- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 19, 2009

PAKISTAN

Suicide bomber kills 10 outside mosque

ISLAMABAD | A suicide attacker set off a powerful bomb outside a mosque in northwest Pakistan just after police officers had finished their Friday prayers, killing 10 people. The attack was the second against a mosque used by security forces in two weeks.

No group has taken responsibility for the bombing that also wounded 25 people in Lower Dir region, but the Taliban has carried out similar attacks throughout the country. Most of the victims were police leaving the mosque after prayers, said the area’s police chief, Feroze Khan.

Taliban militants have stepped up their campaign of violence inside Pakistan since the military launched a major offensive in mid-October in the militant stronghold of South Waziristan near the Afghan border.

The U.S. has also increased drone missile strikes in Pakistan’s lawless tribal area near the Afghan border, including one Friday against a house in North Waziristan that killed six suspected militants, intelligence officials said. It was the third such attack in 24 hours.

SPAIN

Catalonia moves to ban bullfighting

MADRID | The Catalan parliament took the first step Friday toward what would be the first ban on bullfighting in a region of Spain, calling for an end to the traditional spectacle by 67 to 59 in an initial vote.

The initiative to ban bullfighting, to which many Spaniards are passionately devoted but which animal rights activists consider cruel, will now go to a final vote in March or April.

The debate and first vote were triggered under Catalan law by a petition organized by Prou (Catalan for “Enough”), which collected more than 180,000 signatures calling for a bill to ban bullfighting. The spectacle has been losing popularity for some years in Barcelona and the northeastern region of Catalonia.

IRAN

Nuke chief claims centrifuge upgrade

TEHRAN | Iran’s nuclear chief said Friday the country has started making more efficient centrifuge models that it plans to put to use by early 2011 - a statement that underscores Tehran’s defiance and adds to international concerns over its nuclear ambitions.

Vice President Ali Akbar Salehi said Iranian scientists are still testing the more advanced models before they will become operational at the country’s enrichment facilities.

Tehran has been saying since April that it is building more advanced centrifuges capable of enriching uranium with higher efficiency and precision, but Mr. Salehi’s remarks were the first indication of a timeline of when the new models could become operational.

SPAIN

Dig fails to find poet’s remains

MADRID | A high-profile dig aimed at locating the body of the poet Federico Garcia Lorca, who was executed at the start of the Spanish Civil War, has yielded nothing, officials said Friday.

The announcement means that one of the 1936-39 war’s greatest mysteries - the whereabouts of the remains of Spain’s most acclaimed 20th-century poet and playwright - will remain unresolved for now.

The two-month excavation on a hillside outside the southern city of Granada had been requested by historians and relatives of a handful of men believed to have been executed and buried along with Garcia Lorca.

Garcia Lorca was executed in the opening weeks of the war by militia fighters loyal to Gen. Francisco Franco, whose rightist forces rose up against an elected leftist Republican government and ultimately prevailed.

INDIA

30,000 troops pulled from Kashmir

NEW DELHI | India has withdrawn 30,000 soldiers from Kashmir as rebel attacks decreased over the past two years, the defense minister said Friday, but more than 500,000 troops are believed to remain in the heavily militarized region also claimed by Pakistan.

Kashmiri separatist groups and Islamabad, New Delhi’s longtime rival, have been demanding that India thin its forces in the region to boost efforts to settle the decades-old dispute over the territory.

Defense Minister A. K. Antony said the Indian army withdrew one division last year and a second this year because of the decrease in violence.

KENYA

Somali pirates free ship, crew of 21

NAIROBI | Somali pirates have released a Greek-owned ship and its 21 crew members, including 14 Filipinos, after more than a month in captivity, the Philippine government and the ship’s owner said Friday.

The embassy of the Philippines in Nairobi reported that the MV Delvina was heading to Mombasa with its crew, who were safe and in good health. The ship was seized Nov. 5.

NETHERLANDS

Rapper convicted in threat to lawmaker

THE HAGUE | A Dutch rapper has been convicted of threatening an anti-Islamic lawmaker in a song.

The song by the rapper Mosheb refers to lawmaker Geert Wilders and includes the lyrics, “Geert, this is no joke/Last night I dreamt I hacked off your head.”

Rotterdam District Court sentenced Mosheb Friday to 80 hours of community service and handed him a two-month suspended prison sentence. The court rejected Mosheb’s defense that he was entitled to freedom of expression as an artist.

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