- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 25, 2010


113 al Qaeda suspects held, attacks foiled

RIYADH | Saudi Arabia said Wednesday it has foiled several planned attacks on oil installations with the arrests of 113 suspected al Qaeda militants in a months-long sweep.

Many of the suspects had come to Saudi Arabia on visas to visit holy sites or by sneaking across its borders, but wanted to join and organize attacks with al Qaeda, the Interior Ministry said.

Saudi Arabia has aggressively pursued militants since a series of attacks inside the country that began in May 2003. The arrests were the first to be announced since August, when Saudi authorities said they had rounded up 44 al Qaeda-linked militants in a yearlong sweep.

The ministry statement said the arrests were carried out over a period of five months. Those detained included 47 Saudis, 51 Yemenis, a Somali, an Eritrean and a Bangladeshi, the announcement said.

Separately, authorities arrested 12 people from two al Qaeda cells originating across the border in Yemen, where a local branch of the terrorist network has established a significant base of operations over the past year. Those two cells were also in the preliminary stages of planning attacks on oil facilities, the ministry said.


U.S. asked to share terrorist bank data

BRUSSELS | The European Union said Wednesday that it will ask the United States to pass on information about U.S. bank transfers if the EU sets up a system of tracking suspected terrorists’ finances.

The new measure would be part of a deal allowing the U.S. to check European data for terrorist leads. It would require the U.S. to pass to European investigators information on all transfers into or out of U.S. bank accounts. The European investigators could then sift the information for leads considered valuable in terrorism investigations.

The EU and the U.S. are currently negotiating to restart a data-sharing program that the United States says provides an important source of information for terrorism investigators in the U.S. and Europe.

The EU’s executive body was forced to redraft the deal after the European Parliament rejected it last month, saying they wanted more safeguards for civil liberties over fears that human rights have been compromised in the name of security.


Five soldiers killed at checkpoint

BAGHDAD | Five Iraqi soldiers were shot execution-style at a checkpoint near Baghdad, authorities said Wednesday, in the latest sign of rising tensions as Iraq prepares to release the results of the March 7 election.

The Iraqi army surrounded the town of Radwaniya west of Baghdad, where the attack occurred late Tuesday. Troops limited access as they searched for the gunmen, officials said.

Violence has dropped sharply over the past two years, but authorities have reported a rash of attacks since a parliamentary election Iraqis hoped would help stabilize the country. The Independent High Electoral Commission is scheduled to release a preliminary 100 percent vote count on Friday.


23 militants killed in northwest

PARACHINAR | Pakistani security forces backed by jets pounded militant hide-outs near the Afghan border Wednesday, killing 23 suspected Islamist insurgents, a government official said.

Pakistan’s military has launched a series of offensives in the border region over the past 18 months following intense U.S. pressure. The region is home to many militants battling American troops in Afghanistan.

Security forces used ground forces and fighter jets during operations in the Orakzai tribal region Wednesday and cleared out three militant strongholds, a local government official said.

Orakzai is the base of Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud, who officials believe was killed in a U.S. missile strike early this year.


Posters to honor Stalin on Victory Day

MOSCOW | Posters of Josef Stalin may be put up in Moscow for the first time in decades as part of the May 9 observance of Victory Day — the annual celebration of the defeat of Nazi Germany.

This year, the 65th anniversary of Germany’s defeat, a contingent of U.S. troops is expected to march on Red Square, a striking sign of vaunted “reset” of American-Russian relations.

But Moscow city authorities may be preparing a less-welcome kind of reset with the posters, an honor denied since the Soviet dictator’s crimes were publicly exposed more than half-a-century ago.

The poster proposal for Victory Day, Russia’s most emotionally charged secular holiday, has raised a storm of controversy in state-controlled media and once again opened the never-healed wound of Russia’s Soviet past.


Police ban gay conference

JAKARTA | Indonesian police ordered the cancellation Wednesday of a conference of Asian gay activists, saying it could prompt violent protests by conservative Muslim groups.

The conference, organized by the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association, or ILGA, was due to take place this weekend with participants from 16 countries.

The ban was issued by police in Surabaya, East Java’s capital, where the three-day event was to be held, national police spokesman Brig. Gen. Sulistyo Ishak said.

The decision was made after considering public objections by Muslim groups and the Indonesian Ulema Council, an influential board of Muslim clerics, he said.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Indonesia, but remains a sensitive issue in the socially conservative, Muslim-majority nation.

Regional ILGA conferences have been held in India, the Philippines and Thailand in the past.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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