- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 30, 2009

BRITAIN

2 hostages in Iraq believed dead

LONDON | Two hostages captured in a daring raid on Iraq’s Finance Ministry two years ago have very likely died, Britain’s prime minister said Wednesday.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown said that, while there was little hope for security workers Alan McMenemy and Alec MacLachlan, the government thinks that Peter Moore, the IT consultant they were guarding, is still alive.

The three men were among five Britons abducted by Shi’ite militants disguised as Iraqi policemen in a raid on the Finance Ministry in May 2007. The bodies of two them - Jason Swindlehurst, 38, and Jason Creswell, 39 - were returned to England in June. The pair suffered multiple gunshot wounds.

Hopes for the men had risen after the release in June of Laith al-Khazali, a Shi’ite militant who had been in U.S. custody. The kidnappers want nine militiamen released, including Mr. al-Khazali’s brother, Qais al-Khazali, in exchange for the British hostages.

IRAQ

Ruling parties win Kurdish elections

IRBIL | President Massoud Barzani’s ruling party and its coalition partner in Iraq’s Kurdish region won a majority in weekend elections, while the opposition, tapping into voter frustrations, made strong gains, according to election results released Wednesday.

Iraq’s election commission said the two ruling parties - Mr. Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Iraqi President Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurdistan - took a solid majority of the votes. But it said the opposition party called Gorran, Kurdish for Change, marked significant gains in the polls, which were for the regional president and 111-seat parliament.

Mr. Barzani received 69.57 percent of the vote, while Gorran candidate Kamal Mirawdeli received 25 percent. Mr. Barzani’s ruling coalition received 57.34 percent of the vote for parliament seats, with Change taking 23.75 percent, the commission said.

IRELAND

Dublin to take 2 Gitmo inmates

DUBLIN | Ireland has agreed to accept two inmates from the Guantanamo prison camp in Cuba within the next two months, Irish Justice Minister Dermot Ahern said Wednesday.

Mr. Ahern declined to identify either detainee. Other government officials and the human rights group Amnesty International said both come from Uzbekistan and were seized in Afghani-stan in 2001.

Mr. Ahern made his announcement as he met newly appointed U.S. Ambassador Dan Rooney. Last week, Irish officials visited Washington and Guantanamo Bay to negotiate terms of the Uzbeks’ transfer.

Ireland is the second EU member to reach agreement with the Obama administration on the issue. France received one Algerian former inmate in May.

INDONESIA

Terrorist suspect claims hotel blasts

JAKARTA | Police were investigating the origin of an Internet message taking responsibility for twin hotel bombings in Indonesia’s capital nearly two weeks ago. The group calling itself al Qaeda Indonesia said the attacks targeted the American business community.

The message surfaced Wednesday and was purportedly signed by Noordin Mohammed Top, a key terrorist suspect in Southeast Asia. It said the attacks were carried out by a splinter faction of the al Qaeda-linked regional militant group Jemaah Islamiyah.

From wire dispatches and staff reports.

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