- The Washington Times - Saturday, December 27, 2003


Authorities arrest 4,000; seize arms

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia has arrested more than 4,000 persons and seized large quantities of weapons and drugs in the south of the country, along the border with Yemen, the official Saudi Press Agency said yesterday.

The agency did not say over what time the arrests and the seizures were made in the Najran province. Both Yemen and Saudi Arabia are combating Islamist militants believed to be linked to Saudi-born Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda.

The agency said border police had recovered dynamite and ammunition as well as hashish and wine with the 4,047 infiltrators. Saudi authorities have in the past reported on arrests and arms hauls in Najran.


Fireworks blast kills 5 in Rawalpindi

ISLAMABAD — Fireworks exploded inside a flour mill in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi yesterday, killing at least five people, officials and rescue workers said.

“The explosion was caused by fireworks,” Information Minister Sheikh Rasheed Ahmed told Reuters news agency. “It is not an act of terrorism.”

Five persons had been killed, he told state-run Pakistan Television, while hospital officials said nine had been injured.

The blast occurred two days after suicide bombers narrowly failed to assassinate President Pervez Musharraf in the same city.


U.N. peacekeepers deploy in rebel areas

MONROVIA — U.N. peacekeepers in Liberia finally began deploying in rebel-held areas yesterday, almost three months after moving into the West African state to help restore peace following 14 years of armed conflict.

Around 250 Pakistani troops accompanied by tanks rumbled into Bomi County and took up positions about 15 miles northwest of Monrovia, the capital.

The area to the northwest of the capital is a stronghold of Liberians United For Reconciliation and Democracy, the rebel group whose uprising against President Charles Taylor in 1999 sparked the country’s second civil war.


Black boxes recovered from plane’s wreckage

COTONOU — Divers recovered the black boxes from the wreckage of an airliner in Benin yesterday as investigators puzzled over why the Beirut-bound Boeing smashed into the sea moments after takeoff.

Another nine bodies were pulled from the surf, taking the death toll from Thursday’s disaster to near 140, while 15 survivors were met by relatives after touching down in Lebanon.

The Boeing 727 was carrying 151 passengers plus crew, including more than a hundred Lebanese nationals, 15 Bangladeshi army officers returning from U.N. peacekeeping duty in Sierra Leone and Liberia, and people from many African nations.

A team of divers found the black boxes underwater in the plane’s tail section. The two orange-colored devices should have recorded cockpit conversations prior to the crash and any anomalies in the functioning of the aircraft.


Communications satellite launched

JERUSALEM — Israel launched its second commercial communications satellite from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan yesterday.

Live television pictures broadcast on Israeli television showed the liftoff of the Russian Soyuz-Fregat launch vehicle that carried the AMOS 2 satellite into space.

The operation was conducted by Starsem, a European-Russian space launching venture set up in 1996. AMOS 1, launched in 1996 by Arianespace in French Guiana, was Israel’s first communications satellite.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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