- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 13, 2008

AFGHANISTAN

Four civilians die in British air raid

LONDON — Four civilians died in an air strike ordered by British forces in southern Afghanistan, Britain’s Ministry of Defense said yesterday.

Tuesday’s strike was called in after Taliban militants ambushed British troops operating in the southern province of Helmand. The dead included two women and two children; a fifth person was injured.

Afghan civilians have repeatedly accused British and American forces of being indiscriminate in their air strikes, with civilians frequently said to be among the victims. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has voiced his anger and frustration about the number of civilian deaths, which have tended to fuel the local population’s resentment of foreign troops.

RUSSIA

Extradition set for Colombia convict

MOSCOW — Russia will extradite a former Israeli army officer to Colombia where he has been convicted of training paramilitaries, a Moscow city court spokeswoman said yesterday.

Russian police detained Yair Gal Klein at a Moscow airport in August last year after getting a tip from Interpol. Colombia sentenced him in absentia in 2001 to 10 years in jail for training paramilitaries in “terrorist techniques,” such as assassinations.

MEXICO

American held, linked to drug cartel

MEXICO CITY — Mexican authorities said yesterday they have captured a U.S. citizen suspected of being a top member of a major drug cartel and they will send him back to the United States immediately.

Gustavo Rivera Martinez, reputed to be a top member of the Tijuana-based Arellano-Felix cartel, will be turned over to U.S. agents , who want him on drug charges, federal Public Safety Secretary Genaro Garcia Luna said.

Mr. Rivera Martinez took over the cartel’s operation after the arrest of Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, he said. Mr. Rivera Martinez has been a fugitive since 2002, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, and the U.S. government has offered a $2 million reward for his capture.

JORDAN

Former mentor to Zarqawi freed

AMMAN — Jordan yesterday freed a former mentor to the slain al Qaeda in Iraq leader Abu Musab Zarqawi after several years in police custody without a trial, a judiciary official said.

Isam Mohammed Taher al-Barqawi, also known as Sheik Abu-Mohammed al-Maqdisi, was arrested in 2005 and international human rights groups called on authorities to release him or put him on trial.

He shared a cell block between 1995 and 1999 with Zarqawi, who led al Qaeda in Iraq before being killed in a U.S. air strike in 2006. Al-Maqdisi, a native of the West Bank town of Nablus, is said to have taught radical Islamic ideology to the future al Qaeda commander.

CHINA

Hong Kong shuts schools due to flu

HONG KONG — Hong Kong’s government yesterday ordered all kindergartens and primary schools be closed for two weeks amid a flu outbreak, thus shutting down classes of more than a half-million students. The government also asked one of its top scientists, Yuen Kwok-yung, to study three child deaths over the past week.

The Education Bureau said all kindergartens, primary schools and special schools would begin the Easter holiday early to prevent the spread of influenza in schools. The order affected 1,745 schools, which had 559,019 students enrolled in the 2006-07 school year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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