- The Washington Times - Friday, March 20, 2009

PHILIPPINES

Troops to pull back in hostage deal

MANILA | The Philippine military agreed Thursday to pull back from a jungle stronghold of al Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf extremists in exchange for a pledge of freedom for one of their Red Cross hostages, officials said.

The move comes after Abu Sayyaf commander Albader Parad threatened to kill the three Red Cross workers - two Europeans and a Filipino - he has been holding for more than two months if the military launches a new attack on his group near Indanan township on southern Jolo Island, said Sen. Richard Gordon, head of the Philippine Red Cross.

Mr. Gordon said he persuaded Parad by cell phone late Wednesday to promise to release a hostage if troops pull back from an Abu Sayyaf stronghold that has been surrounded by marines and armed village guards for weeks.

Military spokesman Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres said the safety of the International Committee of the Red Cross workers - Swiss Andreas Notter, Philippines native Mary Jean Lacaba and Italian Eugenio Vagni - “remains the paramount concern.”

INDIA

Father, mystic held in rape of daughters

MUMBAI | A businessman has been arrested on charges of raping his daughter for more than eight years, apparently on the advice of a Hindu mystic who said it would make him wealthy, police said Thursday.

Police also arrested the man’s wife, suspected of being an accomplice, and the mystic - a tantrik, or practitioner of the ancient Indian art of the occult - on charges that he raped the man’s other minor daughter, 15.

Police said the father, a 49-year-old car parts salesman from Mumbai’s outskirts, began raping his oldest daughter in 2000, when she was 14, after he ran into financial troubles.

The case became public after the younger daughter revealed the abuse to her grandmother and uncle, who filed a complaint Wednesday. The businessman and his wife, 49, were arrested Wednesday while the tantrik, Hansmukh Bhai Rathode, 54, was arrested Thursday, police said.

SINGAPORE

Journal editor held in contempt

SINGAPORE | A Singapore judge ruled a senior Wall Street Journal editor was in contempt of court Thursday for two editorials and a letter to the editor published last year about the city-state’s judiciary, the attorney general’s office said.

Prosecutors said that the editorials and letter questioned the independence of the judiciary from the ruling People’s Action Party and that they implied the country’s courts stifle dissent.

The high court previously had found the Journal in contempt of court in a November ruling on the three writings, and on Thursday it additionally found Melanie Kirkpatrick, deputy editor of the Journal’s editorial page, in contempt.

Justice Tay Yong Kwang fined Ms. Kirkpatrick 10,000 Singapore dollars ($6,549) and said she must pay the same amount in legal costs. The Journal’s publisher, Dow Jones & Co., “strongly disagrees with the court’s finding,” company spokesman and Vice President Robert Christie said in New York.

Journalist rights groups claim the Singapore government uses lawsuits to quash dissent. Singapore’s leaders have sued journalists and political opponents several times in recent years for purported defamation, winning damages against Bloomberg, the Economist and the International Herald Tribune.

THAILAND

Roadside bomb kills four rangers

PATTANI | A roadside bomb killed four paramilitary rangers on an intelligence-gathering operation in insurgency-beset southern Thailand, the army said Thursday.

The rangers were returning to their base in a pickup truck when the bomb detonated in Pattani, one of three southern provinces that have faced an Islamic insurgency since early 2004.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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