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World Briefs: Cardinal causes stir showing Muslim video

- - Tuesday, October 16, 2012

A Vatican cardinal has caused a stir at a meeting of the world's bishops by screening an alarmist video about the inroads that Islam is making in Europe and the world.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, the Ghanaian head of the Vatican's office for justice and peace, aired the YouTube clip last weekend during the synod of bishops, a three-week gathering of top churchmen to map out strategies to halt the decline of Christianity.

The Rev. Thomas Rosica, who briefed journalists on the closed-door session, said some bishops questioned the statistics and appropriateness of it being aired.

Vatican Radio called the clip a "4-year-old, fear-mongering presentation of statistics" that have been widely debunked.

News reports said Cardinal Turkson subsequently apologized, saying he didn't mean to cause any harm.

CUBA

Communists lift exit-visa requirement

HAVANA — The government announced Tuesday that it will no longer require Cubans to apply for exit visas, eliminating a much-loathed bureaucratic procedure that has been a major impediment for many seeking to travel overseas.

A notice published in the Communist Party newspaper Granma said Cubans also will not have to present a letter of invitation to travel abroad when the rule change takes effect Jan. 13.

Cubans will have to show only their passports and visas from the countries they are visiting.

The measure also extends to 24 months the amount of time Cubans can remain abroad. They can request an extension when that runs out.

Currently, Cubans lose residency and other rights, including social security and free health care and education, after 11 months.

Doctors, scientists, members of the military and others considered valuable parts of society currently face restrictions on travel to combat brain drain.

GREAT BRITAIN

Brits block hacker's extradition to U.S.

LONDON — A British computer hacker's decade-long struggle to avoid trial in the U.S. over alleged breaches of military and NASA networks ended in success Tuesday, as the British government ruled he is unfit to face charges there.

Home Secretary Theresa May said she had blocked the U.S. request to extradite Gary McKinnon after medical experts concluded he is seriously depressed and that there is "a high risk of him ending his life."

The 46-year-old unemployed computer administrator was accused of one of the largest-ever breaches of military networks, carried out soon after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in the United States.

British prosecutors now will decide if he should face charges in Britain.

IRAQ

Central bank head removed in probe

BAGHDAD — Iraq abruptly removed the longtime governor of the country's central bank Tuesday after he and other bank officials were targeted in an investigation into alleged financial wrongdoing.

The governor, Sinan al-Shabibi, is seen as a politically independent economist who has led the bank since shortly after the U.S.-led invasion. He has not been charged with any crime, and his lawyer insists he is innocent.

The allegations, drawn up by a special parliamentary committee established to investigate the bank, could give new ammunition to critics of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki that the Iraqi leader is trying to consolidate control over the country's institutions.

Iraq's Cabinet voted Tuesday to temporarily replace Mr. al-Shabibi with Abdul-Basit Turki, the head of the Board of Supreme Audit, until the investigation is complete.

NIGERIA

At least 24 dead from violence in northeast

MAIDUGURI — Officials said Tuesday at least 24 people were killed in a northeast Nigerian city following a night in which explosions and gunfire echoed throughout the area after an apparent attack by a radical Islamist sect.

A worker at Borno State Specialist Hospital told The Associated Press that soldiers dropped off 24 bodies there following the attack Monday.

The worker said the military identified the dead as Boko Haram members and that many of the corpses were dressed in the long robes favored by the sect.

INDIA

Pakistan blamed for killing 3 civilians

SRINAGAR — Pakistani soldiers fired heavy weapons into Indian Kashmir and killed three civilians on Tuesday, the Indian Defense Ministry said, in the latest reported skirmish between the rival nations.

The Pakistanis opened fire near the village of Churunda, near the Line of Control that acts as the de facto border in the Kashmir region, according to the Indian statement.

Pakistani army officials blamed the clash on "unprovoked" Indian fire on a Pakistani army post.

Tensions between the countries last flared after the Mumbai attacks in 2008, which India blamed on Pakistan-based terrorists and "official agencies" of Pakistan, a charge Islamabad has denied.

Two of the three wars between India and Pakistan since their creation in 1947 have been fought over divided Kashmir, which both countries claim in full.

BELARUS

Lukashenko threatens immigrant invasion of EU

MINSK — President Alexander Lukashenko threatened Tuesday to let illegal migrants flow into the European Union in retaliation for sanctions on his country.

The EU has targeted Belarus with economic and travel sanctions over human rights abuses by Mr. Lukashenko's authoritarian government.

Mr. Lukashenko said that the EU should pay Belarus for keeping the border sealed against illegal migrants.

He said Belarus no longer wants to devote resources to protecting the EU from the migrants, some of whom he said carry drugs, explosives and other forbidden items.

From wire dispatches and staff reports