- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 23, 2009

IRAQ

School students among dozens killed

BAGHDAD | Bombings and shootings killed more than 30 people across Iraq on Monday, including high school students on their way to final exams, part of a new round of violence ahead of next week’s deadline for U.S. troops to withdraw from urban areas.

The attacks pushed the three-day Iraqi death toll to more than 100, shattering a recent lull and adding fresh doubt to the ability of government forces to protect people without U.S. troops by their sides. U.S. combat troops have already begun moving from inner-city outposts to large bases outside Baghdad and other cities.

Overall levels of violence remain low, but Iraqi officials have warned that militants would likely carry out more attacks to erode public confidence in the government as the Americans pull out of cities by June 30 - the first step toward a full withdrawal from the country by the end of 2011.

Many Iraqis support the withdrawal timeline, outlined in a security pact that took effect this year. But others fear militants will regroup without the visible presence of U.S. soldiers.

PALESTINIAN TERRITORIES

Palestinian bureaus prepare for statehood

RAMALLAH | Institutions for an independent Palestinian state should be up and running within two years, Palestinian Prime Minister Salam Fayyad said Monday, for the first time setting such a target date.

Little state-building was accomplished in the first decade after the Palestinian Authority was established in the mid-1990s, at a time when the late Yasser Arafat, known for his chaotic style of governing, was at the helm.

In recent years, the international community has focused on institution building, including training the Palestinian security forces and modernizing government ministries.

Well-run government institutions will make a strong case for ending Israeli occupation, said Mr. Fayyad, a respected economist.

FRANCE

Sarkozy: Burqas not welcome

VERSAILLES - The Islamic burqa is “not welcome” in France because it is not a symbol of religion, but a sign of subservience for women, President Nicolas Sarkozy said Monday.

“We cannot accept to have in our country women who are prisoners behind netting, cut off from all social life, deprived of identity,” he said. “That is not the idea that the French republic has of women’s dignity.”

“The burqa is not a sign of religion, it is a sign of subservience,” he told lawmakers. “It will not be welcome on the territory of the French republic.”

France has Europe’s biggest Muslim population, estimated at several millions.

RUSSIA

Provincial president hurt in suicide attack

NAZRAN | A suicide bomber badly wounded a provincial president in Russia’s North Caucasus on Monday, an assassination attempt that undermined the Kremlin’s claim that it has brought stability to the predominantly Muslim region.

Yunus Bek Yevkurov was the third top official to be wounded or killed in the past three weeks in the area of southern Russia around Chechnya, which was devastated by two separatist wars in the past 15 years.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Ingushetia province, where Mr. Yevkurov has tried to halt violence by Islamic militants.

A car rigged with TNT exploded as the presidential convoy traveled outside the provincial center, Nazran. The blast tore Mr. Yevkurov’s armored sedan to pieces and killed two of his bodyguards.

SOMALIA

Islamic court orders amputations

MOGADISHU | A court run by an extremist Islamic group sentenced four Somali men Monday to each have a hand and a leg cut off for purportedly stealing mobile phones and guns. The ruling prompted an outcry from human rights activists.

The court that handed down the sentence in Somalia’s capital is run by al-Shabab, one of the nation’s most powerful insurgent groups. The U.S. considers al-Shabab a terrorist group with links to al Qaeda, which al-Shabab denies. The group, which controls much of Somalia, is trying to drive out the government and install a strict form of Islam.

“We have convicted them of theft, so they deserve to have their arms and legs amputated,” said Sheik Abdul Haq, the al-Shabab judge in the capital, Mogadishu.

Al-Shabab has carried out amputations and other punishments elsewhere in Somalia, but they are rare in the capital.

From wire dispatches and staff reports


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