- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 5, 2008


Ferry overturns; at least 40 dead

MANILA | A ferry packed with commuters that was buffeted by sudden monsoon winds and huge waves overturned Tuesday, killing at least 40 people including 11 children, officials said.

Regional army commander Maj. Gen. Jeffrey Sodusta said 76 people were rescued from the Don Dexter Cathlyn, which capsized shortly after leaving port in central Masbate Island.

The ship’s manifest listed 119 passengers and a crew of six on board, though ferries frequently carry more people than officially listed.


Rebels say countries mobilizing troops

GOMA | A rebel spokesman charged Tuesday that Angola and Zimbabwe were mobilizing troops to back government forces against the rebels, triggering concern about possible expansion of the conflict.

Rebel spokesman Bertrand Bisimwa offered no proof of the accusation, which Zimbabwe denies. Angola, a longtime ally of Congo’s government, has not yet commented. Congo appealed last week for Angola’s help.

The conflict is fueled by tensions left over from the 1994 slaughter of a half-million Tutsis in neighboring Rwanda. The 1998-2002 war drew in a half-dozen countries. Angola and Zimbabwe fought for Congo in exchange for access to copper and diamond concessions. Rwanda and Uganda backed rival rebel factions in the mineral-rich east, and also fought each other.


Missile launch site may show advances

SEOUL | A new North Korean missile launch site under construction is designed to fire rockets even more advanced than those already capable of reaching the western U.S., South Korea said Tuesday.

South Korean Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee told parliament that construction on the new site on North Korea’s west coast began eight years ago and is about 80 percent complete.

The site in the village of Dongchang-ni appears to be designed to launch “a bigger-sized missile or satellite projectile” than rockets deployed from the North’s east coast facility.

In 2006, the North launched a long-range missile, the Taepodong-2 - considered the country’s most advanced rocket - from its east coast site in Musudan-ni. The test was considered a failure because the missile fell into the sea.


Raped girl stoned for adultery

NAIROBI | The United Nations said Tuesday that a Somali stoned to death by Islamists on accusations of adultery was a 13-year-old girl who had apparently been raped while visiting her grandmother.

In the first such public killing by the militants in about two years, the girl was placed in a hole and stoned to death on Oct. 28 in rebel-held Kismayu port in front of hundreds of spectators after local leaders said she was guilty under Shariah law.

Witnesses said at the time that the victim was a 23-year-old woman, but according to rights groups, it later emerged that she was only 13.

U.N. children’s agency UNICEF said the girl had been raped by three men while traveling on foot to visit her grandmother in the war-torn capital Mogadishu. She sought protection from the authorities, who then accused her of adultery and sentenced her to death.


Petraeus gauges military progress

KABUL | Gen. David H. Petraeus, the new chief of the U.S. Central Command who is credited with turning the tide in Iraq, took a firsthand look at the war in Afghanistan on Tuesday.

With U.S. deaths at an all-time high in Afghanistan and attacks against Westerners on the rise, Gen. Petraeus arrived from neighboring Pakistan on his first visit to the region since taking charge of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Gen. Petraeus will meet with Afghan leaders and top U.S. military officials, including U.S. Gen. David McKiernan, the head of the NATO-led force. His stop in Afghanistan follows a two-day visit to neighboring Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.


President fires military chief

TBILISI | Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili replaced the country’s military leader Tuesday, saying “shortcomings” during a war with Russia need addressing.

Mr. Saakashvili has not previously criticized the military’s performance despite Russia driving the Georgian army from breakaway South Ossetia in just a few days in August’s war.

Mr. Saakashvili told a meeting of Defense Ministry officials he had replaced Chief of Staff Gen. Zaza Gogava. Career soldier Lt. Col. Vladimer Chachibaia will replace Gen. Gogava who becomes head of the Georgian border police.

Mr. Saakashvili replaced the prime minister last week, saying the government needed new energy after the war. The reshuffled Cabinet contains only four changes.


Army chief quits over killing scandal

BOGOTA | Colombia’s army chief has resigned in the wake of a scandal over killing civilians to boost body counts.

Gen. Mario Montoya did not mention the scandal in announcing his retirement. Gen. Montoya’s resignation Tuesday follows a clamor in Colombia’s media over an army policy - now rejected by the government - of promoting officers whose units kill the most leftist rebels.

Human rights groups say scores of civilians have been killed in recent years and presented as guerrillas slain in combat.

Last week, Colombia’s government fired 20 army officers for negligence in failing to prevent or investigate the killings.


Bin Laden’s son seeks asylum

MADRID | A son of Osama bin Laden who grabbed headlines by marrying a British woman last year has flown to Spain and requested asylum, the Spanish government said Tuesday.

