- - Sunday, December 5, 2010

IRAQ

Foreign fighters renew threat to peace

BAGHDAD | Intelligence officials say foreign fighters have been slipping back into Iraq in larger numbers and may have been behind some of the most devastating attacks this year, reviving a threat that the U.S. military thought had been almost eradicated.

It is impossible to verify the numbers of foreign insurgents entering the country, but one Middle Eastern intelligence official estimated that 250 came in October alone. U.S. officials said the figure is far lower, but have acknowledged an increase since August.

Iraqi officials said there also has been a surge in financial aid to al Qaeda’s front group in Iraq as the U.S. military prepares to leave by the end of 2011. They said it reflects fears by Arab states over the growing influence of Iran’s Shiite-led government over Iraq and its Shiite-dominated government.

On Sunday, security official Maj. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said Iraqi forces are searching for six foreign fighters who are among Iraq’s most wanted terrorists.

VENEZUELA

Floods force more evacuations

CARACAS | Deadly floods and mudslides caused by torrential rains prompted authorities to evacuate hundreds more Venezuelans from high-risk regions Sunday and stoked fears that voters would abstain from important elections in 11 cities and two states.

Meteorologists forecast more rain in several of the states hit hardest by a weeks-long deluge. Vice President Elias Jaua announced that a dam overflowed in western Zulia state, but he called for calm, saying the incident had not caused any deaths and noting that 300 people living in villages below the dam had been evacuated.

The floods and mudslides, unleashed by more than two weeks of steady rain throughout much of this South American nation of 28 million, have killed at least 34 people and left more than 5,000 Venezuelans homeless. At least 75,000 people have taken refuge at hundreds of shelters, authorities said.

EGYPT

Parliamentary runoffs held amid fraud claims

CAIRO | Egypt held runoff parliamentary elections Sunday that are certain to hand President Hosni Mubarak’s ruling party a crushing victory after the two main opposition groups boycotted in protest of suspected fraud in the first round.

The vote, which will decide the fate of 50 percent of parliament’s 508 elected seats, was marred by reports of armed clashes in the north and south and allegations of widespread vote-buying in many constituencies in Cairo.

With a large-scale crackdown ahead of the vote that included arrest sweeps, Egypt’s ruling establishment appeared determined to purge the largest opposition group, the fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, from the next legislature. The aim seems to be to ensure the Brotherhood cannot use parliament as a platform for dissent amid uncertainty over the country’s future and in the lead-up to next year’s more crucial presidential elections.

MEXICO

Suspect arrested in infamous kidnapping

TOLUCA | Another suspect has been arrested in the 2005 kidnapping and presumed killing of a Mexican businessman whose crusading mother led a high-profile campaign that helped crack open the case.

The prosecutor for Mexico state said police arrested Jacobo Tagle on Friday but gave few details of how the capture came about. He said Saturday that Mr. Tagle tried to bribe the arresting officers to let him go.

Mr. Tagle is one of several suspects who have been arrested and accused in the kidnapping of Hugo Alberto Wallace, a 36-year-old fumigation company owner. He is presumed dead, but his body has never been found.

The case became widely known in Mexico because Mr. Wallace’s mother, Maria Isabel Miranda, launched her own investigation as well as a public campaign for justice out of frustration with the lack of progress by police.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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