- - Sunday, June 24, 2012

HONDURAS

TEGUCIGALPA — A U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agent shot and killed a suspected drug trafficker during a raid near a tiny Honduran town, U.S. officials said Sunday.

DEA spokeswoman Dawn Dearden said it is the first time a DEA agent has killed someone during an operation since the agency began deploying specially trained agents to accompany local law enforcement personnel on drug raids in Latin America several years ago.

U.S. Embassy spokesman Stephen Posivak in Tegucigalpa said the U.S. agent was working with Honduran National Police, who arrested four other suspects and seized 792 pounds of cocaine during the operation.

He said six other people were arrested later on suspicion of aiding in the smuggling operation.

Mr. Posivak said several people were unloading cocaine from an airplane at a remote landing strip at about 12:30 a.m. when the agents swooped in on helicopters. The U.S. agent opened fire after the suspect reached for a gun in a holster, and the suspect died at the scene, he said.

Three of the men arrested were part of the ground crew, Mr. Posivak said, and the fourth was piloting the small plane loaded with the cocaine. He said their nationalities were not yet known.

The operation took place in the same region as a May 11 raid that left four passengers of a river boat dead when helicopters mistakenly fired on civilians. DEA officials say U.S. agents did not fire their weapons during that incident.

NIGERIA

Islamist sect member killed, sparking large prison break

MAIDUGURI — A top radical Islamist sect member blamed for a deadly Christmas Day church bombing in Nigeria was killed by security forces, says the sect, which demonstrated in a prison break Sunday that his death has not affected its ability to keep fighting.

A statement attributed to the Boko Haram sect and obtained Sunday by the Associated Press said the group is happy about Habibu Bama’s “martyrdom.”

Security forces in Damaturu were still reeling from days of sustained sect attacks when Boko Haram raided a police station early Sunday, freeing 40 suspected sect members, the police commissioner said.

One inmate was killed in the ensuing gunbattle, and a warden was wounded.

Bama, a former soldier, died of injuries sustained in a gunbattle with security forces in Damaturu earlier this week, Nigeria’s State Security Service said.

The sect had struck six churches, five primary schools, a police station and a police outpost, authorities said.

Bama was wanted in the Dec. 25 bombing of St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madalla that killed at least 44 people. Officials also believe he was involved in a federal police headquarters bombing last June and the U.N. headquarters suicide car bombing in Abuja in August that killed 25 people.

Boko Haram claimed responsibility for all three attacks.

IRAQ

Firebrand cleric says premier should resign

NAJAF — The firebrand Iraqi cleric whose followers are a swing vote in the nation’s ongoing government crisis said Sunday that the prime minister should resign if he cannot produce reforms.

In a rare and wide-ranging news conference, hard-line Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr admonished the Shiite-led government, saying it has shut Iraq’s minorities out of power and failed to fix legal systems and other public services.

As a result, and to jump-start the nation’s all but paralyzed government, Mr. al-Sadr said he is prepared to direct his party’s 40 lawmakers to support a “no confidence” vote against Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki - as long as he is assured other political blocs in parliament provide the rest of the 163 votes needed.

His declaration delivers a sharp blow to Mr. Maliki’s efforts to hold on to power. The Shiite prime minister kept his job after 2010 national elections failed to produce a clear winner only with grudging support from Mr. al-Sadr, an old nemesis.

PERU

Drug meeting spotlights Peru’s cocaine problem

LIMA — Peru’s struggle with a resurgent cocaine trade is in the spotlight as it hosts nearly 60 nations in a conference on illicit drugs beginning Monday.

The U.N. and U.S. say the Andean country’s cocaine production likely now exceeds Colombia’s, making it the world’s No. 1 source of the drug.

President Ollanta Humala announced an ambitious antinarcotics plan in March.

So far, though, prosecutors say the corrupting influence of drug money consistently has frustrated money-laundering and drug prosecutions.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports