- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 19, 2007

AFGHANISTAN

24 Taliban killed in coalition strike

KABUL — U.S.-led coalition and Afghan forces clashed with Taliban fighters and called in an air strike in southern Afghanistan, leaving 24 militants dead and two coalition soldiers wounded, the coalition said yesterday.

The joint forces battled Taliban fighters for seven hours after they were ambushed while patrolling Wednesday in the volatile Sangin district of Helmand province, the coalition said.

Acting on intelligence of militant activity involving 40 Taliban, coalition forces then called an air strike, the statement said. The battle left 24 militants dead, while two coalition soldiers suffered minor injuries and were in stable condition, it said.

IRAN

Death sentence for vigilante overturned

TEHRAN — Iran’s Supreme Court has overturned a death sentence against a hard-line Islamic vigilante for the slaying of a couple for immoral behavior in southeastern Iran, one of the victims’ attorneys said yesterday.

Ali Maleki, with the help of several accomplices, drowned Reza Nejadmalayeri and his fiancee, Shohreh Nikpour, in a small pool in 2002 on the belief they had violated rules against contact between unmarried men and women. The killings occurred near Kerman, a city about 620 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran.

The Supreme Court’s ruling on Saturday was the fourth time it had overturned Maleki’s death sentence, continuing a case that has caused widespread anger throughout Iran despite a news blackout by the state press. After each previous ruling, the case was returned to the local court to be retried.

ROMANIA

President suspended for legal abuses

BUCHAREST — Parliament voted yesterday to suspend the popular president who ushered in economic and social reforms to help the country join the European Union, accusing him of abusing his constitutional powers.

President Traian Basescu had earlier vowed to resign “within five minutes” if lawmakers voted to suspend him. His resignation would prompt a new election within three months, and he has said he would run again for office.

Under the law, parliament can suspend the president for 30 days and organize a referendum to remove him from office. More than half of voting-age Romanians would have to approve a referendum for it to pass, which would be virtually impossible, given Mr. Basescu’s popularity and the usually low voter turnout in Romania.

GAZA Strip

Abbas told reporter is alive

STOCKHOLM — Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said yesterday his intelligence services have confirmed that a British journalist kidnapped in Gaza is alive and he knows which group is holding him.

Alan Johnston, 44, a British Broadcating Corp. correspondent, was abducted by gunmen on March 12 and has not been seen or heard since then.

“Yes, I believe he is still alive,” Mr. Abbas told reporters in Stockholm. “Our intelligence services have confirmed to me that he’s alive.”

Mr. Abbas said he knew which group was holding Mr. Johnston, but he would not say whether any contact had been established with the captors.

PHILIPPINES

Heads of hostages delivered to army

MANILA — The heads of seven men who were kidnapped by Muslim extremists on a volatile southern island were delivered to a Philippine army detachment yesterday, officials said.

The men — six road project workers and a dried-fish factory worker — were kidnapped at gunpoint in two incidents Monday near the town of Parang.

Maj. Gen. Ruben Rafael, commander of military forces on Jolo island, said a group of civilians was ordered to take the heads to Parang by Muslim rebel commander Habier Malik, whose men have been battling government troops since last week.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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