- - Wednesday, December 28, 2011

IRAQ

Militants attack camp housing Iranian exiles

BAGHDAD | A security official said militants fired a Katyusha rocket at a camp housing several thousand Iranian exiles in northeastern Iraq.

The Diyala province official said the attack on Camp Ashraf took place late Tuesday. It was the second rocket attack on the camp this week.

The unarmed Iranian group - known as the People’s Mujahedeen Organization of Iran - was a one-time ally of Saddam Hussein in a common fight against Iran.

The rocket fell near housing units inside the camp but there were no casualties, the group said Wednesday.

Under an agreement with the United Nations and the Iraqi government, the residents are to move to a new location in Baghdad in coming days.

WEST BANK

Clergymen start fighting during annual church cleaning

BETHLEHEM | The annual cleaning of one of Christianity’s holiest churches turned into a brawl between rival clergy Wednesday, as dozens of monks feuding over sacred space at the Church of the Nativity battled each other with brooms until police intervened.

The ancient church, built over the traditional site of Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem, is shared by three Christian denominations - Roman Catholic, Armenian Apostolic and Greek Orthodox.

Wednesday’s fight erupted between Greek and Armenian clergy, with both sides accusing each other of encroaching on parts of the church to which they lay claim.

The monks were tidying up the church ahead of Orthodox Christmas celebrations in early January, following celebrations by Western Christians on Christmas Day. The fight erupted between monks along the border of their respective areas. Some shouted and hurled brooms.

Palestinian security forces rushed in to break up the melee, and no serious injuries were reported.

MEXICO

Drug cartel leader arrested at airport

MEXICO CITY | Federal police said one of the United States’ most-wanted drug traffickers was arrested at Mexico City’s airport.

U.S. authorities offered a reward of up to $5 million for Luis Rodriguez Olivera, or “Whitey.” Mr. Olivera and his brother Esteban are accused of smuggling tons of cocaine and methamphetamine into Europe and the U.S.

Luis Olivera was indicted in U.S. federal court in 2009 on cocaine-smuggling conspiracy and related charges. Federal police said in a statement that the 39-year-old, red-haired suspect was arrested Tuesday.

His gang is known as “the Blondies.” Authorities say it formed temporary allegiances with bigger Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa cartel, the Zetas and the Gulf Cartel.

EGYPT

Mubarak back in court as trial resumes

CAIRO | The trial of Hosni Mubarak resumed Wednesday after a three-month break, with the deposed Egyptian leader returning to the metal defendants’ cage in a Cairo courtroom for the latest proceedings.

Egyptian TV showed 83-year-old Mr. Mubarak covered by a green blanket and lying on a hospital gurney as he was brought from a helicopter and taken to an ambulance for the short ride to the courthouse.

Mr. Mubarak is charged with complicity in the killings of more than 800 protesters in the crackdown on a popular uprising in January and February that forced him out of office. He could face the death penalty if convicted.

He has been under arrest since April, but he has never gone to prison and instead has been confined to hospitals the entire time. His attorneys and doctors say he is suffering from heart ailments.

Mr. Mubarak and his two sons, who are in prison, also face corruption charges.

ARGENTINA

Poisonous snakes, other reptiles found in luggage at airport

BUENOS AIRES | A man tried to board a plane in Argentina with almost 250 poisonous snakes and endangered reptiles in his baggage, each meticulously labeled with its Latin name.

Karel Abelovsky, 51, Czech citizen, was en route to Spain when airport officials made him open his baggage at Buenos Aires’ international airport after police spotted the reptiles in the X-ray scanner.

They found 247 exotic and endangered species in all, packed inside plastic containers, bags and even socks.

Authorities believe Mr. Abelovsky was a courier for a criminal group that smuggles exotic species whose exports are banned, a judicial source told the Associated Press on Tuesday. Authorities said Mr. Abelovsky had arrived in Argentina only days earlier and wouldn’t have had time to gather all the animals.

Judge Marcelo Aguinsky believes the boa constrictors, poisonous pit vipers and coral snakes, lizards and spiders could have escaped the cloth suitcase during the Dec. 7 Iberia flight to Madrid and perhaps attacked people on the plane or at his final destination in Prague, where antidotes for South American snakes aren’t common, the source added.

Mr. Abelovsky was released on about $2,500 bail after surrendering his passport and is refusing to talk, even though he faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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