Omar Osama bin Laden, 27, is a metals trader who had been living in Cairo with his British wife. He has not renounced his father, but has said he wants to be an “ambassador for peace” between the Muslim world and the West.

His wife said, however, that he was denied a British residency request this year after officials there said he had demonstrated continuing loyalty to his father.

Omar Osama bin Laden is one of the al Qaeda leader’s 19 children.


Seoul backs rights rap of North

SEOUL | South Korea has co-sponsored a U.N. resolution condemning North Korea’s purported human rights abuses for the first time, a Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday.

The move represents a clear departure from a decade of liberal rule in South Korea during which the government largely avoided taking a stand on the issue at the United Nations, for fear it would strain ties with the North and efforts to resolve the nuclear standoff.


Parliament impeaches Ahmadinejad ally

TEHRAN | Iran’s parliament impeached a Cabinet minister Tuesday after he admitted having a fake degree from Oxford University - a vote widely seen as a defeat for hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

The dismissal of Interior Minister Ali Kordan was the first high-profile confrontation between the new parliament and Mr. Ahmadinejad. It was seen a vote of no confidence in the president and a sign that the leader’s popularity is ebbing, even with his conservative allies.

The powerful Interior minister is in charge of holding elections and local administrations throughout the country.

During Mr. Kordan’s confirmation debate, numerous lawmakers argued he was unqualified, some claiming that his Oxford degree was a fake. Mr. Kordan was approved Aug. 5 by a relatively slim margin of 160 of the 269 lawmakers present.

Mr. Kordan initially argued that his degree was real. The Interior Ministry put out a certificate, with an Oxford seal and dated June 2000, meant to prove the degree’s authenticity, but the certificate was riddled with spelling and grammar mistakes.

Oxford denied it had ever awarded an honorary doctorate of law to the minister, who then admitted the degree was a fake.

Mr. Ahmadinejad defended Mr. Kordan, dismissing degrees in general as “torn paper” and not necessary for serving the people.

The president was already under attack from both reformers and conservatives, who brought him to power but now complain the he spends too much time on fiery anti-U.S. rhetoric rather than managing the country.


U.S. student faces security charges

TEHRAN | A female student from the United States who was arrested in Tehran last month while visiting the Islamic Republic has been accused of acting against national security, the judiciary said Tuesday.

Women’s rights activists say Esha Momeni lives in the United States and was in Iran for research on the women’s movement in the Islamic Republic as part of her university studies when she was detained in the capital on Oct. 15.

In the first comment by judicial authorities on the case, judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said Ms. Momeni was being held in Tehran’s Evin prison.

“The charge against her is crime against national security and her case is currently under preliminary investigation,” Mr. Jamshidi told reporters, referring to a common charge against dissenting voices in Iran.

Iranian women’s rights campaigners said Ms. Momeni was working on a film and had interviewed activists in Tehran as part of her studies in California. She came to Iran about two months ago. Activist Sussan Tahmasebi said Ms. Momeni was born in the United States and held both Iranian and U.S. citizenship.


Blasts in Baghdad kill 15, wound 29

BAGHDAD | Bombs exploded at a bus station and a small market in Baghdad, killing 15 people and wounding 29 others Tuesday, police and hospital officials said.

A bomb hidden under a car exploded at a bus depot in the predominantly Shi’ite neighborhood of Mashtal on the capital’s east side, killing 11 people. Twenty-one others were wounded in the attack, authorities said.

In the northern Shi’ite-dominated district of Qahira, four people were killed and eight others injured when a roadside bomb exploded near a market, police said.

Also Tuesday, one person died when a roadside bomb targeted a convoy in central Baghdad of a Shi’ite government official and former member of the Iraqi Governing Council.

Ahmed Shiyaa al-Barak, head of a government real estate commission, escaped the attack without injury. Five of his guards and four bystanders were injured in the bombing, police said.


Lebanon signs deal on terror, crime

ANKARA | Turkey and Lebanon on Monday signed an accord on cooperation against terrorism, drug-trafficking and organized crime, the Anatolia news agency reported.

The deal, details of which were not disclosed, was inked after talks between prime ministers Fuad Siniora of Lebanon and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey.

Mr. Siniora thanked Ankara for its recently intensified efforts to resolve long-standing conflicts in the Middle East, especially hosting informal talks between Israel and Syria. Mr. Erdogan hailed reconciliation efforts between Lebanon and Syria.

Last month, Syria and Lebanon announced the establishment of diplomatic ties for the first time since they became independent 60 years ago. The two neighbors are expected to open embassies in each other’s capitals before the end of the year.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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