- - Sunday, May 8, 2011

RUSSIA

Police foil Muslim attacks on Victory Day celebrations

MOSCOW | Russian security forces in the southern city of Astrakhan said Sunday that they foiled plans by an extremist group linked to radical Islamists to carry out attacks during Victory Day holidays.

Regional police said they had “stopped activities of members of a religious extremist group that was planning to carry out terrorist attacks during the days of celebrating victory in World War II.”

Police said they tried to detain a suspected 30-year-old militant in the city on the Volga Delta late Saturday in a joint operation with forces from the Federal Security Service. He attempted to trigger an explosive device, and police opened fire, killing him.

Security forces simultaneously detained other suspected members of an insurgent group and confiscated “a significant amount of weapons” and explosives, as well as evidence that they were planning attacks, police said.

The dead suspect was carrying a hand grenade and a homemade revolver and had a Kalashnikov automatic rifle and ammunition at his home, investigators said.

FRANCE

Town remembers WWII British airmen after 70 years

PONT SAINT MARTIN | Ten airmen from Britain’s Royal Air Force were honored in a ceremony Sunday in the French town where their bombers went down during action in World War II.

Relatives of the RAF servicemen attended the service in the Loire region south of Nantes, site of the crashes on Feb. 4 and May 8, 1941.

Their Canadian and British descendants wore red carnations during the ceremony, watched by about 100 people beneath a cloudy sky, while one was dressed in military uniform.

The tribute, marked by the unveiling of a commemorative stone near the town hall, is the culmination of three years’ research in France, Britain and Canada to trace the airmen’s relatives.

SWITZERLAND

Defense minister criticizes Obama for bin Laden remarks

GENEVA | Defense Minister Ueli Maurer criticized President Obama for announcing the killing of Osama bin Laden, saying Sunday that his remarks raised the status of the world’s most-wanted terrorist.

“It is problematic for me when a president announces this news. That way he raises a terrorist to the same level as himself,” Mr. Maurer told Swiss newspaper Der Sonntag.

“That really turns bin Laden into a martyr,” he added, saying the death should have been announced by a spokesman or in written form.

Mr. Maurer, a member of the conservative Swiss People’s Party, claimed the announcement was good for Mr. Obama’s re-election campaign.

GREECE

Finance team to open audit after euro-exit scare

ATHENS | Greece heads for another audit of its battered finances this week, after European officials closed ranks to quash fears of a Greek withdrawal from the euro cited in a German online report.

A high-level team from the European Union, the International Monetary Fund and the European Central Bank on Tuesday will pore over plans by the Greek government to cut about $37 billion over three years to help bring down the country’s enormous debt.

Socialist-led Greece is under pressure to deliver slash spending after taking a $157 billion bailout loan from the EU and IMF last year.

ALBANIA

Tense local elections test political stability

TIRANA | Voters cast their ballots on Sunday in local elections seen as a major test of the volatile Balkans nation’s stability as it seeks to emerge from two years of political crisis.

The vote, the first political contest between the ruling right and the opposition left since an anti-government demonstration turned deadly in January, started out calmly, but early afternoon incidents were reported from several places.

Early figures pointed to a bigger turnout than earlier local elections.

The run-up to the elections was marred by violence, including three car bombings, but observers and politicians said the campaign has been calmer than usual without any fatalities.

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