- - Wednesday, September 7, 2011


Danish family released by Somali pirates

COPENHAGEN | A Danish yachting family held hostage by Somali pirates for more than six months has been released and is returning home after enduring “the most horrible ordeal one can imagine,” government officials said.

Jan Quist Johansen, wife Birgit Marie and their three teenage children were captured along with two Danish crew members on Feb. 24 as their 43-foot yacht was seized by pirates in the Indian Ocean.

All seven “were released Tuesday and are doing well under the circumstances,” Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Charlotte Slente said. “They are in a plane on their way to Denmark.”

She declined to comment further on the circumstances of the release and wouldn’t say whether a ransom had been paid.

The Johansens, from Kalundborg, 75 miles west of Copenhagen, were on a round-the-world journey when they approached the pirate-infested waters off the Horn of Africa.

Their travel blog showed they were aware of the dangers, but didn’t expect to get into trouble, and were comforted by the sight of anti-piracy forces patrolling the vast area.


Military ruler summoned in Mubarak trial

CAIRO | The chief judge in the trial of ousted President Hosni Mubarak on Wednesday summoned high-profile witnesses, including Egypt’s military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, to testify.

Judge Ahmed Refaat said that Field Marshal Tantawi and other top officials, some of them still serving, would give their evidence behind closed doors for reasons of “national security.”

He said Field Marshal Tantawi would testify on Sunday followed by the chief of the general staff, Sami Anan, on Monday and the former intelligence chief and vice president, Gen. Omar Suleiman, on Tuesday.

Interior Minister Mansur al-Essawi and a predecessor, Mahmud Wagdi, will give evidence on Sept. 14 and 15, respectively, he added.

Journalists will not be allowed in the courtroom, said the judge, who also imposed a gag order on the star witnesses’ testimony.

The latest hearing was the fourth in the trial, which opened on Aug. 3, and unlike the first two sessions, the proceedings were again not televised.


Militants arrested in death of British woman

JERUSALEM | Israeli security forces have arrested Hamas militants accused in a bombing that killed a British woman and wounded dozens of civilians earlier this year, the country’s Shin Bet security service announced Wednesday.

The announcement said the militant accused of constructing the bomb, a 36-year-old Palestinian from the West Bank, was arrested along with a 23-year-old Palestinian from Jerusalem accused of planting it next to a busy bus stop in the city on March 23.

The bomb killed Mary Jean Gardner, a 59-year-old British tourist studying in Jerusalem, and injured two dozen others, including five Americans.

The man accused of planting the bomb was in possession of a second explosive device intended for use by a suicide bomber in an attack planned for Aug. 21, according to the Shin Bet statement.

The new bomb was seized a day before the planned attack and the would-be suicide bomber, a 20-year-old Palestinian from Hebron, was caught two days later.


Berlusconi’s government survives austerity vote

ROME | Italy’s Senate approved Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s disputed austerity package Wednesday, ending weeks of uncertainty that roiled financial markets unsure that the government was serious about cutting its deficit and avoiding becoming Europe’s next debt-crisis victim.

The upper chamber voted 165-141 with three abstentions to approve the package, which the government put to a confidence vote to ensure Mr. Berlusconi’s allies united behind him after weeks of bickering over details of the plan.

The proposal now goes to the lower Chamber of Deputies, where Mr. Berlusconi’s allies also maintain the majority.

The final package aims at reducing the country’s deficit by more than $70 billion over three years through budget cuts, tax increases and changes to the country’s costly pension system. Italy’s deficit to GDP ratio now stands at 120 percent, one of Europe’s highest.

Had the vote failed, Mr. Berlusconi would have been forced to resign.

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