- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 3, 2010

PAKISTAN

Taliban refuse to prove leader survived strike

MIR ALI | The Pakistani Taliban refused Tuesday to provide proof their leader survived a U.S. missile attack, just one day after promising to do just that. The reversal added to speculation that Hakimullah Mehsud was mortally wounded last month in a strike close to the Afghan border.

The backtracking came on a day in which U.S. drones launched an unusually intense attack in the northwest. The aircraft fired 17 missiles at houses, cars and bunkers in a region dominated by militants battling U.S. and NATO troops in Afghanistan, killing 14 insurgents, Pakistani intelligence officials said.

The late-night missile strikes were the latest in an intensified CIA-led campaign in Pakistan. The death of Mehsud, who commands the Pakistan branch of the Taliban, would be a major blow to an al Qaeda-allied movement blamed for scores of suicide bombings in this country and suspected in a deadly attack on the CIA late last year just across the border in Afghanistan.

There was speculation Tuesday that the group was stalling in announcing Mehsud’s death to give it time to determine a successor. A similar situation played out in August when Baitullah Mehsud was killed in a U.S. drone strike in South Waziristan. The Pakistani Taliban denied his death for almost three weeks, admitting it only after Hakimullah was chosen as his heir.

CHINA

U.S. senator presses tech firms on curbs

A Democratic senator said Tuesday he has asked 30 U.S. companies, including Apple, Facebook and Skype, for information on their human rights practices in China in the aftermath of Google’s decision to no longer cooperate with Chinese Internet censorship efforts.

“Google sets a strong example in standing up to the Chinese government’s continued failure to respect the fundamental human rights of free expression and privacy,” Sen. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois said. “I look forward to learning more about whether other American companies are willing to follow Google’s lead.”

Google, the world’s top Internet search engine, said last month it would not abide by Beijing-mandated censorship of its Chinese-language search engine and might quit the Chinese market entirely because of cyber attacks from China.

Mr. Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on human rights and the law, said his panel will hold a hearing in March to question Google and other U.S. companies on their business practices in countries that restrict Internet freedom.

Meanwhile, Democratic leaders of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China said they would hold a hearing on Feb. 10 to examine the impact of China’s Internet policies on humans and development of the commercial rule of law in China.

FRANCE

Trial begins in 2000 Concorde crash

PONTOISE | A long-awaited trial in the fiery crash of an Air France supersonic Concorde opened Tuesday, but attorneys for Continental Airlines — accused of responsibility in the accident that killed 113 people — urged the court to drop the proceedings.

Houston-headquartered Continental Airlines, Inc., two of its employees and three French aviation officials are accused of manslaughter in the case.

The court in Pontoise, north of Paris, must weigh who is responsible for the July 25, 2000, crash. The Concorde plunged into a hotel minutes after takeoff from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport, trailing flames and foreshadowing the end of the aircraft that embodied trans-Atlantic elegance.

Investigators say the crash was triggered by a metal strip on the runway that had fallen from a Continental DC-10 minutes beforehand, a claim the U.S. carrier rejects, saying investigators had failed to probe another lead.

BRITAIN

Lancet retracts autism study

LONDON | British medical journal the Lancet says it has retracted a flawed study linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism and bowel disease.

The Lancet published the controversial paper by Andrew Wakefield and colleagues in 1998. British parents abandoned the vaccine in droves, leading to a resurgence of measles. Subsequent studies found no proof the vaccine is connected to autism.

Ten of the study’s 13 authors renounced the study’s conclusions, and the Lancet has previously said it should never have published the research. “We fully retract this paper from the published record,” its editors said in a statement Tuesday.

Dr. Wakefield and two colleagues face being stripped of their right to practice medicine in Britain.

BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Police raid Wahhabi village

GORNJA MAOCA | A remote Bosnian village that is home to highly conservative Wahhabi Muslims was raided Tuesday by hundreds of police who said they were searching for an unspecified security threat.

The Office of the State Prosecutor said the raid in the northeastern village of Gornja Maoca was the largest police operation in Bosnia since the 1992-1995 war that killed tens of thousands and left millions homeless as Muslim Bosnians, Christian Orthodox Serbs and Roman Catholic Croats clashed.

Office spokesman Boris Grubesic said police detained seven people — six Bosnians and one foreigner whose nationality he did not reveal. He also said officers confiscated weapons, computers and DVDs.

The isolated village is home to ethnic Bosnian families belonging to the Wahhabi sect — an austere brand of Sunni Islam promoted by extremists, including the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda fighters. Some of the villagers had fought in Bosnia’s war.

LATVIA

Gitmo detainee to be transferred

RIGA | Latvia will accept a Central Asian detainee from the U.S. military prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, the Baltic state’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday.

President Obama had promised to close the prison at Guantanamo in his first year in office, but that deadline passed last month.

RUSSIA

Chechen leader sues opposition newspaper

MOSCOW | A Russian court opened a libel case Tuesday filed by Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov against an opposition newspaper he says damaged his reputation when it wrote he had murdered, tortured and harmed fellow countrymen.

The case follows Mr. Kadyrov’s victory in October 2009 when a Moscow court ordered Russian human rights group Memorial to retract its accusation that he had kidnapped and killed its activist Natalia Estemirova in July.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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