- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 26, 2008

AFGHANISTAN

10 Taliban arrested in acid attack on girls

KANDAHAR | Police have arrested 10 Taliban militants involved in an acid attack this month against 15 girls and teachers walking to school in southern Afghanistan, a provincial governor said Tuesday.

“Several” of the arrested militants have confessed to taking part in the acid attack, said Kandahar Gov. Rahmatullah Raufi. High-ranking Taliban fighters paid the militants a total of $2,000 to carry out the attack, he said.

The attackers squirted the acid from water bottles onto three groups of students and teachers walking to school in Kandahar city on Nov. 12. Several girls suffered burns to the face and were hospitalized. One teenager couldn’t open her eyes for days after the attack, which drew condemnation from around the world.

GERMANY

U.S. teams win bronze in Chess Olympiad

DRESDEN - Defending champion Armenia won the gold medal, while the U.S. men’s and women’s squads both earned a bronze medal at the 38th biennial Chess Olympiad that ended Tuesday.

In the men’s championship, the Armenians edged Israel for the top prize, while the U.S. team upset the second-ranked Ukrainians 3 1/2- 1/2 in the final round to vault into third. On the women’s side, Georgia edged out Ukraine for the gold, while a victory over France clinched a third-place finish for the American women.

The Russian men’s and women’s teams, which boasted the highest average rating in the 152-nation event, both failed to earn a medal.

IRAQ

2 U.S. soldiers killed by gunman

BAGHDAD | Two American servicemen were killed Tuesday when a gunman in an Iraqi army uniform opened fire while they were distributing humanitarian aid in northern Iraq, the U.S. military said.

It was the third such shooting in the Mosul area in less than a year purportedly involving Iraqi soldiers, raising concerns about infiltration of the Iraqi security forces in one of the most dangerous areas in Iraq.

The shooter opened fire from about 50 to 100 yards away, and it was not immediately clear if he was an Iraqi soldier or an insurgent in disguise, a senior U.S. military official said.

The American servicemen and Iraqi soldiers were passing out blankets near Baaj, a mainly Sunni area near the Syrian border, about 75 miles southwest of Mosul, when the midday attack occurred.

CHINA

EU official barred from visiting activist

BEIJING | Security guards blocked a member of the European Parliament on Tuesday from visiting an activist whose jailed husband recently won a top human rights prize.

Helga Trupel, who was visiting Beijing as a member of an official delegation, attempted to visit Zeng Jinyan, who has used her Internet blog to bring attention to rights abuses. In 2007, Mrs. Zeng was named by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people.

Mrs. Zeng’s husband, Hu Jia, last month won the Sakharov Prize for his work as an outspoken advocate on human rights, the environment and social fairness. The award outraged Beijing, which labels Mr. Hu a criminal.

PAKISTAN

Chief says air force can stop drones

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s air force is fully capable of stopping missile strikes by pilotless U.S. drones, but added it is up to the government to decide whether to do it, the air force chief said Tuesday.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have carried out at least 26 air strikes by unmanned aircraft on militant targets in northwest Pakistan this year, more than half since the start of September. Pakistan supports the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, but does not allow foreign troops or strikes inside its territory.

Air Marshal Tanvir Mahmood Ahmed said it was up to the government to decide whether to stop such strikes through diplomatic and political means or by force. “The air force is ready for any type of air defense,” he told reporters, referring to various types of unmanned aircraft.

SOMALIA

Pirates move tanker farther from coast

MOGADISHU | Somali pirates have taken a Saudi supertanker with $100 million of crude oil farther offshore in what appears to be a rare defensive move following threats by Islamic insurgents.

The pirates have dominated Somalia’s high seas for the past year, but the Nov. 15 hijacking of the Sirius Star was the pirates’ most audacious to date and prompted threats from Somali extremists.

Last Friday, Islamic fighters promised to fight the pirates and free the ship because it was Muslim-owned and flagged under Saudi Arabia. Two days later, pirates moved the ship about 28 miles, putting it about 30 miles off the coast of the coastal village of Harardhere.

