Police chief quits in rift with mayor
LONDON | London’s police chief had weathered controversy over terrorist attacks and the shooting death of an innocent man, but he quit Thursday, done in by a showdown with the city’s new mayor.
Ian Blair‘s announcement came as a surprise. It is unusual for the force’s top officer to resign early - his contract ran through 2010 - and even more rare to openly air political disagreements.
Mr. Blair made a point of telling reporters that he was being forced out by Mayor Boris Johnson rather than by any criticism of his dramatic time at the Metropolitan Police.
Since Mr. Johnson’s election in May, there were suggestions that relations between the new mayor and the police chief were frosty. Mr. Johnson’s Conservative Party considered Mr. Blair, who was appointed to the department’s top job in 2005, as too close to the governing Labor Party.
Soldier pleads guilty in Iraq killings
VILSECK | A U.S. soldier pleaded guilty Thursday to charges of accessory to murder and was sentenced to eight months in prison for his role in the killing of four Iraqi prisoners who were bound, blindfolded, shot and dumped in a canal.
Spc. Steven Ribordy, 25, of Salina, Kan., also will receive a bad-conduct discharge from the Army as part of a plea deal. In addition, he agreed to testify against other members of his unit.
Ribordy testified that he had helped stand guard as the prisoners were killed by other members of his patrol in early 2007. He said he approached the scene after the shots were fired and saw three bodies lying in a pool of blood, and then the fourth already in the canal.
Envoy hints at nuclear review
BRUSSELS | A leading Iranian nuclear envoy on Thursday suggested that the country could reconsider its uranium-enrichment program if it gets cast-iron guarantees of regular international fuel supplies for its nuclear power plants.
Ali Ashgar Soltanieh, the chief Iranian delegate to the International Atomic Energy Agency, however, declined to clarify whether Iran would halt its enrichment program in return for such international guarantees, suggesting that it might have to continue at a diminished level in case the outside supply stops.
Iran has steadfastly rejected international pressure to give up enrichment, a potential source of both nuclear fuel and fissile warhead material. The U.S. says the enrichment program is designed to give Iran a nuclear bomb. Iran insists that the program is for peaceful nuclear power generation.
Court extends jail for terror plotters
AMSTERDAM | An appeals court on Thursday increased the prison sentences of four Islamic radicals accused of plotting attacks on Dutch politicians, convicting them of the additional charge of membership in a terrorist organization.
The Hague appeals court re-convicted the four Dutch nationals of Moroccan descent for plotting attacks and said trial evidence showed they were part of a single group, as prosecutors had argued.
Judges cited their adherence to a single violent belief system, their training with firearms, and their coordinated efforts to find the addresses of Dutch politicians on a hit list, including the prime minister.
The court’s judges added a year to the sentence of ringleader Samir Azzouz, 22, giving him a total of nine years in prison. Azzouz had videotaped a suicide testament.
20 children die in stampede
ARUSHA | A stampede at an overcrowded dance hall in central Tanzania killed 20 children and left 50 others injured as they celebrated an important Muslim festival, police said Thursday.
At least 400 children ages 5 to 13 were inside the hall in the town of Tabora when the stampede occurred, police said. They were dancing to English and Kiswahili songs for the Islamic Eid al-Fitr holiday.
Daytime children’s dances, called “Toto Discos,” were once banned in this East African nation but are still held occasionally, usually from noon to 6 p.m.
Wednesday’s dance was held to mark the end of the holy month of Ramadan in the prominently Muslim town, which is 460 miles northwest of Tanzania’s largest city, Dar es Salaam.
Communist leader pleads not guilty
WARSAW | Poland’s last communist leader denied Thursday that he led an organized criminal group intent on depriving people of freedom when he imposed martial law in a 1981 crackdown on the pro-democracy Solidarity movement.
Gen. Wojciech Jaruzelski, 85, said the charges brought against him by the Institute of National Remembrance, a state body that investigates communist-era crimes, were unfounded.
It was the first time that Gen. Jaruzelski had the opportunity to speak at his trial, which opened Sept. 12.
From wire dispatches and staff reports