- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 8, 2007


Taliban commander held at checkpoint

KABUL — Afghan soldiers caught a senior Taliban commander, who was wearing a burqa, at a checkpoint Tuesday.

Yesterday, NATO forces fought Taliban militants in the second day of the alliance’s largest-ever offensive in Afghanistan.

Mullah Mahmood, who is accused of helping the Taliban detonate suicide bombs, was caught in Kandahar province while wearing the all-encompassing Islamic veil worn here by women, NATO said.

He was caught trying to leave the Panjwayi area of Kandahar province, the site of a large NATO battle that killed hundreds of Taliban fighters last fall.


Poisoned Americans return to U.S.

MOSCOW — Two American women who were hospitalized in Moscow for suspected thallium poisoning flew home to the United States yesterday.

A U.S. Embassy spokesman said Russian officials were investigating how and when they could have come into contact with poison. The hospital where the women were treated since falling ill Feb. 24 said they were in moderately serious condition.

Marina Kovalevsky, 49, and her daughter Yana, 26, are Soviet-born and emigrated to the United States in 1989. In West Hollywood, Calif., where Marina Kovalevsky opened an internal medicine practice six or seven years ago, relatives said she left for Moscow on Feb. 14 to attend a friend’s party.


Israeli forces arrest 18 militants

RAMALLAH — Israeli forces surrounded the Palestinian military-intelligence headquarters in Ramallah yesterday, detaining 18 militants who heeded their call through loudspeakers to surrender.

Palestinian security sources said the men belonged to the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade, part of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah faction, and were also members of Palestinian security services.


Voters weigh power sharing

BELFAST — Northern Ireland voted yesterday in an election that could allow the return of a government shared between Protestants and Catholics and help cement a lasting political settlement after decades of conflict.

Britain and Ireland hope the assembly election will lead to a power-sharing agreement by March 26 and have threatened to impose indefinite direct rule from London with more input from Dublin if no deal is reached by the deadline.

A 1998 peace deal ended 30 years of conflict, but no agreement has been reached on how the province should be run between Protestants who want to maintain union with Britain and Catholics seeking a united Ireland. The last 108-member assembly did not even manage to sit for a whole day after it was elected in 2003.


Officials reject U.S. report on rights

BEIJING — Beijing has dismissed as groundless a report by the United States that listed China among the world’s most serious rights offenders.

The Foreign Affairs Ministry said on its Web site yesterday that China has been making progress on improving human rights. “We would like to advise America to care more about its own human rights issues and stop interfering with other nations’ domestic politics,” the statement added.

Beijing is to issue a report today about human rights in the United States.


Mineral-poor cow eats chickens

CALCUTTA — When dozens of chickens went missing from a remote West Bengal village, everyone blamed the neighborhood dogs.

But Ajit Ghosh, the owner of the missing chickens, eventually solved the puzzle when he caught his cow — a sacred animal for the Hindu family — gobbling up several of them at night.

A district veterinary officer said a lack of vital minerals in the body is causing this behavior.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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