- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Islamist admits flawed teachings

RABAT — An Islamist preacher jailed for involvement in the 2003 Casablanca suicide bombings admitted yesterday to “serious errors” in his teachings, and urged Islamic movements here to exercise restraint.

Abdelwahab Rafiki, also known as Abou Hafs, is considered one of the top theologians of the banned Salafia Jihadia movement. He was sentenced in 2003 to 30 years in prison for his role in the Casablanca attacks that killed 45 persons, including 12 bombers.

“… my experience as a preacher was sullied by several serious errors, caused by the anger of youth and the force of passion,” he said in a statement published yesterday in the newspaper Attajdid. He condemned the March 11 suicide bombing at an Internet cafe in Casablanca that killed the bomber and wounded several others. Six other suspected suicide bombers died this month in explosions in the port city.


‘Mideast Quartet’ plans May meeting

LUXEMBOURG — The major powers, mediators for Middle East peace, are expected to meet in Egypt in early May, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier announced yesterday.

The meeting of the so-called Mideast Quartet — the European Union, the United States, Russia and the United Nations — may take place at Egypt’s coastal resort of Sharm el Sheik, where international leaders will gather May 3-4 for a security conference on Iraq.

“We are working on the next Quartet meeting. I think it will take place at the beginning of May in Egypt,” Mr. Steinmeier told a press conference in Luxembourg.


2 soldiers wounded in scuffle with activists

JERUSALEM — Two Israeli soldiers were lightly wounded in scuffles yesterday as thousands of right-wing radicals defied an army order and tried to reach a former West Bank settlement evacuated in 2005.

“Two IDF [Israeli Defense Force] soldiers were lightly wounded by Israeli citizens” marching toward the site of the evacuated settlement of Homesh, which the army had declared a closed military zone, an army spokesman told Agence France-Presse. Despite army roadblocks, thousands of activists reached Homesh by walking through the hills of northern Samaria, Yossi Dagan, a march organizer, told AFP.

“A group of Israelis arrived at the site, the soldiers showed them a closed military zone warrant, and in response the Israelis assaulted the soldiers and hit them,” the IDF spokesman said. Three civilians were arrested and transferred to police custody.

Weekly notes …

ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates — The United States does not seek conflict with Iran and would prefer dialogue to resolve the escalating tension over Tehran’s nuclear program, Adm. William J. Fallon, the new chief of U.S. Central Command, said here yesterday. “I am not interested in planning to attack Iran,” he told reporters here. “I am very interested in trying to get the Iranians to come and start engaging in a meaningful dialogue.” Adm. Fallon said Tehran should talk to the world “about the future and the role they [Iranians] may play, that I hope would be constructive rather than unhelpful and destabilizing.” At least 18 more Somalis and Ethiopians have died aboard smugglers’ boats crossing the Gulf of Aden to Yemen, bringing the death toll this year to more than 200, the United Nations said yesterday. Eight persons drowned after being thrown overboard by smugglers Friday and 10 died from asphyxia and dehydration on two crowded boats, said the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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