- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 13, 2007

GAZA STRIP

BBC journalist kidnapped; car found

GAZA CITY — A British Broadcasting Corp. correspondent was kidnapped in the Gaza Strip yesterday by unknown assailants, Palestinian security officials said.

Police identified the journalist as Alan Johnston, who has been the BBC’s correspondent in Gaza for three years. Officials said his rental car was found abandoned in Gaza City and that a search was under way for the British national.

Mr. Johnston is thought to be the only Western journalist still based full time in the Gaza Strip. Most other journalists moved out of the impoverished territory last year as fighting between rival Hamas and Fatah factions intensified.

MOROCCO

Man blows self up in Internet cafe

CASABLANCA — A man who was prevented from looking at terrorism Web sites by the owners of an Internet cafe blew himself up with explosives hidden on his body, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said yesterday.

The Sunday night blast in a Casablanca slum also injured four, including the bomber’s companion. Moroccan police have been cracking down on suspected Islamist extremists since suicide bombings in Casablanca in 2003 killed 45 persons.

The dead man was identified as Abdelftah Raidi, who was convicted of suspected terrorism links and sentenced to five years in prison before being pardoned in 2005. His companion, Yusuf Khoudri, fled the cafe, but was later arrested.

AUSTRALIA

Stallone charged in hormone bust

SYDNEY — Hollywood muscleman Sylvester Stallone was charged in an Australian court today with trying to import human growth hormone into the country.

The 60-year-old “Rocky” film star was not in court when the Australian Customs Service accused him of trying to bring 48 vials of the banned muscle-building hormone into Australia when he visited last month.

Mr. Stallone was briefly detained after a search of his luggage at Sydney airport on Feb. 19 as he arrived here to promote “Rocky Balboa,” the latest installment in his series about a Philadelphia boxer.

The maximum fine for the offense is $86,000.

ISRAEL

Envoy recalled from El Salvador

JERUSALEM — Israel has recalled its ambassador to El Salvador after he was found naked, bound and drunk, a government spokeswoman said yesterday.

Two weeks ago, Salvadoran police found Tsuriel Raphael in the yard of his residence, tied up, gagged with a ball and drunk, Israeli press reported. Mr. Raphael had served for six months as the ambassador in El Salvador and for several years at different missions around the world.

The embarrassing affair was one of several involving Israeli diplomats in recent years.

EGYPT

Court rejects blogger’s appeal

CAIRO — An Egyptian appeals court yesterday upheld a four-year prison sentence against a blogger convicted of insulting Islam and President Hosni Mubarak.

Abdel-Karim Suleiman, 22, last month became the first Egyptian to be imprisoned for his writing on the Internet in what human rights groups and bloggers described as a dangerous precedent that could limit online freedom in the country.

The court in the port city of Alexandria also allowed a group of Islamist lawyers to file a separate lawsuit against Mr. Suleiman demanding compensation on the grounds that his writings had harmed them as Muslims.

ITALY

Lawmaker protests loan of artwork

FLORENCE — An Italian senator chained himself to the gates of the Uffizi museum yesterday to protest the loan of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Annunciation” for a show at Japan’s National Museum in Tokyo.

The “Annunciation” is one of Leonardo’s early works, painted between 1472 and 1475, when the master was in his early 20s. It depicts the Archangel Gabriel revealing to the Virgin Mary that she is pregnant.

In protesting the loan, Sen. Paolo Amato said it exposes a priceless masterpiece to unnecessary risk and belittles its significance by using it in a commercial event.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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