- The Washington Times - Monday, February 25, 2002

Taliban minister to be released
KABUL, Afghanistan Former Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil was due to be released yesterday after U.S. forces handed him over to the authorities in southern Kandahar province, an Afghan official said.
In a speech at the start of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday, Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha promised to release Mr. Muttawakil, the highest-ranking Taliban official known to have been detained by U.S. forces, the official said.
Mr. Muttawakil was considered a "moderate" in the radical Islamic militia that ruled Kabul from 1996 until it evacuated the city in November last year under U.S. air bombardment.

Egypt mourns train victims
CAIRO Hundreds of mourners gathered at a Cairo cemetery yesterday as Egypt's top Islamic cleric led prayers at mass graves for more than 100 persons burned beyond recognition in a fiery train disaster last week.
Three hundred and sixty-three persons were killed Wednesday when an overcrowded train bound for the southern city of Luxor burst into flames shortly after leaving Cairo.

Laos elects parliament; few changes expected
VIENTIANE, Laos Laotians elected a new parliament yesterday in a vote that is unlikely to change much in one of the world's last strongholds of communism: All but one candidate for the rubber-stamp legislature were from the sole legal party.
Casting his ballot in the capital, President Khamtay Siphandone said that's the way it should be.
"The people are pleased to have only one party, and have always had faith and trust in the party," said Mr. Siphandone, a 78-year-old former guerrilla who is the most powerful figure in the impoverished, landlocked country of 5.2 million.

Hajj draws to a close in Saudi Arabia
MINA, Saudi Arabia Nearly 2 million pilgrims performed the symbolic stoning of the devil and circled Islam's holiest shrine yesterday as the annual Muslim pilgrimage, or hajj, drew to a close.
The pilgrims pelted three stone pillars symbols of the devil with pebbles the size of chickpeas. The stoning ritual has been going on since Friday in Mina, outside the holy city of Mecca.
After completing the ritual, the pilgrims encircle the Kaaba, a cubic stone structure in Mecca's Grand Mosque, seven times, say farewell prayers and ask God to accept their pilgrimage, which all able Muslims must undertake once in their lives.
Jail awaits dissident in Venezuela
CARACAS, Venezuela A National guard captain who publicly called for President Hugo Chavez's resignation will be detained for 15 days, military authorities said.
National guard Cmdr. Francisco Landis said Mr. Chavez ordered the arrest of Capt. Pedro Flores on the recommendation of a military council investigating his case.
Earlier this month, Capt. Flores joined air force Col. Pedro Soto in calling for Mr. Chavez to step down and for the formation of a civilian junta to govern until elections could be held.

Ruling party defeated in local Indian elections
LUCKNOW, India Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee's ruling Hindu nationalist BJP party conceded defeat yesterday in provincial elections in an important state.
But the electoral result in Uttar Pradesh, India's most populous state, is not likely to destabilize the national government in New Delhi.

German police raid Hell's Angels' hangouts
DUESSELDORF, Germany Hundreds of German police made a pre-dawn raid on dozens of apartments and taverns belonging to members of the Hell's Angels motorcycle club in the western city of Duesseldorf yesterday, police said.
Seven club members were arrested for violating weapons and drugs laws, police said. Weapons, explosives and narcotics were found in many of the 35 buildings that about 500 police officers began searching at 6 a.m.
Police in the affluent Rhine river city said no incidents were reported during the raids.


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