- The Washington Times - Friday, March 17, 2006


20,000 protest Muhammad cartoons

LAHORE — More than 20,000 supporters of a radical Islamic group held a peaceful rally against the publication of the prophet Muhammad cartoons yesterday in an eastern Pakistan city and accused the government of being “soft” on the West over the controversy.

“The government should have taken a hard stance against those countries where these cartoons were published to insult our beloved prophet Muhammad,” Hafiz Mohammed Saeed, the leader of the Jamaat al-Dawat group, told the mass gathering at a park in the city.

Mr. Saeed is a former leader of the Lashkar-e-Tayyaba Islamic militant group, which was banned by President Pervez Musharraf in 2002. The government recently put him under house arrest for several days to stop him from leading rallies against the cartoons.


First polio case in 6 years confirmed

DHAKA — Experts in Bangladesh confirmed the country’s first case of polio in nearly six years, prompting the resumption of mass vaccination against the crippling disease next month, Health Minister Khandaker Mosharraf Hossain said yesterday.

Laboratory tests confirmed that Rahima Aktar, a 9-year-old girl in eastern Chandpur district, has polio, health officials said.

Bangladesh has been polio-free since August 2000 thanks to extensive vaccination against the crippling disease. Polio is endemic in only four countries, Afghanistan, India, Nigeria and Pakistan, and is still present in eight other countries, according to the World Health Organization.


U.S. flight makes emergency landing

COLOMBO — A chartered flight carrying about 110 American soldiers made an emergency landing in Sri Lanka after pilots detected smoke in the cockpit, an airport official said yesterday.

The plane landed Thursday night at Sri Lanka’s only international airport, 20 miles from Colombo. The U.S. Embassy confirmed the landing.

The aircraft was flying from Hawaii to Male, the capital of Maldives.

Weekly notes …

Burma’s secretive military rulers on Thursday lifted a news blackout on the country’s first known outbreak of bird flu in the central town of Mandalay and sought international help to contain the spread of the lethal virus. … The first ever bus from Afghanistan to Pakistan carried out a trial run Wednesday, despite recent tensions between the two countries. The bus left Jalalabad city in eastern Afghanistan, crossed over the mountainous Khyber Pass into Pakistan, ending in the northwestern city of Peshawar.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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