- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 10, 2004


Militant cleric to be freed early

JAKARTA — Indonesia’s best-known militant cleric, Abu Bakar Bashir, will be released from prison April 4, after the Supreme Court cut his three-year sentence in half, a court official said yesterday.

Bashir, 65, was detained shortly after the October 2002 Bali bombings amid accusations that he led Jemaah Islamiyah, the al Qaeda-linked regional Islamic terror group blamed for the blasts.

He was not implicated in the bombings, which killed 202 persons, and instead was convicted on unrelated forgery and immigration charges. It was the second time his jail term has been cut.


Long-range missile successfully tested

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan yesterday successfully test fired for the first time a long-range ballistic missile capable of carrying nuclear warheads to every corner of neighboring archrival India.

The two-stage Shaheen II missile system can carry all types of warheads up to 1,250 miles, the Pakistan military said, far exceeding the former longest-range Ghauri, which had a 900-mile reach.

The test came after Israel last week concluded a deal to sell India a strategic airborne radar system, despite warming ties between Islamabad and New Delhi.


Suicide attack kills 2 at Masonic lodge

ISTANBUL — Two persons were killed and six were wounded yesterday when two suicide bombers attacked a Masonic lodge in Turkey’s commercial capital, Istanbul, the city’s governor said.

The assailants shot their way into a restaurant on the ground floor of the lodge in the Kartal district after wounding a security guard, Muammer Guler told reporters at the site of the blast.

One of the assailants set off explosives wrapped to his body, killing himself and a nearby waiter, the governor said.


Putin replaces foreign minister

MOSCOW — President Vladimir Putin yesterday put the finishing touches on a surprise pre-election Cabinet reshuffle, replacing his conservative foreign minister, Igor Ivanov, with Sergey Lavrov, Moscow’s longtime ambassador to the United Nations.

Mr. Putin also whittled down the bloated top layer of government by combining portfolios of some ministries and reducing the number of deputy prime ministers to one.


Government reshuffles amid protests

BANGKOK — Thailand’s ministers for finance, defense and the interior were demoted today in a sweeping reshuffle triggered by violence in the Muslim south and mounting antiprivatization protests.

The shake-up ahead of national elections due to be held in February affected 12 ministers and brought two new faces into the Cabinet.

“The king has signed the royal command this morning and all 10 new ministers are likely to have a royal audience this evening,” Deputy Prime Minister Wissanu Krea-ngam told reporters.


Exile says Iran seeks bomb ‘at all costs’

VIENNA — An exile who previously has released key nuclear information about Iran said yesterday that leaders of the Islamic republic decided at a recent meeting to seek an atom bomb “at all costs” and begin enriching uranium at secret plants.

Alireza Jafarzadeh said the new information came from “well-informed sources inside Iran.”

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