Military to scrap pregnancy penalty
BAGHDAD | The U.S. military in Iraq will scrap a policy early next year that has led to the punishment of some soldiers serving in Iraq for becoming pregnant, the commander of U.S. forces in Iraq said Thursday.
Gen. Ray Odierno said the new, Iraq-wide guidelines would take effect beginning Jan. 1, lifting rules enacted by the U.S. commander in northern Iraq, who reports to Gen. Odierno, that laid out possible punishments for pregnancy among his soldiers. Four U.S. senators, all female Democrats, wrote to the secretary of the U.S. Army on Tuesday asking that it be rescinded.
Maj. Gen. Tony Cucolo, in charge of 22,000 U.S. troops in northern Iraq, has defended his policy, saying that he could not afford to lose soldiers to pregnancy while the U.S. military draws down its soldiers from Iraq.
Palestinians kill Israeli driver
JERUSALEM | Palestinian gunmen fatally shot an Israeli driving his car in the West Bank on Thursday, the army said, calling it a “terror act.”
The military said Meir Avshalom Hai, a father of seven, was killed when his car came under fire, either by a passing car or a roadside ambush, near the city of Nablus.
Col. Avi Gil, brigade commander in the area, said the military had been removing checkpoints from West Bank roads to ease travel restrictions on Palestinians, but would consider putting new ones in place if they would prevent similar attacks in the future.
Security clashes with cleric’s mourners
TEHRAN | Iranian security forces clashed with supporters of the late dissident cleric Grand Ayatollah Hossein Ali Montazeri in the northwestern city of Zanjan on Thursday, a reformist Web site said.
The authorities have banned memorial gatherings for Ayatollah Montazeri in most parts of Iran, reformist Web sites said, days ahead of an emotive Shi’ite ritual that may draw more opposition protests.
The Jaras Web site said some people were injured and arrests made when the security services enforced the ban in Zanjan. On Wednesday, an Iranian official denied reports by opposition Web sites of clashes between mourners and police in the central city of Isfahan, one of Iran’s biggest cities.
Suicide attack kills 5 in Peshawar
PESHAWAR | A suicide bomber struck a neighborhood that is home to government buildings and a church in Pakistan’s main northwest city Thursday, killing five people.
The attack was the second in three days in Peshawar, and the latest in a wave of violence that has killed more than 500 people in Pakistan since October.
The bomber walked up to a checkpoint along the road and detonated his explosives when a police officer asked him to stop, police said.
Medvedev vows prison reform
MOSCOW | President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday pledged to overhaul Russia’s largely Soviet-inherited prison system after the death in jail of a lawyer last month.
Earlier this month, he fired about 20 top prison officials, including top prisons chiefs for Moscow and St. Petersburg, in one of the largest shakeups at the Federal Service for the Execution of Punishment, the successor to the Soviet-era gulag prison system.
The mass firings came after the sudden death of high-profile lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in jail, where he had been held for more than a year in pretrial detention. His requests for medical treatment had been denied.