- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2005


French engineer taken hostage

BAGHDAD — Masked gunmen grabbed a French engineer off the streets of Baghdad yesterday, the latest in a spate of kidnappings of Westerners that coincides with former dictator Saddam Hussein’s trial and the run-up to parliamentary elections.

Bernard Planche joined two Canadians, an American, a Briton and a German taken hostage in the past 10 days.

Meanwhile, former Prime Minister Muhammed Hamza al-Zubaydi, one of the top Saddam-era leaders captured in Iraq, has died at a U.S. military hospital in Baghdad, an American military spokesman said yesterday. Al-Zubaydi was 67.

Al-Zubaydi, a retired Revolutionary Command Council member who led Saddam’s forces in central Iraq during the initial stages of the 2003 U.S.-led invasion, was one of the 55 most-wanted members of Saddam’s toppled regime and was captured April 20, 2003.


Enemy fire forces U.S. copters down

KABUL — Hostile fire forced two U.S. helicopters to make emergency landings in volatile southern Afghanistan, injuring five U.S. soldiers and an Afghan, the U.S. military said yesterday as three Afghan troops were wounded by a remote-controlled bomb.

The U.S. military said two of its Chinook heavy-lift copters that were forced to make emergency landings in the insurgency-hit south Sunday had “received enemy fire.”

The copters were involved in U.S.-led coalition operations against rebels from the Taliban regime.


Dissident dies in U.S. exile

NEW YORK — Liu Binyan, one of China’s top dissident writers who sought asylum in the United States, died at a hospital in New Jersey yesterday, a New York-based Chinese media group reported. He was 80.

Mr. Liu died after a long battle with cancer while living in exile in the United States since 1988, the weekly Duo Wei Chinese language newspaper reported on its Web site.

Mr. Liu, who leaves behind his wife, Zhu Hong, arrived in the United States a year before the bloody Tiananmen Square crackdown in 1989 and could not return home.


Court orders detention of Nour

CAIRO — Egyptian police yesterday detained liberal opposition politician Ayman Nour until Dec. 10 on the orders of the judge trying the former presidential candidate on forgery charges, Mr. Nour’s attorney said.

Mr. Nour, who was President Hosni Mubarak’s main rival in Egypt’s first multicandidate presidential election in September, was detained for six weeks earlier this year before being charged.

Mr. Nour’s attorney, Amir Salim, said he interpreted the move as a sign that Mr. Nour would be convicted and sentenced Saturday.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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