Security increased after al Qaeda threat
LUXOR | Egyptian police Tuesday beefed up security measures for a Coptic festival being held in the ancient city of Luxor in response to a recent al Qaeda threat to Christians in the Middle East, a security official said.
The measures came after the deadly attack on a Catholic church in Baghdad that killed 58 people and wounded nearly 80 when militants stormed the church during Sunday Mass.
Al Qaeda in Iraq has taken responsibility for the attack in an Internet message and tied it to claims that the Coptic Church in Egypt is holding women who have converted to Islam.
The group gave the church 48 hours to release the women and threatened that, if they were not freed, al Qaeda would attack Christians across the Middle East.
The message specifically mentioned two Egyptian women who are wives of Coptic priests. Some think they converted to Islam to leave their husbands because divorce is banned by Egypt's Coptic Church.
As many as 2 million Coptic Christians are expected to attend the two-week festivities in Luxor, which began Tuesday.
Authorities say bomber was PKK member
ISTANBUL | Turkey on Tuesday identified the suicide bomber who blew himself up in Istanbul, wounding 32 people, as a member of the country's main autonomy-seeking Kurdish rebel group.
Sunday's attack targeted riot police stationed at Istanbul's busiest square; 15 of the wounded were police officers.
The Istanbul's governor office said the 24-year-old suicide bomber had joined the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in 2004. The governor's statement did not directly blame the PKK for the attack, but said police were still investigating the bombing and the bomber's contacts.
The PKK on Monday denied any role in the attack and said it was extending a unilateral cease fire, declared in August, until the summer of 2011, with the intention of opening talks with Turkish leaders.
Settlers accuse Israel of 'de facto' freeze
JERUSALEM | Jewish settler leaders accused the Israeli government Tuesday of enforcing an unofficial freeze on the construction of public housing in the occupied West Bank.
At a meeting of a parliamentary lobby group, Danny Dayan, chairman of the Yesha Council of settlers, said work on an estimated 4,000 government-funded housing units had been held up because Defense Minister Ehud Barak had not signed off on the financing.
"The construction of more than 4,000 homes in the West Bank could begin immediately if the defense minister would sign off on the tenders," he told members of the Greater Israel lobby group.
"The government respected its decision to freeze construction for 10 months, and it is time to respect its promises and authorize new projects in Judaea and Samaria," he said, using the biblical terms for the southern and northern West Bank.
Israel imposed a 10-month moratorium on West Bank building that expired at the end of September, bringing newly started peace talks with the Palestinians to a halt.
Israel has refused to reimpose the moratorium, while the Palestinians say they will not hold talks while settlers are building on Palestinian land.
Stone-throwing children under house arrest
JERUSALEM | Israeli police said Tuesday they would begin imposing house arrest on stone-throwing youths in East Jerusalem and hold their parents legally responsible for their actions.
"The police will bring the situation of children throwing stones at the police and at Jewish cars under control with court orders imposing strict house arrest on these children," police spokesman Shmulik Ben Ruby told Agence France-Presse.
The new measures are aimed at the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan, where Palestinian children and teenagers repeatedly have clashed with police and Jewish settler guards in recent weeks.
• From wire dispatches and staff reports
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