- The Washington Times - Monday, June 7, 2004

SAUDI ARABIA

BBC employee killed in Islamist attack

RIYADH — Gunmen yesterday fired at a two-man BBC crew as they filmed in an Islamist militant area of the Saudi capital of Riyadh, killing the Irish cameraman and severely wounding a well-known British journalist.

It was the fourth deadly attack on Westerners in the kingdom, the world’s biggest oil exporter, in five weeks.

The British Broadcasting Corp. said the two men, cameraman Simon Cumbers and correspondent Frank Gardner, were filming the house of an al Qaeda militant killed last year in a security crackdown when they came under fire.

ISRAEL

Palestinian leader receives life sentence

TEL AVIV — An Israeli court sentenced Palestinian uprising leader Marwan Barghouti to five consecutive life terms and 40 years yesterday for his role in attacks that killed four Israelis and a Greek monk — the maximum possible sentence.

Barghouti, who refused to accept the court’s authority to try him, was convicted last month. He was the most senior Palestinian tried by an Israeli court.

Israel says he played a leading role in Fatah’s violent offshoot, the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, which has carried out scores of attacks on Israelis during more than three years of fighting.

IRAN

Dissent reportedly stifled by judges

CAIRO — Iranian judges have detained and tortured writers, student leaders and political activists in secret prisons and muzzled reform-minded newspapers to “shut down” dissent, Human Rights Watch said in a report today.

“There is widespread agreement that the political environment has become increasingly abusive and defined by force,” the group said in a 73-page report based on interviews with former political prisoners.

The report echoed the pessimism of Iran’s reformist President Mohammed Khatami, who has all but conceded defeat in his struggle with hard-liners.

CONGO

Commander pulls out of key eastern town

BUKAVU — A renegade commander pulled his remaining troops out of this strategic city in eastern Congo yesterday, four days after setting off a crisis in the volatile region by seizing Bukavu.

But violence continued as assailants ambushed a U.N. convoy in an unrelated incident in North Kivu province, killing two South African peacekeepers and wounding nine others, a U.N. official said.

The fall of Bukavu was the most serious setback to Congo’s transitional government since it was set up a year ago to end the five-year conflict in Africa’s third-largest country. The crisis further strained relations between Congo and neighboring Rwanda.

VENEZUELA

Chavez backers rally ahead of referendum

CARACAS — President Hugo Chavez rallied tens of thousands of supporters onto the streets of Caracas yesterday as he kicked off an electoral campaign ahead of a recall referendum on his five-year rule.

In a river of bright red flags and banners, Chavez supporters packed a major Caracas avenue as bands blasted out salsa, folk songs and political slogans in support of his self-styled revolution for the poor.

After a year-long opposition campaign, electoral authorities last week ruled they had secured a recall vote against Mr. Chavez, a left-leaning ex-army officer portrayed by foes as eager to copy Cuban communism.

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