- - Tuesday, July 13, 2010

AFGHANISTAN

Rogue Afghan soldier kills 3 Britons

KABUL | An Afghan soldier killed three British service members with gunfire and a rocket-propelled grenade in the dead of night, a betrayal that highlights the difficulties in rapidly building up Afghan security forces so that foreign troops can go home.

The soldier fled after carrying out the attack in southern Afghanistan early Tuesday, leaving his motive unclear. But the Taliban claimed that he was a militant sympathizer who was taken in by insurgents after the assault — one which could further weaken support in Britain for an unpopular war that has now taken the lives of 317 Britons.

In London, Prime Minister David Cameron condemned the killings as “appalling” but insisted the incident should not change NATO’s strategy of working alongside the Afghan army. Four other British service members were wounded in the attack on a base in Nahr-i-Saraj district of Helmand province that is home to members of the 1st Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles.

It was the second time in eight months that an Afghan turned against British troops partnering with local security forces. In November, an Afghan policeman killed five British soldiers at a checkpoint in Helmand.

UGANDA

Suicide-bomb vest found; 4 arrested

KAMPALA | Investigators found an unexploded suicide vest with ball bearings in a disco hall in Uganda’s capital, suggesting that militants had planned a third bombing during the World Cup final, officials said Tuesday. Four foreign suspects were arrested in connection with the find.

The discovery of a suicide vest in a suburb of Kampala on Monday was consistent with what was seen at the two blast sites in Kampala, said the inspector general of police, Kale Kaihura. The vest contained ball bearings, as did the bombs that exploded Sunday. Officials believe suicide bombers took part in the twin blasts during the World Cup final.

“What we found here is consistent with what we found on both scenes of crime. And so this is a very significant lead in our investigation,” Mr. Kaihura said.

Four people were arrested in connection with the discovery of the unexploded vest, said Edward Ochom, the director of criminal investigations. He said the four were not Ugandan but would not say their nationalities. Mr. Kale hinted that Somali nationals could be among those arrested.

FRANCE

Lower house approves burqa ban

PARIS | France’s lower house of parliament overwhelmingly approved a ban on wearing burqa-style Islamic veils Tuesday, part of a determined effort to define and protect French values that has disconcerted many in the country’s large Muslim community.

Proponents of the law say face-covering veils don’t square with the French ideal of women’s equality or its secular tradition. The bill is controversial abroad but popular in France, where its relatively few outspoken critics say conservative President Nicolas Sarkozy has resorted to xenophobia to attract far-right voters.

The ban on burqas and niqabs will go in September to the Senate, where it also is likely to pass. Its biggest hurdle will likely come after that, when France’s constitutional watchdog scrutinizes it. Some legal scholars say there is a chance it could be deemed unconstitutional.

The issue has been debated across Europe, and Spain and Belgium have similar bans in the works. In France, which has Europe’s largest Muslim population, about 5 million of the country’s 64 million people are believed to be Muslim. While ordinary head scarves are common in France, only about 1,900 women are believed to wear face-covering veils.

BAHAMAS

Quick guilty plea in ‘Barefoot’ case

NASSAU | The American teenager who police call the “Barefoot Bandit” was extradited back to the U.S. Tuesday, just hours after he pleaded guilty to a minor offense in the Bahamas.

Law enforcement officials escorted Colton Harris-Moore, 19, on a commercial flight to Miami to face prosecution for a two-year string of break-ins and plane thefts across the U.S. The FBI took him off the plane and put him into a waiting car. Officials said the teen was taken to a federal jail in Miami, where he is scheduled to have an initial court appearance Wednesday. It’s likely he will eventually be taken to Seattle, where he was indicted.

Earlier Tuesday, Mr. Harris-Moore pleaded guilty in the Bahamas to illegally entering the country. He had been arrested in the island country Sunday after a high-speed boat chase.

The charge stemming from his alleged crash of a stolen plane on Great Abaco Island carried a $300 fine. His lawyer, Monique Gomez, said the U.S. Embassy would pay it.

VENEZUELA

Chavez opponent detained in bombings

CARACAS | Venezuelan intelligence agents have detained a government opponent on suspicion of links to a Salvadoran man accused of bombings in Cuba.

Alejandro Pena Esclusa was detained at his apartment Monday night by agents acting on a court order, and they found what appear to be explosives and more than 100 detonators, said David Colmenares, counterintelligence director of the Bolivarian National Intelligence Service.

Agents raided Mr. Pena’s home based on information provided by the Salvadoran, Francisco Chavez Abarca, who was captured and handed over to Cuba last week to face trial for a series of bombings in 1997, Mr. Colmenares said in comments broadcast by TV channel Globovision.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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