- The Washington Times - Friday, January 8, 2010

AFGHANISTAN

2 from Blackwater charged in killings

Two former Blackwater employees have been charged in the killings of two Afghans in Kabul last year and could face the death penalty, the Justice Department said Thursday.

Justin Cannon, 27, of Corpus Christi, Texas, and Christopher Drotleff, 29, of Virginia Beach, have been charged with second-degree murder after the shooting deaths of the two Afghan men.

They were also charged with attempted murder, after a third man was wounded in the Kabul incident on May 5, when Mr. Cannon and Mr. Drotleff were working as contractors for the Department of Defense.

Both men were arrested Thursday after the 13-count grand jury indictment.

Blackwater, a private security firm which has changed its name to Xe after a series of highly publicized controversies in Iraq, is headquartered in North Carolina. The two men were employed by Paravant LLC which is a subsidiary of Xe.

GAZA STRIP

Israel launches air strikes

GAZA CITY | Israel launched three air strikes in the Gaza Strip on Thursday, witnesses and the Islamist group Hamas said, after a day in which about a dozen mortar bombs and rockets fired from the territory struck inside the Jewish state.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attacks in Gaza City and Khan Younis, which caused explosions, and sent smoke and flames shooting into the air. There were also no casualties from the attacks on Israel.

The strike appeared to be Israel’s first inside the crowded city of Gaza since a three-week offensive last January in which 1,400 Palestinians and 13 Israelis were killed.

Israeli media reports said Israel had targeted a weapons factory in Gaza City.

EGYPT

Christians riot after attack kills 7

CAIRO | Thousands of Egyptian Christians went on a rampage Thursday after six members of their ancient community were gunned down as they left midnight Mass for Coptic Christmas in a southern town. A Muslim guard was also killed, and nine others wounded, including three in serious condition.

The eruption of violence in Nag Hamadi, a mixed Christian-Muslim town with a history of religious tensions, served as a reminder of the government’s chronic failure to address sectarian strains in the society at a time when Islamic militancy is gaining ground.

Thursday’s violence began when Christians smashed ambulances outside the town’s main hospital in frustration over delays in turning over the bodies for burial.

The violence followed an attack in which three gunmen in a car opened up with automatic guns on a crowd leaving a church in Nag Hamadi, about 40 miles north of the ancient ruins of Luxor.

SRI LANKA

U.N. expert cites video of execution

UNITED NATIONS | A U.N. human rights investigator said Thursday that a videotape of an apparent execution of blindfolded and naked Tamils by Sri Lankan soldiers probably is authentic and called for a war-crimes investigation.

Philip Alston did not specify who should undertake his recommended investigation into war crimes and other grave violations of human rights purportedly committed in Sri Lanka.

The government’s 25-year war against Tamil Tiger rebels ended in May, with U.N. reports saying more than 7,000 civilians were killed in the final spasm of fighting as government forces closed in.

Hundreds of thousands of ethnic minority Tamil civilians were trapped in a sprawling tent city along a northeastern coastal strip of this Indian Ocean island nation.

Britain’s Channel 4 TV station released the video footage in August. The video had been shot by a Sri Lankan soldier in January 2009 using a mobile phone, according to the group Journalists for Democracy in Sri Lanka.

BRITAIN

Eurostar train delayed in Chunnel

LONDON | Eurostar was hit by new problems Thursday as a high-speed train traveling from Brussels to London was stuck in the Channel Tunnel for about two hours because of what the company called a technical problem.

The train was towed to a station in southern England, where passengers were transferred to another train that arrived about three hours late to London’s St. Pancras station, a company spokesman said.

The breakdown caused delays Thursday across Eurostar’s network, the only rail link between Britain and the European continent through the 32-mile-long Channel Tunnel.

Late last month, Eurostar rail link came to a standstill for days because of train breakdowns that left thousands of passengers stranded for many hours in the tunnel beneath the English Channel.

BRITAIN

Anthrax outbreak kills 6 drug addicts

LONDON | Contaminated heroin may have caused an anthrax outbreak among drug addicts in Scotland, killing six people and infecting 12 in total, health officials said Thursday.

All of the people stricken with the bacterial disease were believed to be heroin users, said a spokesman at Scotland’s Health Protection Agency.

Experts say contaminated heroin or another powderlike substance used to dilute the drug may have spread the disease. Scottish officials warned that further cases might be detected beyond Glasgow, where four deaths have occurred. Another two people died near Dundee and Forth Valley.

Anthrax is an animal disease and regularly infects people in Africa and Asia, as well as parts of southern Europe. It can be treated with antibiotics if caught early, and does not usually spread from person to person. Left untreated, anthrax can be fatal.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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