- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 4, 2008


French aid worker kidnapped off street

KABUL | Gunmen kidnapped a French aid worker off the streets of Kabul on Monday, and killed an intelligence agency employee who tried to intervene, in the latest attack against Westerners in the Afghan capital.

Three assailants in a red car blocked the roadway, then tried to grab two French aid workers on their way to work, officials said. After a scuffle, they got away with only one, said Mohammad Daud Amin, a neighborhood police commander.

A witness, Mohammad Shafi, said the man who intervened lived across the way.

“He grabbed the machine gun of one of the kidnappers, who opened fire, burning his hand. After that the kidnapper shot him three times in the chest,” Mr. Shafi said.

The Interior Ministry said the dead Afghan was the driver for the provincial intelligence chief.

Etienne Gille, president of AFRANE, a French aid group focusing on education, said the kidnapping took place as a member of its staff and a man from a second French aid group were being driven from a residence rented by AFRANE to its offices.


American school closes its doors

DAMASCUS | An American school in Damascus closed its doors and told students to go home Monday after the Syrian government ordered it shut down in response to a deadly U.S. cross-border raid near the Iraqi border.

A voice message on the school’s answering machine said the Damascus Community School was closed to comply with the government’s decision. Students and teachers were seen leaving the school grounds Monday afternoon.

Syria ordered the school closed to days after U.S. troops in four helicopters attacked a building inside Syria near the Iraqi border. Washington hasn’t formally acknowledged the raid, but U.S. officials say the target was a top al Qaeda in Iraq figure.

The school and the cultural center, which are linked to the U.S. Embassy, cater to a small American community in the Syrian capital and other foreign residents.

Officials at the school declined to comment.


Children bused in for anti-U.S. protest

TEHRAN | Hundreds of Iranian children bused in for the occasion crowded outside the former U.S. Embassy on Monday, burning American flags and chanting slogans to commemorate the 29th anniversary of the building’s seizure by militant students.

Equal parts school holiday and angry demonstration, Monday’s commemoration came on the eve of the U.S. presidential election and was marked by anti-U.S. and anti-Israel chants and the burning of flags.

In 1979, militant Iranian students who believed the embassy was a center of plots against the Persian country held 52 Americans hostage 444 days. The U.S. severed diplomatic ties in response, and the two countries have not had formal relations since.

Iran blames the CIA for helping topple the elected government of Mohammad Mosaddeq in the 1950s and blames the United States for openly supporting the late Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi against the 1979 Islamic revolution that led to the collapse of the dynasty.


Bombing wave kills 10 people

BAGHDAD | A series of bombings struck Baghdad and a neighboring province Monday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 40, including a deputy oil minister who was injured when a bomb went off in front of his house as he was leaving for work.

Most of the six blasts occurred in Baghdad, reinforcing U.S. military warnings that extremists remain capable of launching attacks in the capital despite an overall improvement in security.

The attacks took place on the eve of the U.S. presidential election between Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, who hold differing views on the war in Iraq.


Convoy delivers aid to rebel east

KIBATI | A 12-vehicle U.N. aid convoy rumbled past rebel lines Monday in eastern Congo, carrying medical supplies for clinics looted by retreating government troops. It was the first humanitarian aid delivery behind rebel lines since fighting broke out in August.

U.N. peacekeepers escorted the trucks north from the provincial capital of Goma, past the village of Kibati, where tens of thousands have sought safety from the fighting of the past week, to Rutshuru, a village 55 miles north of Goma.

Both the Congolese army and the rebel leader it has been battling assured the convoy’s safe passage, said Gloria Fernandez, head of the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in eastern Congo.

Rebel leader Laurent Nkunda went on the offensive Aug. 28 and brought his fighters to the edge of Goma last week before declaring a unilateral cease-fire.


Bodies found on Yemeni beach

NAIROBI | Sixty corpses of would-be refugees from Somalia and Ethiopia were found on a beach in Yemen over the weekend after smugglers forced many of them overboard, an international aid agency said on Monday.

Doctors Without Borders said the latest victims on the notoriously perilous smuggling route had came across the Gulf of Aden from the Somali port city of Bosasso, fleeing war and poverty in their homelands.

In one of two incidents that caused the deaths, smugglers tipped the refugees into the sea at night after noticing lights on land and fearing they would be spotted by the coast guard, Doctors Without Borders quoted survivors as saying.


No bidders found for Noriega mansions

PANAMA CITY | No one wants to buy two crumbling mansions that once belonged to former strongman Manuel Noriega.

Panama’s government says it received no bidders for the two properties, valued at $6.1 million. It is not clear why no one registered to take part in the auction held late last week.

The failed auction was a surprise given that Panama is in the midst of a real estate boom.

The sale represented the first time Panama’s government had received permission to put Noriega’s homes on the auction block since he was ousted by the 1989 U.S.-led invasion.

Noriega’s family has spent years trying to recover the homes.

Noriega was convicted of drug racketeering in a Miami federal court. He served his sentence and is fighting extradition to France.


Drug gangs kill 11 policemen

TOLUCA | Eleven policemen were fatally shot near Mexico City in a three-day string of drug-gang attacks, prosecutors said.

Mexico state prosecutor Alberto Bazbaz said 10 suspects thought linked to drug gangs have been arrested in the killings, which mainly occurred on highways and at police checkpoints in the state that loops around Mexico’s capital. Some of the suspects were carrying rifles and grenades at the time of their arrest.

Mr. Bazbaz said Sunday that many of the suspects were from the neighboring state of Michoacan, a hotbed of drug violence dominated by a drug gang known as “The Family.”

But he said evidence indicates that low-level traffickers and criminals, rather than organized cartel hit squads, were responsible for the attacks.

It was not clear if the killings were coordinated.

Mexico state police commander German Garciamoreno said police patrols will be beefed up to confront the violence. The state, like many others across the country, has faced increased drug trafficking and threats against local authorities.

Meanwhile kidnappers killed a 5-year-old boy by injecting him with acid after his family sought police help. Mexico City Attorney General Miguel Mancera said assailants injected the acid into the boy’s heart and buried him on a hill outside the capital. A kidnapper seized the child at a street market in the gritty borough of Iztapalapa on Oct. 26 and the boy was killed three days later.


Herpes kills baby elephant

TORONTO | A baby elephant died at the Calgary Zoo in Alberta, Canada, over the weekend after a brief battle with a virus that has killed dozens of captive elephants around the world in the past two decades, zoo officials said.

The 15-month-old pachyderm, named Malti, collapsed and died Saturday afternoon, one day after being diagnosed with elephant herpesvirus, a disease that can cause internal bleeding, zoo officials said in a press release.

“The disease, which has also been diagnosed in the wild, is responsible for the death of nearly a dozen young North American elephants in the past 20 years,” the zoo said. “Over 40 cases have been documented in North America, Europe and Asia.”

A string of animals have died at the Calgary Zoo since 2004, including a hippopotamus, several gorillas, more than 40 stingrays, and another young elephant who was rejected by her mother.


Ministry publishes cocktail standards

RIO DE JANEIRO | So how do you make Brazil’s national cocktail?

Maybe you’d better call a lawyer.

Brazil’s government has published legal guidelines insisting that a caipirinha must be made just so: It’s mostly the sugarcane liquor called cachaca. And you can add at least 1 percent crushed lime. But that had better be real sugar in the glass.

The Agriculture Ministry rules published in Friday’s official gazette are meant to set “standards of identity and quality” for the drink.

The ministry has failed to say what punishment awaits those responsible for illicit caipirinhas.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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