- The Washington Times - Friday, January 9, 2009

PAKISTAN

Fired official says leader out of loop

ISLAMABAD | Pakistan’s security agencies had recommended confirming the surviving Mumbai gunman was Pakistani, the country’s former national security adviser said Thursday, adding that he was fired because the prime minister was out of the loop.

India had said for weeks that the captured gunman, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was a Pakistani. Pakistan had stonewalled, saying his name was not on a national database and it was investigating.

Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani fired National Security Adviser Mahmud Ali Durrani on Wednesday, shortly after he and other officials confirmed to reporters that Kasab was Pakistani.

Mr. Durrani said he was dismissed because Mr. Gilani had not been informed about the decision to confirm Kasab’s nationality and the prime minister had felt the need to exert his authority.

“The prime minister happened to be ignorant. He was in Lahore and he didn’t know about it. He was out of the loop,” Mr. Durrani told Reuters news agency in a telephone interview.

Mr. Gilani’s office said Mr. Durrani had been fired “for his irresponsible behavior for not taking the prime minister and other stakeholders into confidence.”

TURKEY

General meets leaders in coup probe

ANKARA | Turkey’s military chief held urgent meetings Thursday with the prime minister and president following the detention of three retired generals and nine active-duty officers in a probe into a purported coup plot.

The military said Gen. Ilker Basbug had expressed his views on the detentions. The army, which once called the shots in the country, is widely thought to be angry about the detentions, which have stunned the nation.

Eighty-six people - including 16 former army officers, several journalists, a former university dean and a lawyer - already are on trial in the case. They have pleaded not guilty and accuse Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government of attempting to silence secular critics.

Police detained about 40 more suspects in raids across Turkey on Wednesday, including nine active-duty military officers and three retired generals, prompting Gen. Basbug to summon his force commanders for a late-night meeting.

COSTA RICA

Quake leaves 2 children dead

SAN JOSE | A strong 6.1-magnitude earthquake struck Costa Rica Thursday, killing two children who sold candy to tourists in a national park and damaging buildings in the capital.

The quake triggered landslides in rural areas and damaged a highway near the Poas national volcano park.

Two young girls selling candy at the volcano were buried in a landslide and died, a spokesman for the Red Cross said. Several other people were reported to have been hurt in a village northwest of the capital, San Jose.

The quake’s epicenter was 20 miles from San Jose at a depth of 21.7 miles, the U.S. Geological Survey said, and caused shaking for 40 seconds.

Local television showed buildings with shattered windows and damaged walls, but emergency services officials had no reports of widespread injuries.

NORWAY

Trains halt in Gaza protest

OSLO | Passenger trains stopped for an extra two minutes at stations across Norway on Thursday to protest Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip, the union that organized the demonstration said.

Norway’s Locomotive Association said all passenger trains at a station at 4 p.m. had been asked to wait an extra two minutes before continuing their routes. Trains that were not in station at that time made their two-minute stop as soon as they got to the nearest station.

The train personnel also had been asked to inform passengers the delay was an expression of “solidarity with the Palestinian people. … We demand the immediate withdrawal of Israeli troops from Gaza,” the union said.

Hours later, Oslo police detained at least 27 people after pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrators clashed. The violence started when about 1,000 pro-Palestinian supporters showed up at a rally sponsored by Norway’s largest opposition party in support of Israel.

SOMALIA

U.S.-led naval force to battle pirates

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates | A new international naval force under American command will soon begin patrols to confront escalating attacks by Somali pirates after more than 100 ships came under siege in the past year, the U.S. Navy said Thursday.

But the mission - expected to begin operations next week - appears more of an attempt to sharpen the military focus against piracy rather than a signal of expanded offensives across one of the world’s most crucial shipping lanes.

The force will carry no wider authority to strike at pirate vessels at sea or specific mandates to move against havens on shore - which some maritime experts think is necessary to weaken the pirate gangs that have taken control of dozens of cargo vessels and an oil tanker.

