fighters.

Habibullah Qaderi submitted his resignation to the president about five days ago, said Gen. Khodaidad, the deputy minister for counternarcotics. The resignation was voluntary and driven in part by health problems, he said, although Mr. Qaderi has taken a new position in Canada as Afghanistan’s consulate general.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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