- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 23, 2009

PAKISTAN

Taliban picks new chief

ISLAMABAD | The Pakistani Taliban has appointed a new chief, militants said Saturday, selecting a top commander known for his ruthless efficiency in staging attacks, including a major hotel bombing and a deadly assault against the Sri Lankan cricket team.

The appointment of 28-year-old Hakimullah Mehsud comes after weeks of speculation and reported infighting among Taliban commanders to replace Baitullah Mehsud, the group’s former chief who was reportedly killed in an Aug. 5 CIA missile strike in northwestern Pakistan.

Two close aides to another commander, Maulvi Faqir Mohammad, told the Associated Press that a 42-member Taliban council, or shura, appointed a new head because Mehsud was ill. Mohammad had announced earlier this week that he had taken over interim control of the Taliban until a shura could pick a new leader.

GREECE

Fire threatens Athens suburbs

ATHENS | Dozens of wildfires broke out across Greece, torching olive groves, cutting off villages and sending residents fleeing Saturday as one of the largest blazes swept perilously close to the capital’s northern suburbs.

Some villages threatened lay near the town of Marathon, from which in 490 B.C., legend has it, a Greek soldier ran to Athens to announce that the Persians had been defeated, giving the modern long-distance foot race its name.

Authorities told residents of the Athens suburb of Pendeli to evacuate, and traffic clogged roads leading south.

GERMANY

100 professors face Ph.D.-bribe probe

BERLIN | German prosecutors are investigating about 100 professors across the country on suspicion they took bribes to help students get their doctoral degrees, authorities said Saturday.

The investigation is focused on the Institute for Scientific Consulting, based in Bergisch Gladbach, just east of Cologne, which purportedly acted as the intermediary between students and the professors, said Cologne prosecutor’s spokesman Guenther Feld. According to reports, students paid between $5,700 to $28,500 to the company for the doctorates.

FRANCE

Man who shot at Chirac freed

PARIS | A French far-right activist has been released from prison seven years after attempting to assassinate then-President Jacques Chirac in a Bastille Day attack, a judicial official said Saturday.

Maxime Brunerie was convicted of attempted murder after he pulled a rifle from a guitar case and shot at Mr. Chirac on July 14, 2002. The attack took place during a military parade on Paris’ Champs-Elysees. Brunerie was subdued by onlookers as he tried to turn the weapon on himself. Mr. Chirac was unhurt. Brunerie, who was sentenced to 10 years in prison, was released earlier this month.

ITALY

Record jackpot finds a winner

ROME | An Italian from the small town of Bagnone, in the central region of Tuscany, won Europe’s biggest-ever lottery jackpot of more than $210.5 million on Saturday, Italian state media reported.

It was the first time anyone had picked the six-number combination of the state-run SuperEnalotto lottery since Jan. 31. The rising jackpot had sparked a betting frenzy across Italy and even lured tourists from neighboring countries to play.

The lottery has provided a welcome windfall to the hard-pressed Italian Treasury, which will keep about half of the more than $2.8 billion of bets laid since January.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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