- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 11, 2004

BRITAIN

Police release terror suspects

LONDON — British police yesterday freed the last of the five Britons flown home from the prison camp at U.S. Naval Base Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and the former terror suspects began denouncing their U.S. captors amid questions about why they were held for two years.

The United States turned over the five detainees to British custody Tuesday, and by late yesterday British police and prosecutors decided to release all of them without charge.

The releases could cause trouble for Prime Minister Tony Blair, who faces questions on why it took so long for Washington’s closest ally to win its citizens’ freedom if authorities at home concluded they should not face trial.

INDONESIA

Ridge criticizes ruling on cleric

JAKARTA — Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge expressed dismay yesterday that Indonesia’s best-known militant cleric is to be freed early from prison next month, saying Washington is convinced he had “intense and deep” involvement in terror attacks.

Mr. Ridge, who is on a tour of Asia, said he was disappointed with the Indonesian Supreme Court’s decision Tuesday to halve Abu Bakar Bashir’s three-year prison sentence on forgery and immigration charges.

Bashir, a strident proponent of Islamic militancy, is due to be released April 4 after spending 18 months behind bars. He has long been suspected of having links with al Qaeda and of heading Southeast Asia’s Jemaah Islamiyah extremist group, but he has never been charged with terror activities.

PAKISTAN

Indian cricketers tour after 14 years

LAHORE — Ringed by gun-wielding security forces, India’s cricketers arrived yesterday for their first full tour of Pakistan in 14 years, determined to win, but also hoping the historic visit will help bring peace between South Asia’s nuclear-armed rivals.

India’s last full tour of Pakistan was in late 1989, although the Indians visited for three one-day matches in 1997. Pakistan toured India in 1999, before athletic ties were severed by India because of bilateral tension.

AFGHANISTAN

Military defends raid that killed 9 children

KABUL — The U.S. military insisted yesterday it followed “appropriate” rules of engagement in a botched December air strike that killed nine Afghan children, but won’t disclose details of an inquiry into the attack because they include top-secret intelligence.

The children were killed Dec. 6 by an A-10 ground-attack aircraft as they played near a village in Ghazni province. The military admitted that a suspected Taliban militant targeted in the raid escaped and apologized after the incident.

An Afghan civilian died yesterday in a fierce firefight between U.S. forces and suspected Taliban fighters near a remote American base in northeast Afghanistan.

ISRAEL

Thousands of rabbis strike for salaries

JERUSALEM — Thousands of Israel’s rabbis have gone on strike, scaling back wedding and funeral services, to protest the government’s withholding of salaries, a chief rabbi said yesterday.

Unable to completely forgo religiously mandated duties, rabbis will conduct weddings, but on street corners and in parking lots rather than in elaborate banquet hall celebrations.

The government has not paid salaries to 3,000 rabbis and employees of municipal rabbinates and religious councils for more than half a year, said Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger.

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