- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 7, 2009

SOMALIA

Rebels deny leader killed

MOGADISHU | Battles between rival Islamist groups in central Somalia have killed 123 people, a rights group said Saturday, and a pro-government militia spokesman said militant rebel leader Sheik Hassan Dahir Aweys died in the fighting. Aweys’ militia denied the report as propaganda.

Witnesses said scores of bodies lay in the streets of Wabho after fighters from the hardline al Shabaab and Hizbul Islam groups battled moderate Islamist group Ahla Sunna Waljamaca for control. Most of the deaths were on Friday.

The local Elman Peace and Human Rights Organization said it confirmed that 123 fighters had been killed. Among the dead in Wabho, according to pro-government Alha Sunna, was Hizbul Islam leader Aweys, a 62-year-old cleric and hardliner whom the United States and United Nations have accused of links to al Qaeda. But Hizbul Islam spokesman Sheik Musa Arale denied the report of Aweys’ death.

If confirmed, Aweys’ death would be a major blow to the rebels and a boost for President Sheik Sharif Ahmed’s government, which had tried unsuccessfully to broker peace talks with the cleric.

MEXICO

Toll rises to 35 in day-care fire

HERMOSILLO | Sobbing relatives waited outside a morgue Saturday to claim the bodies of 35 children killed in a day-care fire in northern Mexico despite desperate attempts to evacuate babies and toddlers through the building’s only exit. One father crashed his pickup truck through the wall to rescue his child.

Government officials said the day care in the city of Hermosillo passed a recent safety inspection even though the converted warehouse had only one exit and few windows. The tragedy was the latest to expose unsafe conditions at buildings in Mexico, despite efforts to crack down on code violations following a deadly stampede at a nightclub last year and a fire at a disco nine years ago.

CANADA

Mayors counter ‘buy American’

WHISTLER, British Columbia | Canadian mayors have passed a resolution that would potentially shut out U.S. bidders from local city contracts.

The resolution is in retaliation to “Buy American” provisions that were in President Obama’s stimulus bill. Mayors voted 189-175 to approve the resolution at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities conference in Whistler, British Columbia.

The resolution says the federation should support cities that adopt policies that allow them to buy only from companies whose home countries do not impose trade restrictions against Canadian goods.

The mayors also voted to hold off on any action for 120 days while Canada is negotiating a possible compromise with the U.S. government.

ITALY

EU vote a test for Berlusconi

ROME | Italians voted Saturday in European Parliament elections that have become a virtual barometer of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ability to weather a scandal over his attentions to young women.

The three-time conservative leader has bounced back in the past from corruption probes and international gaffes. Now Italians can weigh in on whether he has finally gone too far.

Despite a deep recession and unemployment aggravated by the global economic crisis, the scandal has become the focus of Saturday’s and Sunday’s balloting for 72 deputies from Italy for the European Union’s legislature. Italians were also voting for local government positions in dozens of town and provinces.

PHILIPPINES

Troops seize rebel camp

MANILA | Government troops seized a Muslim separatist rebel camp Saturday following three days of fighting that left 30 guerrillas dead, a Philippine military spokesman said.

A rebel spokesman denied any of camps had been overrun.

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front camp that was taken in southern Maguindanao province housed 20 bunkers that could accommodate about 200 fighters, said Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, spokesman for the army’s 6th Infantry Division.

Troops recovered ammunition and four improvised explosive devices fashioned from 60 mm mortars, he said.

BRITAIN

WWI veteran marks 113th birthday

LONDON | One of Britain’s last surviving veterans of World War I, Henry Allingham, who is also Britain’s oldest man, celebrated his 113th birthday Saturday.

His cake was delivered by the Royal Marines, and a Royal Navy helicopter flew overhead.

Mr. Allingham joined the Royal Naval Air Service - precursor to the Royal Air Force - in 1915. A year later he took part in the Battle of Jutland, which was the war’s largest naval battle.

In March, he was made an Officer of France’s Legion of Honor. Mr. Allingham and 110-year-old Harry Patch are the only two surviving World War I veterans in Britain.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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