- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 17, 2004

PAKISTAN

24 killed in huntfor al Qaeda, Taliban

WANA — Paramilitary troops stormed a fortresslike compound with mortars and machine guns yesterday, killing 24 suspects in a fierce crackdown on al Qaeda and Taliban fugitives in the rugged tribal regions bordering Afghanistan, the army said.

The operation left at least eight Pakistani troops dead and 15 wounded. The majority of suspects killed appeared to be tribesmen believed to be sheltering the terrorists, but the army said several of the dead were foreigners presumed to be members of al Qaeda.

AFGHANISTAN

23 Afghans returnfrom Cuba prison

KABUL — Twenty-three Afghans held at U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, for up to 2 years were released in Kabul yesterday.

The men were among 26 prisoners flown from Cuba over the weekend, having been detained without charge or representation. Three Pakistanis also returned to their country after arriving with the group at Bagram Air Base north of Kabul on Monday night.

RUSSIA

Gas explosion kills32 at apartment

ARKHANGELSK — Police searched for two homeless scavengers who apparently stole bronze fittings from gas pipes and triggered an explosion at an apartment building yesterday that killed at least 32 persons.

The blast sheared off a section of the nine-story prefabricated apartment building in this White Sea port about 600 miles north of Moscow. Two dozen people were rescued.

ITALY

Ex-Nazi, 95, diesat start of trial

ROME — A former Nazi officer, held responsible for the massacre of Italian civilians in 1944, died in Germany at age 95 yesterday, on the day his war crimes trial was to open in Italy, judicial sources said.

Johannes Karl Schiffmann, a lieutenant in the notorious Waffen SS, was accused of ordering the arrest in December 1944 of 60 civilians in Castelfranco Emilia, near the northern city of Modena, and then having 11 of them executed.

Mr. Schiffmann, who had Alzheimer’s disease, diabetes and heart trouble, was in a hospital in Germany.

He was to be tried in absentia by an Italian military tribunal.

The trial opened yesterday morning, and news of his death in the afternoon reached the court after the day’s proceeding.

SAUDI ARABIA

Top reformers heldfor questioning

RIYADH — Saudi Arabia yesterday detained eight prominent reformers, including signatories of a petition to the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Abdullah, urging that a timetable for political reform be implemented.

An Interior Ministry source said the men were being questioned for issuing announcements “which do not serve national unity or the cohesion of society based on Islamic Shariah law.”

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