- The Washington Times - Sunday, April 15, 2007

RUSSIA

Police beat, arrest Kremlin protesters

ST. PETERSBURG — Riot police beat and detained dozens of anti-Kremlin demonstrators yesterday on a second day of protests that tested the opposition’s ability to challenge President Vladimir Putin.

Mr. Putin’s foes said the harsh handling of demonstrators, who included former chess champion Garry Kasparov and elderly people, would fuel a growing sense that the leader is strangling democracy before parliamentary elections in December and a presidential vote next spring.

ISRAEL

Vatican ambassador drops boycott

JERUSALEM — The Vatican’s ambassador to Israel attended a Holocaust memorial service yesterday, reversing a decision to boycott the event, which threatened to upset fragile ties between Israel and the Holy See.

Monsignor Antonio Franco said last week that he would skip the ceremony at Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial marking the beginning of Israel’s annual Holocaust Remembrance Day because Catholics were offended by a caption at the museum describing the wartime conduct of Pope Pius XII.

The caption next to the picture of Pius reads, “Even when reports about the murder of Jews reached the Vatican, the pope did not protest,” refusing to sign a 1942 Allied condemnation of the massacre of Jews.

Yad Vashem spokeswoman Iris Rosenberg said the memorial appreciated the ambassador’s decision, calling it “the right thing to do.”

ZIMBABWE

Trauma, injuries rise with political violence

HARARE — An independent doctors organization said yesterday that hundreds of Zimbabweans have been injured or traumatized during a surge of political violence by security authorities over the past month.

Those injured since police violently broke up a prayer vigil in Harare on March 11 include six opposition activists hit by gunshots, one fatally, the Zimbabwe Association of Doctors for Human Rights said.

At least 49 pro-democracy leaders, including Morgan Tsvangirai, head of the main opposition Movement for Democratic Change, needed hospitalization for serious injuries, the group said.

GAZA STRIP

Unknown group says it executed journalist

GAZA CITY — A previously unknown Palestinian group said yesterday it had killed a British journalist kidnapped more than a month ago by gunmen in Gaza City, but the claim could not be confirmed.

In a statement sent to news organizations, “The brigades of Tawheed and Jihad” said it killed British Broadcasting Corp. Gaza correspondent Alan Johnston, 42, to support demands for the release of Palestinian prisoners held by Israel. However, the BBC and the Palestinian government both said there was no evidence to back up the claim.

Mr. Johnston, from Scotland, was taken at gunpoint in Gaza City on March 12. Since then, his captors made no demands and gave no word on his condition.

BELGIUM

Helicopter springs Frenchman from jail

BRUSSELS — Two men hijacked a helicopter and forced the pilot to land in a prison courtyard, where they picked up a prisoner in a dramatic jailbreak yesterday, press reports said.

The accomplices paid for a helicopter ride at an airstrip near the city of Sint-Truiden, then produced a pistol and hand grenade, ordering the pilot to fly to Lantin prison outside nearby Liege, several radio stations reported.

The helicopter landed in the prison yard while prisoners were exercising and a Frenchman in pretrial detention climbed aboard, flew away, landed a half mile away and fled in a car, VRT television news said.

NIGERIA

Death stalks voters in nationwide elections

PORT HARCOURT — Nigeria’s mass daily newspapers reported yesterday that dozens of people died during state elections that were meant to boost civilian rule and stability in Africa’s most-populous nation. Officials could not confirm the reports.

The Vanguard newspaper said 52 persons died nationwide yesterday as voters chose their state lawmakers and governors in a test of the electoral system before crucial presidential elections Saturday.

This Day newspaper reported that at least 41 persons died in the vast nation of 132 million, and it presented a list detailing violence from the country’s 36 states. Nigerians voted yesterday for state leaders in elections meant to help ensure democratic rule.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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