- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 19, 2006

SOMALIA

U.S. Navy battles pirates

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Two U.S. Navy warships exchanged gunfire with suspected pirates yesterday off the coast of Somalia, and one suspect was killed and five others were wounded, the Navy said.

Twelve suspects were taken into custody after the early-morning shootout, said Lt. Cmdr. Charlie Brown, a spokesman for the U.S. Navy’s 5th Fleet.

No American sailors were wounded in the incident, which occurred at about 5:40 a.m. approximately 25 nautical miles off the Somali coast in international waters.

CUBA

Families protest political prisoners

HAVANA — Wives, mothers and daughters of Cuban political prisoners marched in Havana yesterday to mark the third anniversary of Cuba’s worst crackdown on dissidents in years.

About 30 “Ladies in White” fasted and marched to demand the release of 60 political prisoners still behind bars three years after dissidents were rounded up.

In March 2003, authorities arrested about 100 dissidents and independent journalists.

Of those, 75 were quickly tried and sentenced to between six and 28 years in prison, including Cuba’s best-known woman dissident, economist Martha Beatriz Roque. Of those, 15 were gradually freed between April 2004 and December 2005.

EGYPT

Bird flu suspected in woman’s death

CAIRO — Initial tests at a U.S. Navy laboratory show that a 35-year-old woman who died last week in Egypt had bird flu, officials said yesterday. If the results are confirmed, she would be the country’s first known human fatality from the disease.

In Israel, veterinarians yesterday slaughtered thousands of turkeys suspected of having the deadly H5N1 strain of bird flu, trying to prevent the disease from spreading throughout the Holy Land.

The H5N1 strain of bird flu has killed or forced the slaughter of tens of millions of chickens and ducks across Asia since 2003, and recently spread to Europe, Africa and the Middle East.

Health officials fear H5N1 could evolve into a virus that can be transmitted between people, potentially triggering a global pandemic.

IRAN

Journalist freed, vows to fight

TEHRAN — An Iranian dissident journalist freed after spending most of his six-year prison term in solitary confinement vowed yesterday to keep criticizing the hard-line clerical regime.

Akbar Ganji, 46, appeared gaunt and considerably older, with a long beard, as he received friends and family at his Tehran home a day after being released.

“My views have not changed at all. Jail and pressures never forced me to change my views. Today, I’m more determined to say what I said six years ago,” said Mr. Ganji, who was on a hunger strike for about three months last year.

TAIWAN

Protesters demand end to China threats

TAIPEI — Tens of thousands of government supporters marched yesterday to protest China’s threats against Taiwan and defend Taiwanese leader Chen Shui-bian’s tough policy on the communist country.

Mr. Chen last month decided to abolish a committee responsible for unifying the island and the mainland, which split after civil war in 1949.

“Our future will never be decided by the 1.3 billion people of China,” Mr. Chen told demonstrators in front of the presidential office building. “We are totally against unification. Our future will only be decided by the 23 million people of Taiwan.”

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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