DENMARK

Greenlanders vote on wider autonomy

COPENHAGEN | Greenlanders braved the gloom of a polar night to vote Tuesday on whether to seek more autonomy from Denmark, amid growing speculation that the barren Arctic island may be sitting on oil reserves.

The referendum is nonbinding, but a “yes” would be a key step toward independence for the territory, which relies on Danish subsidies to sustain its economy in one of the world’s most hostile environments.

The small, mostly Inuit population is voting on a proposal to give Greenland its own police force, courts of law and coast guard and to make Greenlandic, an Inuit tongue, the official language. Most importantly, it would set new rules on how to split potential oil revenue between Greenland and Denmark.

WEST BANK

Abbas eyes April elections

RAMALLAH | Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas plans to hold presidential and parliamentary elections in April despite opposition from Hamas rivals who run the Gaza Strip, a senior aide said Tuesday.

“The call for elections will be early January,” said Yasser Abed Rabbo. “The elections will be held three months after.”

Hamas, which seized the Gaza Strip last year after routing Fatah forces loyal to Mr. Abbas, opposes holding a parliamentary election in 2009. It could lose support owing to worsening economic conditions in the Israeli-blockaded enclave.

Speaking to reporters in the West Bank city of Ramallah on Tuesday, Mr. Abbas said: “[Hamas has] to understand that at the end of the day there will be elections.”

The Islamist group insists Mr. Abbas’ term must end on Jan. 9 and has said that it will not recognize his legitimacy after that date. Mr. Abbas says his terms ends in 2010.

LEBANON

Iran urges ally to confront Israel

TEHRAN | Iran, a main backer of Lebanon’s Shi’ite group Hezbollah, urged the Lebanese people on Tuesday to unite to confront Israel, the Islamic Republic’s arch foe.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made the comments to Lebanese President Michel Suleiman during a visit to Iran that included touring an exhibition by the Defense Ministry, Iranian media reported.

“Iran believes the capability of all Lebanese groups should be at the service of [Lebanon’s] power and unity to confront the danger of the Zionist regime,” Ayatollah Khamenei told Mr. Suleiman, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Mr. Suleiman, a Maronite Christian, was elected president in a May parliamentary vote after an 18-month standoff between the U.S.-backed government and the Hezbollah-led opposition.

Tehran has often praised Hezbollah, which has a formidable guerrilla army, for fighting Israel in a 34-day war in 2006. Israel has accused Iran of supplying weapons to Hezbollah, but Iran insists it only provides moral and political support.

YEMEN

Militants accused of tourist attack plan

SAN’A | Eight purported members of al Qaeda cells have been brought before a special terrorism court, accused of plotting to attack tourists and government facilities, a judicial source said Tuesday.

Four suspected members of one cell made their first appearance before the court on Monday while the trial of the second group, also comprising four members, began on Tuesday, the source said.

Members of the first cell are accused of “forming an armed group with the intention of attacking tourists and hotels as well as government installations,” the charge sheet stated.

Yemen has witnessed a series of attacks claimed by al Qaeda in recent months against oil facilities and security forces.

KUWAIT

Emir postpones Cabinet resignation

KUWAIT | Kuwait’s ruler decided to put on hold the resignation of the OPEC country’s Cabinet on Tuesday, leaving his options open for intervention to end a crippling crisis between the government and parliament.

The Cabinet tendered its resignation as parliament was about to look into a request by three legislators to question the prime minister, a member of the royal family, over the visit of an Iranian Shi’ite cleric accused of offending Sunni Muslims.

But the three deputies had also wanted to question Sheik Nasser al-Mohammad al-Sabah over a wide range of accusations including corruption and mismanagement in the world’s seventh-largest oil exporter.

The impasse jeopardizes crucial economic reforms such as a plan to set up a market regulator and recent measures to tackle the impact of the global financial crisis by pumping cash into the Arab world’s second-largest bourse hit by a slide.

State news agency KUNA said the Emir Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah ordered ministers to continue to carry out their duties pending a decision.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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