- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 9, 2007

IRAQ

Kurdish city struck by suicide bomber

BAGHDAD — A suicide truck bomber devastated the security headquarters of one of Iraq’s most peaceful cities yesterday, killing at least 15 persons, wounding more than 100 and showing that no corner of Iraq is immune from violence.

It was the first major attack in Irbil, the capital of the Kurdish self-governing region, in more than three years. The victims were among 72 persons killed or found dead nationwide.

The Islamic State of Iraq, an al Qaeda front group, claimed responsibility for the Irbil blast, saying it was in retaliation for the Kurdish regional government’s decision to send Kurdish troops to Baghdad to take part in the security crackdown in the capital.

NIGERIA

Gunmen seize 4 U.S. oil workers

LAGOS — Gunmen seized four American workers as violence escalated in Nigeria’s southern petroleum-producing region, a Chevron spokesman said yesterday.

The attackers, carrying assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades, stormed a vessel carrying the workers in the southern Niger Delta minutes before midnight Tuesday, two industry officials said.

GAZA STRIP

Reporter’s captors want terrorist freed

GAZA CITY — A shadowy Palestinian militant group said yesterday that it was holding kidnapped British reporter Alan Johnston. It posted a photo of his identity card on an al Qaeda-linked Web site and demanded the release of a militant Islamic cleric held in a British jail.

The Army of Islam demanded that the British government release Abu Qatada, a Jordanian of Palestinian origin who is accused of having links to al Qaeda and is awaiting deportation to Jordan from Britain.

Mr. Johnston, a British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent, was kidnapped on March 12 in Gaza City and has not been seen or heard from since.

UNITED NATIONS

Audit of N. Korea nears completion

NEW YORK — Auditors have nearly finished a preliminary report into U.N. operations in North Korea after accusations that funds were diverted to the Pyongyang government, a U.N. official said yesterday.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon ordered the audit after the U.S. envoy for U.N. financial management, Mark Wallace, said millions of dollars might have been used to benefit the communist leadership of the secretive state.

Mr. Wallace accused the U.N. Development Program late last year of violating rules by hiring North Korean government officials to carry out its work and by paying salaries in hard currency through the government.

AFGHANISTAN

21 civilians killed in U.S. air strikes

KANDAHAR — Air strikes called in by U.S. Special Forces soldiers fighting with insurgents in southern Afghanistan killed at least 21 civilians, officials said yesterday. One coalition soldier also was killed.

Helmand provincial Gov. Assadullah Wafa said Taliban fighters sought shelter in villagers’ homes during the fighting in the Sangin district Tuesday evening, and that subsequent air strikes killed 21 civilians, including several women and children.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned last week, after reports that 51 civilians were killed in the west, that Afghanistan “can no longer accept civilian casualties the way they occur.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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