- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 11, 2010


Blackwater guards ordered to leave

BAGHDAD | Iraq has ordered hundreds of private security guards linked to Blackwater Worldwide to leave the country within seven days or face possible arrest on visa violations, the interior minister said Wednesday.

The order comes in the wake of a U.S. judge dismissing criminal charges against five Blackwater guards who were accused in the September 2007 shooting deaths of 17 Iraqis in Baghdad.

It applies to about 250 security contractors who worked for Blackwater in Iraq at the time of the incident, Interior Minister Jawad al-Bolani told the Associated Press. He said all “concerned parties” were notified of the order three days ago and now have four days left before they must leave.

Based in Moyock, N.C., Blackwater changed its name to Xe Services after six of its guards were charged in the shootout. One of the accused guards pleaded guilty in the case, but a federal judge in Washington threw out charges against the other five in December, rapping the Justice Department for mishandling the evidence.

Meanwhile, attackers bombed a frequently targeted oil pipeline north of Baghdad, slowing production at a refinery in the capital by half, Iraq’s oil ministry said. There were no injuries in Tuesday night’s bombing in Rashidiya.


Israeli soldier stabbed to death

JERUSALEM | A knife-wielding Palestinian police officer killed an Israeli soldier Wednesday as he sat in a jeep stopped at a traffic light in the West Bank, the military said, in a rare case of violence recently in the territory.

The attacker reached through the window and stabbed the soldier in the chest, the military said. The wounded soldier, who was alone in the vehicle, tried to drive away, but lost consciousness and the jeep spun out of control and flipped over.

The military identified the suspect as Mahmoud al-Khattib, a Palestinian police officer. He tried to flee after the attack, but a private Israeli security officer hit the suspect with his car, subduing him until police arrived. The dead soldier was identified as Staff Sgt. Ihab Khatib, an Israeli Arab from the Galilee region.

Neighbors said al-Khattib is a 27-year-old with ties to Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah group.


Al Qaeda backers held in West Bank, Gaza

RAMALLAH | Palestinian security forces detained six radical Islamists with explosives in the West Bank in the first known arrests of al Qaeda-inspired militants in the territory, a senior Palestinian officer said.

In the Gaza Strip, controlled by a separate, Hamas-run administration, the authorities announced the arrest of a leader of a pro-al Qaeda group, the latest sign of a crackdown on radicals accused of bombing security offices and Internet cafes.

The six men arrested in the West Bank, occupied by Israel since 1967, had been found in possession of explosives, Brig. Gen. Ibrahim Ramadan of the Western-backed Palestinian Authority said Wednesday.

Several groups with a similar vision of Islam have emerged in the Gaza Strip since Hamas seized control there in 2007.


State TV network fined over deadly fire

BEIJING | Seventy-one people have been found responsible for a deadly fire last year triggered by an illegal fireworks display at the new headquarters of China’s powerful state broadcaster, including 44 who face criminal charges, state media reported Wednesday.

China’s Cabinet also ordered CCTV to pay a $440,000 fine for the Feb. 9, 2009, blaze that killed one firefighter, the official Xinhua News Agency reported. Six firefighters and two construction workers were injured.

CCTV arranged and paid for the unlicensed fireworks display at its complex in downtown Beijing to mark the end of the Lunar New Year festival. The fire engulfed a 520-foot, 44-story building that was to house a luxury Mandarin Oriental Hotel and was just weeks away from opening.


Political activists clash during protests

COLOMBO | Sri Lankan government supporters hurled stones at thousands of opposition activists and police fired tear gas and water cannons as a mass protest over the arrest of defeated presidential candidate Sarath Fonseka sparked unrest.

The clash was the first salvo in what promises to be a bruising pre-election period leading up to a parliamentary election on April 8. It follows an acrimonious presidential election, in which President Mahinda Rajapaksa recently secured a landslide victory over former army chief Mr. Fonseka.

Clashes began outside the country’s Supreme Court, where opposition supporters gathered to protest the arrest of Mr. Fonseka, who was taken into custody by military police Monday on sedition charges.


Soldier detained in Kashmir teen’s death

SRINAGAR | A soldier suspected of involvement in the shooting death of a teenager in Indian-controlled Kashmir was detained after the killing triggered massive anti-India protests across the region, an official said Wednesday. The victim’s father, however, said the soldier had been made a scapegoat.

Police officer Farooq Ahmed said the Border Security Force handed over one of its soldiers, Lakhvinder Kumar, to police after internal inquiries found he may have been involved in Friday’s death.

Border Security Force official P.P.S. Sidhu told reporters the internal probe found the “possibility of Lakhvinder being involved” in the shooting death of 17-year-old Zahid Farooq. “The soldier has been suspended,” he said.


Bodies airlifted, avalanche toll 166

KABUL | Helicopters ferried rescuers to and bodies away from the site of massive avalanches that blocked an important mountain pass north of Kabul as the death toll soared Wednesday to 166, officials said. Hundreds more remained trapped in snowbound cars.

Afghan army troops dug through huge snowdrifts trying to rescue people from buried vehicles in the Salang Pass, a key road that connects the Afghan capital with the north.

The 3 1/2 miles of road that were subsumed in the avalanches have been cleared of snow, but are littered with abandoned or snow-packed cars that still make much of it impassable, said the public works minister, Suharab Ali Safari.

Interior Ministry spokesman Zemeri Bashary said rescuers have recovered 166 bodies from the Salang Pass, 70 miles north of Kabul, over the past two days.

Some of the victims were found frozen to death inside their vehicles, while in other cases, their bodies were strewn along the road, he said.

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