- The Washington Times - Monday, September 15, 2008

RUSSIA

Engine trouble suspected in crash

PERM | A Russian passenger plane that caught fire as it fell from the sky on Sunday likely suffered engine failure before it crashed, killing all 88 people on board, investigators said.

The right engine of the Boeing 737-500 caught fire as it prepared to land in Perm, they said. The plane came down on the outskirts of the city, hitting the ground just a few hundred yards from small wooden houses and apartment buildings. Officials said no one on the ground was killed.

Flight 821, operated by an Aeroflot subsidiary, carried 82 passengers, including six children younger than 10, and six crew members, Aeroflot said.

Aeroflot officials said the plane was circling at about 3,600 feet in “difficult weather conditions” - including low cloud cover and rain - when it lost contact with ground dispatchers.

Witnesses said the plane was on fire as it fell.

THAILAND

Acting leader lifts state of emergency

BANGKOK | Thailand’s acting prime minister lifted a state of emergency in Bangkok on Sunday, urging all sides in a political standoff to find a peaceful compromise and restore the country’s image as “The Land of Smiles.”

Acting Prime Minister Somchai Wongsawat said he hoped that ending the state of emergency, which was imposed on Sept. 2, would help ease some of the tensions in Thailand and bring more tourists back to the country.

He acknowledged that Thai society remained deeply divided but said the situation no longer justified keeping the capital under emergency rule, which empowers the army to restore order with the assistance of police.

Emergency rule was imposed Sept. 2 by Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej after violent clashes between government supporters and opponents left one person dead. Mr. Samak was forced to resign in an unrelated twist to the crisis, when the Constitutional Court ruled Tuesday that he had violated a conflict-of-interest law by accepting money for hosting television cooking shows while in office.

AFGHANISTAN

U.N. physicians killed by suicide bomber

KANDAHAR | Two Afghan doctors working for the United Nations were killed in a suicide car-bomb attack on their vehicle in southeastern Afghanistan Sunday, police said.

The explosion was near the town of Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan, Kandahar province police chief Matiullah Khan told Agence France-Presse.

Three Afghan government officials and a dozen civilians were hurt in the attack, he said, correcting earlier information that another two U.N. workers had been wounded.

The border police commander in Spin Boldak, Gen. Abdul Raziq, said the blast was caused by a suicide car bomb. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

MALAYSIA

Anwar calls rally to protest crackdown

KUALA LUMPUR | Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim’s party Sunday announced a mass rally against a government crackdown which he says is aimed at preventing him from taking power within days.

Mr. Anwar said during the weekend that he has enough support to pull off a parliamentary coup but that the takeover slated for Tuesday could be delayed by the series of arrests under tough internal security laws.

Mr. Anwar, a former deputy prime minister who was fired and jailed a decade ago, needs 30 lawmakers to defect if he is to topple the Barisan Nasional coalition, which has ruled since independence from Britain half a century ago.

That prospect would have been unthinkable before March general elections, when his opposition alliance shocked the nation by denying the government its two-thirds majority in Parliament for the first time.

MOROCCO

Muslim cleric calls child marriage OK

RABAT | A Moroccan Islamic theologian repeated his claims Sunday that Muslim girls could marry as early as 9 years old, arguing it was sanctioned by the prophet Mohammed.

“The marriage of 9-year-old girls is not forbidden because according to the Hadith [the Prophet Muhammad’s sayings], Muhammad married Aisha when she was only 7 years old and he consummated his union when she was 9,” wrote Sheik Mohamed Ben Abderrahman Al-Maghraoui on his Web site.

Earlier this month, Rabat-based lawyer Mourad Bekkouri filed a complaint against Sheik Maghraoui and his fatwa, which he said damages children’s human rights, and the family and criminal code by increasing the risk of rape.

He told Agence France-Presse that the theologian is undermining Islam and its followers and that he had requested the state prosecutor to speed up the case.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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