- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 24, 2009

AFGHANISTAN

Troops make drug seizures

KABUL | International and Afghan forces have killed 60 militants and seized 102 tons of opium poppy seeds, drugs and chemicals during a four-day operation in southern Afghanistan, the U.S. military said Saturday.

It was one of the biggest drug seizures by foreign troops in Afghanistan since their arrival in 2001, the military said.

The attack “severely disrupted one of the key militant and criminal operations and narcotics hubs in southern Afghanistan,” the military said.

The forces seized 83 tons of poppy seeds, along with tar opium, processed morphine, processed heroin and hashish, it said. They also captured hundreds of gallons of chemicals used to process heroin.

The military said it was its final tally of deaths and seizures in the fighting that started May 19 in the city of Marjah in Helmand province.

KUWAIT

U.S. soldiers found with flu

KUWAIT CITY | U.S. soldiers have been confirmed as the first cases in Kuwait with the new H1N1 flu, the state-run Kuwait News Agency said Saturday, quoting a government official.

The virus was detected in an unspecified number of soldiers on their way through Kuwait. Some were quarantined in their base for treatment, and some had left the country.

Kuwait is a logistics base for the U.S. Army in support of its troops in Iraq.

SOMALIA

Fighting kills 3 in Mogadishu

MOGADISHU | Heavy shelling and gunfire in Mogadishu killed three people and wounded about 30 Saturday in a battle between government and rebel forces for Somalia’s capital, witnesses said.

It was the second day of an offensive by the U.N.-backed government trying to regain neighborhoods won by the Islamic insurgents in recent weeks.

Residents said two men and a woman were killed in Saturday’s bombardment in southern areas of Mogadishu. A coordinator with African Life-line and Nation Link Ambulance service said around 30 people were wounded by the shelling and six others by gunfire.

The presidential palace also was hit by two mortars, said presidential guard Mohammed Abdi Ali, but no one was injured there. A human rights group said 53 people were killed in the capital on Friday and 181 were wounded.

EGYPT

Prominent dissident burned in attack

CAIRO | A prominent Egyptian dissident said Saturday he was attacked by an assailant on a motorcycle who ignited a flammable substance in his face, leaving his head burned.

Ayman Nour, one of the few liberal campaigners for democracy in Egypt, spent nearly four years in prison after challenging the country’s longtime president, Hosni Mubarak, in a 2005 election. He said after his release in February that he would continue his campaign for democracy.

Mr. Nour accused elements within Mr. Mubarak’s ruling party of being behind the attack on him, which occurred Friday night.

“This [attack] is wrong. This is the wrong message, for the wrong reason at the wrong time,” he said.

Mr. Nour said he was leaving his house Friday night in an upscale neighborhood in Cairo when a young man on a motorcycle called his name. When Mr. Nour looked toward the biker, a flame of about 5 feet shot toward him.

“The fire caught my hair, leaving 20 percent of it burned. My forehead and the left side of my face are burned. My clothes caught fire,” he said in a telephone interview, refusing to meet face to face with reporters because he said he felt embarrassed.

The attack came a day after he pledged to supporters that he would run again for president in 2011 if his political party nominates him. It also came soon after Mr. Nour petitioned Mr. Mubarak, 81, to remove restrictions on his political and civic rights and criticized a major committee in the ruling party headed by Mr. Mubarak’s son, who is said to be positioned to succeed his father.

The attack against Mr. Nour comes two weeks before President Obama visits Egypt, where he is expected to address the Muslim world in a speech.

CHINA

Passer-by pushes suicide jumper

BEIJING | Chen Fuchao, a man heavily in debt, had been contemplating suicide on a bridge in southern China for hours when a passer-by came up, shook his hand - and pushed him off the ledge.

Mr. Chen fell 26 feet onto a partially inflated emergency air cushion laid out by authorities and survived, suffering spine and elbow injuries, the official Xinhua news agency said Saturday.

The passer-by, 66-year-old Lai Jiansheng, had been fed up with what he called Mr. Chen’s “selfish activity,” Xinhua said. Traffic around the Haizhu bridge in the city of Guangzhou had been backed up for five hours, and police had cordoned off the area.

Xinhua said Mr. Lai was “taken away by police” but did not elaborate.

According to Xinhua, Mr. Chen wanted to kill himself because he had accrued $290,000 in debt from a failed construction project.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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