- The Washington Times - Monday, January 5, 2009


Quakes kill at least four

MANOKWARI | A series of powerful earthquakes killed at least four people and injured dozens in remote eastern Indonesia on Sunday and briefly triggered fears of another tsunami in a country still recovering from 2004’s deadly waves.

One of the quakes - a 7.3-magnitude tremor - was felt as far away as Australia and sent ocean waves into Japan’s southeastern coast.

Residents near the epicenter in Papua province rushed from their homes in search of higher ground shortly after the first 7.6-magnitude quake struck at 4:43 a.m. local time, afraid that huge waves might wash over the island.

The epicenter was about 85 miles from Papua’s main city of Manokwari and occurred at a depth of 22 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said. It was followed by dozens of aftershocks.


State-owned newspaper planned

LA PAZ | President Evo Morales says Bolivia will launch a state newspaper soon and also plans to create a television station with Venezuelan and Iranian backing.

The leftist president says he has asked the government’s communication department to inaugurate the newspaper Jan. 22, with the objective of “reporting the truth.”

Mr. Morales also said Sunday that Bolivia plans a new state television station with financial backing from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He did not say when he plans to launch the station.


Ayatollah warns Iraq on U.S. pact

TEHRAN | Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, on Sunday warned Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki against a security pact with the United States, the official IRNA news agency reported.

“Americans do not have a real friendship even with their close allies in the region, so their promises should not and cannot be trusted,” Ayatollah Khamenei told Mr. al-Maliki, who was on a two-day visit to Tehran.

Mr. al-Maliki’s fourth visit to Iran since he took office in 2006 was his first since the Dec. 14 signing of a bilateral security agreement for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq until the end of 2011 - a deal that irked Tehran.

Iraq and Iran also agreed to establish a high-ranking joint committee to pursue bolstering economic ties between the two neighbors, Mr. al-Maliki said.


Seven killed in suicide attack

PESHAWAR | Seven people were killed and 28 wounded Sunday in a suspected suicide attack targeting police in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, a local government official said.

The attack took place on a busy road in the town of Dera Ismail Khan, where police had been called to investigate a minor explosion, district coordination officer Syed Mohsin Shah told Agence France-Presse.

Five police and two civilians were killed, Mr. Shah said.

A local hospital official said a severed head and limbs not belonging to the seven victims had been brought in for analysis, indicating that a suicide attacker likely carried out the bombing.


Journalists freed after six weeks

NAIROBI, Kenya | Two journalists, from Britain and Spain, were released Sunday after almost six weeks in captivity in Somalia’s breakaway Puntland state, police and the Spanish government said.

“The two journalists are free after their ordeals,” said the head of Puntland police, Abdullahi Said Samatar. “They’re taking some rest now, and they will be available later. I’m happy to see them recovering their freedom.”

The release was confirmed by the Spanish government in Madrid, whose ambassador to Kenya traveled to Puntland from Nairobi to meet British writer Colin Freeman and Spanish photographer Jose Cendon on Sunday afternoon.

Mr. Freeman and Mr. Cendon were in the country to report on piracy in an assignment for England’s Daily Telegraph newspaper. Mr. Cendon worked for a variety of media throughout East Africa, including Agence France-Presse.


Sept. 11 leader to go on trial

PARIS | The self-described mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks goes on trial in absentia in France on Monday on charges that he ordered a deadly Tunisian synagogue bombing less than a year after the assaults on New York and Washington.

The proceedings in Paris are expected to highlight the reach and complexity of al Qaeda-linked networks in North Africa, although they are unlikely to directly affect the fate of Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, who is being held by the United States at the U.S. Naval Base, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Also on trial in France are Christian Ganczarski, a German who converted to Islam, and Walid Naouar, the brother of the suicide bomber who drove a propane-laden truck into an ancient synagogue on the island of Djerba on April 11, 2002, killing 21 people.

Ganczarski and Naouar are charged with complicity in the killings and attempted murder in the synagogue attack and face life sentences if convicted.


Brown: No request by U.S. on detainees

LONDON | British Prime Minister Gordon Brown says the U.S. has not asked Britain to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay if the facility in Cuba for terrorist suspects is closed.

President-elect Barack Obama has pledged to shut Guantanamo. Several European nations have said they are considering taking inmates who cannot be returned to their own countries because of the risk of persecution.

Mr. Brown said Sunday that Britain supports the closure of Guantanamo but had not yet been asked to accept inmates.

About 250 detainees remain at the U.S.-run camp in Cuba.


Serbian minister asks for calm

MITROVICA | Serbia’s minister in charge of Kosovo called Sunday on international institutions to cool tensions after firefighters were injured in a blast in this ethnically divided city.

After meeting minority-Serbian representatives in Mitrovica, Goran Bogdanovic appealed to NATO-led peacekeepers (KFOR), U.N. peacekeepers and the EU mission to “prevent provocations and escalation of conflict” by majority ethnic-Albanians.

Uneasy calm returned to the streets after KFOR troops reinforced their presence following two explosions overnight Friday in the northern part of the town, populated mostly by Serbs.

Seven firefighters were injured in the second blast as they were trying to put out a fire in an Albanian-owned building apparently set by a group of ethnic Serbs angered by the first explosion.


Swastikas desecrate Holocaust memorial

BERLIN | Vandals daubed swas-tikas on some of the slabs that make up the capital’s Holocaust memorial, police said.

Police said security guards discovered the swastikas and anti-Semitic slogans on 12 slabs Saturday afternoon. Authorities ordered its swift removal.

The memorial to the Holocaust’s estimated 6 million Jewish victims consists of a field of 2,700 gray slabs situate close to the capital’s Brandenburg Gate.

It opened to the public in 2005 and is freely accessible round-the-clock. Similar vandalism has occurred before.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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