Police foil bombing after chase
LATRUN JUNCTION — Elite police commandos chased down a group of Palestinians racing toward central Israel in a van packed with explosives yesterday, foiling a devastating bombing just days before national elections.
The arrests capped a 15-minute high-speed chase by heavily armed police commandos on motorcycles. The hunt brought Israel’s main highway to a standstill for more than an hour, and motorists close to the takedown ran away screaming after police announced they had found live explosives.
Reflecting the jitters, Israel has banned Palestinians from entering the country until after the March 28 election and greatly restricted movement through the Gaza Strip’s main cargo crossing. With the closure causing shortages of milk, bread and other essentials in Gaza, Israel allowed the crossing to reopen temporarily yesterday.
U.S. warned on pre-emptive strike
SEOUL — North Korea suggested yesterday that it had the ability to launch a pre-emptive attack on the United States, according to the North’s official news agency.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the North had built atomic weapons to counter the U.S. nuclear threat.
“As we declared, our strong revolutionary might put in place all measures to counter possible U.S. pre-emptive strike,” the spokesman said, according to the state-run Korean Central News Agency. “Pre-emptive strike is not the monopoly of the United States.”
Foreign minister quits over cartoons
STOCKHOLM — Swedish Foreign Minister Laila Freivalds resigned yesterday amid reports that she had lied about her involvement in shutting down a Web site that had posted satirical cartoons of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
Mrs. Freivalds had been weakened severely by months of fierce criticism of her handling of the 2004 Asian tsunami, in which 543 Swedes died.
She said this made her a liability ahead of Sweden’s general election in September, which the ruling Social Democrats are not certain to win.
Seven on trial in attack plans
LONDON — Seven Britons went on trial yesterday on charges that they plotted to carry out bomb attacks on Britain in the country’s biggest anti-terrorism court case since the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The suspects, all dressed in suits or jackets, appeared at London’s Old Bailey criminal court and, surrounded by 11 security guards, listened intently from the dock as the charges against them were read.
They were accused of conspiring with two persons, a Canadian called Mohammed Momin Khawaja and another person who has yet to be identified, to cause an explosion “likely to endanger life.”
Judge charges 32 in bomb plot
MADRID — A Spanish judge charged 32 reported members of an Islamic militant cell yesterday with membership in a terrorist organization, conspiracy and forgery, saying they had plotted to blow up the high court with a truck bomb in 2004.
Members of the group, which called itself “Martyrs for Morocco,” were arrested later that year as part of Operacion Nova.
The high court handles terrorism cases and was directing investigations into the March 2004 Madrid train bombings, which killed 191 persons.
From wire dispatches and staff reports