- The Washington Times - Friday, September 2, 2005

AFGHANISTAN

Taliban commander, U.S. soldier killed

KANDAHAR — U.S. and Afghan forces killed a regional Taliban commander in a clash that also left an American soldier and an Afghan interpreter dead, the military said yesterday as violence spiraled ahead of this month’s landmark elections.

The Taliban commander, identified by Afghan officials as Thor Mullah Manan, was killed with another rebel fighter in a firefight Thursday with coalition and Afghan forces in Daychopan district of southern Zabul province, the U.S. military said.

The military said Manan was in command of three other Taliban sub-commanders and responsible for the movement of equipment and personnel throughout the northwest Zabul province.

FRANCE

2 Paris buildings cleared in fire alert

PARIS — Police evicted about 140 mainly African squatters, some sobbing or screaming, from two dilapidated buildings yesterday as authorities began a sweep of dwellings deemed fire hazards following two deadly blazes.

In one building, among the 60 set for closure, adults in brightly colored African robes fought to keep police out, pushing on the front door before stepping back to allow police with riot shields and truncheons pass through.

The evacuations followed two recent fires that killed two dozen African immigrants and put the issue of substandard housing on the national agenda. An April fire in a budget hotel killed another 24 persons, mostly poor immigrants.

RUSSIA

Putin tries to calm Beslan mothers

MOSCOW — Russian President Vladimir Putin yesterday faced angry mothers who lost children in the Beslan school siege and sought to assure them that a probe into the bloodbath would not gloss over official incompetence.

The delicate three-hour meeting between Mr. Putin and members of the outspoken Beslan Mothers’ Committee took place a year and a day after the onset of the three-day crisis in which armed pro-Chechen rebels stormed into the school in southern Russia. A total of 331 persons — half of them children — were killed.

PAKISTAN

Islamists protest talks with Israel

ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s initiation of high-level talks with Israel prompted fury from Islamic hard-liners who stormed out of Parliament yesterday and called protests in major cities across the country.

But despite fiery rhetoric, the rallies held after Friday prayers were poorly attended, and newspaper commentators gave the landmark meeting between Israeli Foreign Minister Silvan Shalom and his Pakistani counterpart Khursheed Kasuri a cautious welcome.

GERMANY

Bodybuilder adds muscle to Merkel

BERLIN — A former Mr. Universe flexed his muscles in support of German opposition leader Angela Merkel’s bid to become the country’s first female chancellor yesterday, telling voters strong men were backing a strong woman leader.

Ralf Moeller, a bodybuilder who featured in a number of Hollywood films including “Gladiator,” couldn’t resist showing off his strength and lifted two young Christian Democrats staff members into the air one on each arm at Mrs. Merkel’s headquarters.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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