- The Washington Times - Friday, November 14, 2008

IRAQ

FedEx plane crashes, kills 7

BAGHDAD | A civilian cargo aircraft crashed in western Iraq on Thursday, killing all seven people on board, the U.S. military and shipping firm FedEx said.

The plane was operated by a company called Falcon Aviation and carrying FedEx cargo, a spokeswoman for Memphis, Tenn.-based FedEx said.

On its Web site, Falcon Aviation Group Ltd. describes itself as a Dubai-based firm operating cargo flights in the Gulf region for FedEx and other firms, including flights to the al-Asad U.S. air base in western Iraq.

The Ukrainian-built AN-12 plane crashed shortly after takeoff, U.S. military said. It had just left an air base near the western city of Falluja. No U.S. citizens or soldiers were on board and hostile fire had been ruled out as a cause of the crash.

PAKISTAN

Gunmen kidnap Iranian diplomat

PESHAWAR, Pakistan | Armed men kidnapped an Iranian diplomat Thursday in northwestern Pakistan, a day after the slaying of an American aid worker.

The Iranian and his Pakistani bodyguard were driving over a narrow bridge in Peshawar when two gunmen blocked their way with a car and opened fire, police said. The attackers fled with the diplomat, and the guard was killed.

On Wednesday, gunmen killed American aid worker Stephen Vance as he was traveling to work in Peshawar, a vital city for both the government and aid agencies and where security has dramatically crumbled.

AUSTRIA

Incestuous father charged with murder

VIENNA | An Austrian man accused of imprisoning his daughter for 24 years and fathering her seven children has been charged with murder, prosecutors said Thursday, contending one of the offspring who died in infancy might have survived if treated.

Josef Fritzl, 73, also was charged with rape, incest, false imprisonment and slavery, said the state attorney’s office in St. Poelten, west of Vienna.

Investigators say Mr. Fritzl has confessed to imprisoning and repeatedly raping his daughter Elisabeth — now age 42 — in a warren of soundproofed, windowless cellar rooms he built beneath his home starting in 1984, shortly after she turned 18.

Police say Mr. Fritzl told them he tossed the body of the infant into a furnace in 1996 after the baby became ill and died. The retired electrician is expected to go on trial in March.

SYRIA

1,200-year-old church found

DAMASCUS | Archaeologists in central Syria have unearthed the remnants of a 1,200-year-old church thought to be the largest ever discovered in this Mideast country, an antiquities official said Thursday.

Walid al-Assaad, the head of the Palmyra Antiquities and Museums Department said the church, dating to the 8th century, was discovered recently by a joint Syrian-Polish archaeological team.

The discovery was made at an excavation site in the ancient town of Palmyra, some 153 miles northeast of the capital Damascus, the official said but did not provide a more specific timing.

The church is the fourth to be discovered in Palmyra, once a regional trade center and now an archaeological treasure trove that even contains oldest layers from the prehistoric era in Syria.

GAZA STRIP

Israeli blockade stops fuel supply

GAZA CITY | Gaza City was dark Thursday night after officials shut down its only power plant as Israel cut off fuel and food shipments to the Palestinian territory because of renewed rocket attacks.

Israel canceled plans to ship in diesel fuel for the plant as well as 30 trucks full of humanitarian supplies after Gaza militants fired at least eight rockets and some mortar shells at Israel on Thursday, the military said.

Without supplies, the U.N. will be forced to suspend food distribution to 750,000 needy Gazans beginning Saturday.

SOMALIA

Militant Islamists seize port town

MOGADISHU | Islamic fighters seized the town of Elasha, 11 miles southwest of the Somali capital, the latest gain in a rapid expansion of territory under Islamist control, residents and a spokesman said Thursday.

In the Islamic insurgency’s advance toward the seaside capital, Mogadishu, militants have in the past few days captured several strategic towns previously held by militias loyal to the weak U.N.-backed government.

The Islamists already mount daily attacks on government troops in the capital, but analysts say it will be hard for them to take control of the city completely while Ethiopian troops allied to the government remain stationed there with attack helicopters and heavy weapons.

MAURITANIA

Junta releases former president

NOUAKCHOTT | The military junta that ousted Mauritania’s president released him Thursday in response to international pressure, police and his family said.

Mohamed Ould Cheikh, a top police official, said former President Sidi Ould Cheikh Abdallahi had been placed under surveillance at his home in the town of Lemden, south of the capital, Nouakchott. Mr. Abdallahi’s family confirmed his release.

Mr. Cheikh said Mr. Abdallahi’s release came in response to an ultimatum from the European Union. The United States also had called for his release.

The Aug. 6 coup in Africa’s newest oil producer came after the president and prime minister fired the country’s four top military officials.

RUSSIA

Church stolen brick by brick

MOSCOW | Wanted: One missing Russian church. Last seen in July. Reward for its return.

Orthodox officials in a central Russian region say an abandoned church building that was to be put back into use has been stolen by local villagers.

Orthodox priest Vitaly of the Ivanovo-Voskresenskaya diocese said officials last saw the two-story Church of Resurrection intact in late July. Sometime in early October, however, people from the nearby village of Komarovo, northeast of Moscow, dismantled the building, he said.

Villagers apparently sold it to a local businessman, one ruble (about 4 cents) per brick, Father Vitaly said. Orthodox priests use only one name.

IRAQ

Nobel nomination riles al-Maliki critics

BAGHDAD | Iraqi politicians criticized the government Thursday for nominating Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki for the Nobel Peace Prize, saying it was too early to talk about prizes for peace in a country still torn by violence.

The Iraqi government said Mr. al-Maliki should be considered for the award for his role in “establishing peace and security in Iraq,” where violence has fallen dramatically over the past year.

Its nomination is largely symbolic: Governments have no say over the process of awarding the prize, and scores of people are nominated every year with little chance of receiving the award.

Last month saw Iraq’s lowest official death toll from violence since the start of the war, but the country still endures daily bomb attacks.

“I believe it is better to wait till the political and security situation in Iraq is stabilized,” said independent parliamentarian Usama al-Nujaifi.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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