Pentagon officials described it as a first step to create a dedicated international structure - combining military force, intelligence sharing and coordinated patrols - to battle piracy from lawless Somalia.

EUROPEAN UNION

Deal on monitoring Russia gas flow

BRUSSELS | The European Union said Thursday that gas supplies should restart after it struck a deal with Russia on supervising the flow of gas through Ukraine.

Russia cut off natural gas supplies to Europe on Tuesday during freezing winter weather as a payment dispute with Ukraine escalated. Russia claims Ukraine siphoned off gas for its own use. Ukraine denies it.

Czech Prime Minister Mirek Topolanek, whose country holds the EU presidency, said he spoke to Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and German Chancellor Angela Merkel and they agreed on how monitors should check the amount of Russian gas entering and leaving Ukraine.

VENEZUELA

Protesters cheer Israeli’s expulsion

CARACAS | Protesters condemning Israel’s offensive in the Gaza Strip sprayed graffiti and hurled shoes at the Israeli Embassy on Thursday, backing President Hugo Chavez’s decision to expel the Israeli ambassador.

Demonstrators waved Palestinian flags and chanted “Gaza, hold on! The world is rising up!” Journalists estimated the crowd at about 1,000.

The protest came two days after Mr. Chavez ordered Ambassador Shlomo Cohen to leave in protest over the attacks in Gaza. Israel says Mr. Cohen had been given until Friday to depart, and Israel is considering expelling Venezuelan diplomats in response.

AFGHANISTAN

Suicide attack targets U.S. patrol

KABUL | A suicide bomber struck U.S. troops patrolling on foot in southern Afghanistan on Thursday, killing at least two soldiers and three civilians and wounding at least nine others, officials said.

The blast followed an allegation from President Hamid Karzai that clashes between U.S.-led troops and insurgents left 17 civilians dead earlier in the week. The U.S. military insists all 32 people killed in the fighting were militants.

It also comes at a time when the U.S. is rushing 20,000 more troops into Afghanistan to combat a Taliban insurgency that has sent violence to record levels.

U.S. officials have warned the violence will probably intensify in the coming year. More U.S. troops, 151, died in Afghanistan in 2008 than in any other year since the 2001 invasion to oust the Taliban.

SRI LANKA

Army pushes rebels further into jungle

COLOMBO | Sri Lankan forces sweeping down from the north captured an important Tamil Tiger base on the Jaffna peninsula Thursday, further boxing in the retreating rebel group, the military said.

The capture of Pallai on the narrow isthmus connecting Jaffna with the rest of the island nation came after the rebels reportedly withdrew much of their artillery and heavy weaponry from the peninsula into their jungle strongholds to the south.

The group appeared to be sacrificing its bases on the peninsula and consolidating its forces in the Mullaittivu area, where it likely will make a stand against the government.

CHINA

Democracy activist jailed for six years

BEIJING | A 65-year-old democracy activist who tried to set up an opposition party in China was sentenced to six years in jail, a human rights group said Thursday.

A court in Hangzhou, a prosperous city in eastern Zhejiang province, sentenced Wang Rongqing on Wednesday on charges of subverting state power for organizing the banned China Democracy Party, according to Chinese Human Rights Defenders.

Mr. Wang was detained in June, two months before the Olympic Games started, the group said. His brother, Wang Rongyao, confirmed the sentence.

Mr. Wang has been repeatedly harassed and detained by police during his years of activism, which started in the late 1970s as China’s hard-line Maoist era came to a close and some started calling for democracy.

INDIA

Accounting scandal hits investors hard

MUMBAI | India reeled Thursday over a false-accounting scandal at outsourcing giant Satyam, likened to that at U.S. energy giant Enron, amid fears for jobs, foreign investment and the country’s business credibility.

There were fears the Hyderabad-based company - India’s fourth-largest IT exporter - could collapse as clients run scared and potential bidders shy away from being associated with a tainted firm.

Satyam Computer Services founder and chairman, B. Ramalinga Raju, resigned Wednesday, admitting in a letter to the industry regulator and stock exchange that company accounts and assets had been falsified and profits inflated.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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