- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 14, 2009

RUSSIA

Ex-official killed in North Caucasus

NAZRAN | Gunmen killed a former top government minister in Ingushetia as he stood outside his home in the violent southern Russian region Saturday, law enforcement officials said.

Bashir Aushev’s killing was the latest in a string of assassinations - and the second to hit Ingushetia this week - to highlight North Caucasus’ continuing turmoil.

Two gunmen sprayed Mr. Aushev with automatic-weapons fire as he got out of his car at the gate outside his home in the region’s main city, Nazran, the regional Interior Ministry’s press service said.

Mr. Aushev was vice prime minister under former Ingush President Murat Zyazikov, a KGB agent who was widely reviled by many Ingush for his repressive policies.

On Wednesday, gunmen killed a deputy chief justice of the regional Supreme Court opposite a kindergarten in Nazran. On June 5, the top law enforcement official of another North Caucasus region, Dagestan, was killed by a sniper as he stood outside a restaurant where a wedding was taking place.

AFGHANISTAN

41 candidates in presidential race

KABUL | President Hamid Karzai and 40 other candidates will appear on the ballot for president this August in a crowded political lineup that Afghanistan’s electoral commission chief on Saturday called “shameful.”

Mr. Karzai is considered the clear front-runner to win Afghanistan’s second presidential election since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime. His strongest challengers in the Aug. 20 vote include former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani and former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah. Two women are also among the 41 candidates.

In announcing the final list of candidates, Azizullah Lodin, the head of Afghanistan’s election commission, said he believed that many of the candidates were not qualified, but said he had no power to remove them from the ballot.

During the country’s first post-Taliban presidential election in 2004, 18 candidates ran for president. Mr. Karzai won in the first round with 55 percent, while the second-place finisher, Yunus Qanooni, the current speaker of the lower house of parliament, won 16 percent. Mr. Qanooni is not running this year.

WEST BANK

Palestinians honor Carter

RAMALLAH | Former President Jimmy Carter was honored by the Palestinian government Saturday, and he pledged to support the Palestinians’ campaign for independence to the end of his days.

In his acceptance speech, Mr. Carter urged the Palestinians to end their internal divisions and stop persecuting their rivals.

He was referring to the growing rift between the Islamic militant Hamas group, which controls Gaza, and Western-backed Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, in charge of the West Bank. Each side has been cracking down on the other’s supporters, particularly since Hamas violently overran Gaza two years ago.

Mr. Carter met with Hamas’ exiled leadership in Syria on Thursday and is to head to Gaza on Sunday, after meeting with Israeli officials. Mr. Carter has said peace between Israel and the Palestinians is impossible without involving Hamas, but reiterated in Syria that he was not representing the Obama administration.

In the West Bank, Mr. Carter was awarded the Palestine International Award for Excellence and Creativity. Previous recipients included two former international envoys, James Wolfensohn and Peter Hansen.

Mr. Carter, 85, brokered the Israeli-Egypt peace accord of 1979 and several years ago wrote a book, “Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid,” that is sharply critical of Israeli policies in the occupied territories.

PHILIPPINES

5 marines killed in ambush

MANILA | Al Qaeda-linked militants holding an Italian Red Cross worker captive killed five Philippine marines and wounded 10 others in an ambush Saturday on a southern island. One police officer was wounded.

About 40 militants from the al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group attacked marines and special-operations police pursuing Abu Sayyaf gunmen holding 62-year-old Eugenio Vagni outside Parang township on Jolo island, said marines spokesman Lt. Col. Edgard Arevalo.

Also in the south, the military said fighting with a different militant group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, left 10 dead and 20 wounded on Friday.

THAILAND

4 killed, 20 hurt in attack in south

PATTANI | Suspected Muslim insurgents killed four people and wounded 20 in separate incidents across southern Thailand, police said Saturday - the latest in a violent spree that started with a massacre at a mosque nearly a week ago.

The latest attacks included a bomb attack on a bus, a drive-by shooting, an ambush and a bomb explosion at a grocery store, police reports said.

Violence has occurred daily in southern Thailand since Monday’s killing of 10 Muslims at a mosque in neighboring Narathiwat province.

Thai authorities say the attacks are aimed at igniting sectarian conflict between Muslims and Buddhists in Thailand’s three southernmost provinces, where the 5-year-old insurgency has killed more than 3,400 people.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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