- The Washington Times - Friday, February 17, 2006

LEBANON

Iranian asks British to leave Iraq

BEIRUT — Iran’s foreign minister called for the immediate withdrawal of British forces from the southern Iraqi city of Basra.

“We believe that the presence of the British forces in Basra has destabilized security in this city,” Manushehr Mottaki said after meeting with Lebanese Foreign Minister Fawzi Salloukh.

The call was apparently spurred by recent publicity surrounding video images from 2004 showing British soldiers beating Iraqi youths with batons and fists after a street confrontation in which the Iraqis threw objects at the soldiers.

DJIBOUTI

2 Marine copters carrying 12 crash

Two U.S. Marine Corps helicopters crashed in Africa off the coast of Djibouti and two crew members have been found alive, but 10 are still missing, a Pentagon spokeswoman said yesterday.

Each of the CH53 Marine transport helicopters was carrying six crew members and two were rescued by Djiboutian military officials.

“The status of the remaining 10 crew members is unknown,” a Pentagon spokeswoman said.

IRAQ

Gunmen kidnap banker, son

BAGHDAD — Gunmen wearing Iraqi special forces uniforms kidnapped a wealthy banker and his son after killing five of their bodyguards, police said yesterday. Authorities also found the bodies of three men who had been bound and shot in the head in northern Baghdad.

On Thursday, the Iraqi Interior Ministry announced an investigation into claims of death squads in its ranks after U.S. military officials indicated there was evidence supporting the accusations.

Also yesterday, a spokesman for the U.S. military in Iraq said a small German civilian plane carrying four Germans and one Iraqi en route to Iraq from Azerbaijan had crashed in northern Iraq.

SRI LANKA

Warring sides agree to prisoner swap

COLOMBO — Sri Lanka and the rebel Tamil Tigers agreed to a prisoner swap yesterday, as a rebel delegation left for talks next week in Switzerland, seen as a last chance to avert a return to civil war.

The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam said they would release a policemen they detained in September after the government released four rebels on bail and that they would release another one as long as four other Tigers were also freed.

ISRAEL

Mosque defaced for second time

NABLUS, West Bank — Graffiti insulting the prophet Muhammad was daubed on the wall of a Palestinian mosque in the occupied West Bank for the second time in recent days, an Israeli military source and local residents said yesterday.

Palestinian villagers said the slogan, written in Hebrew, denigrated the prophet Muhammad and was written on the wall of a mosque in the village of Nabi Ilyas, close to the West Bank city of Qalqilya.

The latest incident sparked clashes in the nearby village of Azun between angry stone-throwing youths and Israeli forces. An Israeli military source said four arrests were made.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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