- - Tuesday, August 31, 2010

AMSTERDAM

Suspicious luggage sparks questioning

Two men on a United Airlines flight from Chicago to Amsterdam were questioned by Dutch authorities after U.S. officials found a cell phone taped to a Pepto Bismol bottle and a knife and box cutter in checked luggage connected to the men, a law enforcement official said.

The official, speaking on the condition of anonymity because it is an ongoing investigation, identified the men as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al-Soofi and Hezam al-Murisi. Mr. al-Soofi had a Michigan address, the official said, but it was not clear where the two men were from.

ABC News, which first reported the incident Monday, said Mr. al-Soofi was from Detroit and that both he and Mr. al-Murisi were charged in the Netherlands with “preparation of a terrorist attack.”

U.S. officials would not confirm that.

UNITED ARAB EMIRATES

U.S. imam says mosque issue is politicized

DUBAI | U.S. election-year politics is interfering with the plan to build an Islamic center near the site of the Sept. 11 attacks, the Muslim cleric leading the project said in comments published Monday.

Kuwait-born Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been tight-lipped on the planned cultural center as he tours Persian Gulf Arab countries to speak about religious radicalism, but said he feels the uproar is linked to the U.S. congressional elections in November.

“There is no doubt that the election season has had a major impact upon the nature of the discourse,” Mr. Rauf said in an interview with the National newspaper of Abu Dhabi.

SLOVAKIA

Gunman kills 7, wounds 15

BRATISLAVA | A gunman went on a rampage in Slovakia’s capital on Monday, killing seven people and wounding 15, then committed suicide, officials said.

Five of those killed were members of a Roma family who lived in an apartment where the man began his attack with a machine gun and two pistols, said Interior Minister Daniel Lipsic.

Roma, also known as Gypsies, often face discrimination in Eastern Europe, but Mr. Lipsic and police Chief Jaroslav Spisiak said the unidentified gunman’s motive was not known.

Another man fatally shot outside the building was “probably” a member of the same family, Mr. Lipsic said.

AFGHANISTAN

7 U.S. troops killed in bombings

KABUL | Roadside bombs killed seven American troops on Monday — including five in a single blast in Kandahar — raising to more than a dozen the number who have died in the past three days.

The spike in deaths comes as President Hamid Karzai has publicly raised doubts about the U.S. strategy in the war, saying success cannot be achieved until more Afghans are in the front lines and insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan are shut down.

NATO gave no details of the Monday blasts except that they occurred in the south, the main theater of the conflict, and that five soldiers were killed in a single blast.

Witnesses said the five died when a bomb struck a Humvee on a main road on the outskirts of Kandahar.

IRAN

Slain protester’s mother seeks justice for her

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | The mother of a slain Iranian woman who became an icon for opposition protesters said she has no doubt that pro-government forces were to blame for her daughter’s death, according to comments released Monday by a rights group.

Hajar Rostami denounced Iranian authorities for supporting claims that her daughter, Neda Agha Soltan, was part of a plot to discredit the Islamic state and not a victim of harsh security crackdowns in the aftermath of last year’s disputed presidential election.

Miss Soltan was shot during a protest rally on June 20, 2009, and her dying moments were captured on video and posted on the Internet. Her death quickly became a rallying point for demonstrators and intensified international outrage at Iran’s attempts to crush dissident during the worst internal unrest since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

“She went out to protest and was killed by their [government] forces. There is no other story,” said Ms. Rostami in rare public comments to the International Campaign for Human Rights in Iran, which has offices in New York and Washington.

SUDAN

Kidnapped aid worker freed in Darfur

KHARTOUM | A female American aid worker abducted by gunmen in the Darfur region more than 100 days ago was freed Monday, an official said.

The woman, who works for U.S. aid group Samaritan’s Purse, was kidnapped in mid-May in the village of Abu Ajura, in South Darfur state, along with two Sudanese colleagues who were later released.

“She was freed a short while ago and is now at the home of the governor of South Darfur, [Abdel Hamid Kasha] in Nyala,” Sudan foreign ministry spokesman Moawiya Osman told Agence France-Presse.

The release of the woman, whose name was not immediately disclosed, was the fruit of “negotiations with the abductors,” Mr. Osman said, adding that no ransom was paid.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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