- The Washington Times - Friday, December 24, 2004


Hamas scores wins in Palestinian election

RAMALLAH, West Bank — Hamas Islamist militants scored significant successes in Palestinian municipal elections, the first contested by the group sworn to destroy Israel, initial results showed yesterday.

An unofficial tally gave Hamas control of seven councils against 11 for the dominant Fatah movement. The figures were for 24 of the West Bank’s 26 councils contested in Thursday’s vote, the first municipal ballot since 1976.

The results were certain to send a message of Islamist strength to Mahmoud Abbas, the moderate leader from Fatah who is expected to succeed Yasser Arafat in a Jan. 9 presidential election and then try to restart talks with Israel.

Electoral commission officials said they would announce full council results today.


Nuclear whistleblower held near Bethlehem

JERUSALEM — Israeli nuclear whistleblower Mordechai Vanunu was detained yesterday as he tried to enter the West Bank city of Bethlehem for Christmas in defiance of restrictions imposed after his release, Israeli police said.

Mr. Vanunu, a Christian convert from Judaism, was freed in April at the end of an 18-year prison term for treason. His revelations to a British newspaper led experts to conclude that Israel had between 100 and 200 nuclear weapons.


Gunmen ambush bus; 28 killed

TEGUCIGALPA — Assailants claiming to be members of a revolutionary group opposed to the death penalty ambushed a bus filled with people bringing home Christmas gifts and killed at least 28 persons, including six children, in an escalation of the battle between gangs and the Honduras government.

The bus with more than 50 people aboard was driving through a heavily populated neighborhood in the northern city of Chamelecon on Thursday evening, police said.


IRA man’s home raided in heist probe

BELFAST — Police raided properties yesterday in two Irish Republican Army strongholds of Belfast in search of the $42.5 million stolen this week from a bank’s underground vault.

Among the properties searched was the home of Eddie Copeland, a prominent reputed IRA commander in Ardoyne, a hard-line Catholic enclave of north Belfast. Police confiscated four cell phones and his shoes — and even opened presents under his family’s Christmas tree.

Scores of officers, many in white forensic overalls, also searched properties in Catholic west Belfast, the primary power base of the IRA-linked Sinn Fein party. But they did not report any progress in their hunt for the gang responsible for Monday’s heist at the Northern Bank headquarters.


Karzai swears in new Cabinet

KABUL — President Hamid Karzai swore in a new Cabinet yesterday, promising the 27-strong group will leave their ethnicities and regional interests at the door in order to work for all of Afghanistan, and vowing swift action against any minister who doesn’t pull his own weight.

The U.S.-backed leader also voiced support for the creation of an opposition party headed by his chief rival in October elections, saying a dissenting voice would be in the interest of the country.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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