- The Washington Times - Monday, January 12, 2009


Taliban integrates for cross-border strike

PESHAWAR | Hundreds of militants, many from Afghanistan, attacked a Pakistani paramilitary camp in a lawless northwestern tribal region early Sunday, sparking a major clash that left six security troops and 40 insurgents dead.

The brazen raid in Mohmand suggested sophisticated cross-border coordination among Taliban militants nesting in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and underscored the continued strength of the militancy despite an ongoing Pakistani military offensive.

Insurgents attacked the Pakistani Frontier Corps’ camp about 2 a.m. Saturday with mortars and rockets, then used small arms to fire on a checkpoint near the Mohammad Ghat camp, said a paramilitary official, who gave details on the condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to comment to the media.

The 600 or so attackers were eventually driven off, but scattered skirmishes continued, he said.


Pirate’s body found with cash

MOGADISHU | The body of a Somali pirate who drowned just after receiving a huge ransom washed onshore with $153,000 in cash, a resident said Sunday, as the spokesman for another group of pirates promised to soon free a Ukrainian arms ship.

Five pirates drowned Friday when their small boat capsized after they received a reported $3 million ransom for releasing a Saudi oil tanker. Local resident Omar Abdi Hassan said one of the bodies had been found on a beach near the coastal town of Haradhere and relatives were searching for the other four.

“One of them was discovered, and they are still looking for the other ones. He had $153,000 in a plastic bag in his pocket,” he said Sunday.

The U.S. Navy released photos of a parachute dropping a package onto the deck of the Sirius Star, and said the package was likely to be the ransom delivery.


New crisis grips parliament

BAGHDAD | The Iraqi parliament faced a new crisis Sunday after members of the country’s major Sunni Arab bloc fell out with one another over the nomination of a new candidate for speaker.

The dispute is over a successor for former parliament speaker Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, a Sunni who resigned last month amid controversy over his behavior.

Under Iraq’s sectarian-based political system, Mr. al-Mashhadani’s successor must be a Sunni. But the main Sunni bloc, the Iraqi Accordance Front, has been unable to agree on a candidate.

Mr. al-Mashhadani’s resignation came under heavy pressure from Shi’ite and Kurdish lawmakers after he tried to delay a vote on a security agreement to allow foreign troops to stay in Iraq past the end of last year, when a U.N. mandate expired. His resignation broke the impasse, and the agreement was eventually passed.


Police arrest angry ax killer

BEIJING | Police in central China seized a man suspected of killing eight people, including a 2-year-old boy who was slain with an ax, state media reported Sunday.

The official Xinhua News Agency said authorities nabbed 35-year-old junk collector Xiong Zhenlin on Sunday in Wuhan, the capital of Hubei province.

The report said Mr. Xiong confessed to police that he had killed eight people but did not say whether he had been arrested or charged.

Police were still investigating the motive behind the killings, but the report said neighbors told police that Mr. Xiong wanted to marry a widow - but she turned him down.


Ferry capsizes; 250 feared dead

JAKARTA | A ferry capsized in a severe storm and crashing waves in central Indonesia on Sunday and officials said about 250 people were feared dead.

Eighteen survivors were rescued by fishing boats, but the fate of the others was not clear, said Taufik, a port official at Parepare on the island of Sulawesi, where the ferry began its journey. Taufik uses one name, as is common in Indonesia.

About 250 passengers and 17 crew are thought to have been onboard the ferry when it went down 30 miles off the coast off western Sulawesi. Indonesians generally don’t know how to swim, and it was feared that most onboard would have drowned.


Voters warm to EU treaty

DUBLIN | A majority of Irish people would vote “yes” in a planned second referendum on the European Union’s reform treaty, a poll showed Sunday.

Ireland’s rejection last year of the treaty - a successor to the defunct EU constitution and aimed at improving decision making in Brussels - has slowed integration efforts just as EU backers say the 27-country bloc needs to show it can take quick, coordinated action to tackle the financial crisis.

Irish Prime Minister Brian Cowen said last month that he was prepared to hold another vote on the treaty on the basis of concessions Dublin has secured.

The Sunday Independent/ Quantum Research poll showed that 55 percent would back the treaty in a fresh referendum, up from 39 percent canvassed in the previous survey conducted in December.

The concessions include the retention of a permanent commissioner, and others in the sensitive areas of military neutrality, taxation policy and workers’ rights. They were made as part of an effort to have all 27 member states ratify the treaty by Jan. 1, 2010.


Medvedev presses Putin on economy

MOSCOW | Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has criticized his government led by close ally Prime Minister Vladimir Putin for being too slow to implement measures to tackle the economic crisis, local news agencies said Sunday.

They reported Mr. Medvedev as saying that only 30 percent of Russia’s plans announced three months ago had been implemented. Mr. Medvedev’s rebuke was unusual because he and Mr. Putin, the powerful former president, frequently boast of their close relations.

Russia has been hit hard by the crisis, with the stock market falling by almost 70 percent last year, the ruble 17 percent off against the dollar and euro basket, prices for major exports down sharply and many large companies laying off staff.

Mr. Medvedev was personally endorsed by Mr. Putin as a presidential candidate and went on to an easy win in the March election.


Former envoy on Iraq dies

VATICAN CITY | Cardinal Pio Laghi, a longtime Vatican diplomat who went to Washington to try to dissuade President Bush from launching the 2003 invasion of Iraq, has died, the Vatican said Sunday. He was 86.

Cardinal Laghi died Saturday evening at a Rome hospital, where he had been treated for some time, Vatican Radio said.

Pope John Paul II tapped Cardinal Laghi, a former envoy to Washington, in 2003 to meet with Mr. Bush on the eve of war. Cardinal Laghi was trying to prevent what he said was a morally and legally unjustified invasion.

Cardinal Laghi, who had been friendly with the Bush family, delivered a letter from John Paul and pressed Mr. Bush on whether he was doing everything to avert war.


Actor arrested in street stabbing

PARIS | French actor Samy Naceri, who starred in the World War II film “Days of Glory,” was jailed Sunday after being charged with stabbing his ex-girlfriend’s companion in a confrontation on a Paris street, judicial officials said.

Mr. Naceri, 47, was charged with armed voluntary violence. He also was charged with making repeated death threats, said the actor’s attorney Francoise Cotta.

The preliminary charges, which could be dropped if an investigation fails to turn up clear evidence, followed a confrontation Thursday near Paris’ Champs-Elysees Avenue.

Mr. Naceri and his ex-girlfriend were arguing, and her boyfriend was called to the scene, the judicial official said. The man was stabbed, but his injuries were not considered life-threatening.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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