- The Washington Times - Monday, August 3, 2009

ISRAEL

Gays rally after hate-crime killing

TEL AVIV | Reeling from the worst attack ever aimed at homosexuals in Israel, members of the country’s gay community and their supporters rallied Sunday in the heart of Tel Aviv, a day after a masked gunman killed two people at a center for gay youths and escaped.

As protesters with rainbow flags mourned the victims and condemned the homophobic sentiment assumed to be behind the attack, police hunted for the assailant throughout a city that has long prided itself on a live-and-let-live attitude and a thriving gay community.

A masked man entered the center for gay teens in downtown Tel Aviv late Saturday night, pulled out a pistol and opened fire, said police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld. The shooter then fled the scene on foot, Mr. Rosenfeld said.

Photographs taken inside after the shooting showed bodies lying near a billiard table and a smear of blood on the white-tile floor.

IRAQ

Maliki confronts North-South tension

DOKAN | Iraq’s prime minister headed north Sunday to the self-ruled Kurdish region to defuse rising tensions and address a range of disputes that have poisoned relations and threatened to become a new source of conflict for the battered country as U.S. forces increasingly disengage.

The meeting came as six died in bombs in Baghdad and western Iraq.

U.S. officials have warned that Arab-Kurdish tensions could jeopardize security gains, and Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates offered U.S. help to mediate during his visit last month to Iraq, during which he traveled to Baghdad and the Kurdish city of Irbil.

Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki met with recently re-elected regional President Massoud Barzani, Iraqi President Jalal Talabani, a Kurd, and other Kurdish officials Sunday at the resort town of Dokan. The leaders agreed to establish a committee to solve the outstanding issues.

NIGERIA

Troops hunt down Islamist survivors

MAIDUGURI | Government forces hunted Sunday for surviving members of a radical Islamist sect after heavy fighting left at least 700 people dead and buildings and cars scorched.

No new fighting was reported, but a military commander told the Associated Press that many sect members were still at large. Armed with machine guns, government troops sweating in tropical heat guarded the rubble of the sect’s headquarters in this northern Nigerian city.

Moderate Muslim clerics and scholars said they had warned government officials about the sect’s violent tendencies - and that the alarms went unheeded before Boko Haram militants attacked a police station in Bauchi state July 26. Violence quickly spread to three other states before Nigerian forces retaliated, storming the group’s Maiduguri compound.

Boko Haram — translated as “Western education is sacrilege” — seeks the imposition of strict Islamic Shariah law in Nigeria, a multireligious country that is a major oil producer and Africa’s most populous nation. Sect leader Mohamed Yusuf was killed Thursday.

PAKISTAN

Taliban cleric faces criminal charges

ISLAMABAD | Pakistani authorities lodged a criminal case Sunday against a cleric who helped negotiate a failed peace deal with the Swat Valley Taliban, suggesting the government is determined not to negotiate again with the militants.

Sufi Muhammad, father-in-law of Swat’s notorious Taliban leader Maulana Fazlullah, is accused of aiding terrorism, sedition and conspiring against the government, Swat police Chief Sajid Mohmand said. The charges carry a minimum penalty of life imprisonment and a maximum of death.

The case suggests Pakistan is moving away from its past willingness to negotiate with militants, but could also be a way to pressure Muhammad to reveal any information he has about the location of the Swat Valley Taliban’s leaders, who have evaded capture despite a three-month military offensive.

Pakistani troops still skirmish with militants in the valley although the offensive is winding down. About 2 million people fled Swat and the wider region in the early weeks of the offensive, but hundreds of thousands have been returned over the past two weeks.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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