- - Thursday, February 23, 2012


U.S. woman stopped from leaving Egypt

CAIRO | An American woman banned from leaving Egypt as part of its crackdown on foreign-funded pro-democracy groups was stopped from boarding an international flight Thursday, Cairo airport officials said.

The officials said Mary Elizabeth Whitehead was trying to board a flight to Germany minutes before takeoff when airport security stopped her.

The spat over the nongovernmental groups has caused the deepest crisis in Washington’s relations with Cairo in decades, particularly after strong ties under Hosni Mubarak, whose nearly 30-year rule ended with his ouster last year.

According to the security officials, Ms. Whitehead was listed among seven Americans who are barred from travel by Egypt’s attorney general.

Some have sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. One of them is the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, who heads the International Republican Institute’s office in Egypt.

A U.S. official said, however, that Washington understands that Ms. Whitehead is not among the Americans under a travel ban, and that she also is not among those charged with wrongdoing. The official said the U.S. was speaking with Egyptian authorities to figure out why Ms. Whitehead was prevented from traveling.


Military chief links Boko Haram to al Qaeda

ABUJA | Nigeria’s top military chief said Thursday that the radical Islamist Boko Haram sect, which has been blamed for attacks that have killed hundreds of people, has ties to the al Qaeda terrorist network.

“We have been able to link the activities of the Boko Haram sect to the support and training the sect received from [Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb],” said Air Chief Marshal Oluseyi Petinrin.

It was the first such public comment by a top security official in Nigeria linking the group to al Qaeda.


Obama apologizes as Koran protests rage

KABUL | President Obama apologized to Afghans on Thursday for the burning of Korans at a U.S. military base, trying to assuage rising anti-American sentiment as an Afghan soldier gunned down two U.S. troops during another day of protests.

The U.S.-led military coalition said the Muslim holy books were sent by mistake to a garbage burn pit at Bagram Air Field and that the case is under investigation.

The explanation and multiple apologies from U.S. officials have not calmed outrage over the incident, which also has heightened tension between international troops and their Afghan partners.

Thousands of protesters, some shouting “Long live Islam” and “Death to America,” staged demonstrations across Afghanistan for a third day. Protesters climbed the walls of a U.S. base in the east, threw stones inside and adorned an outside wall with the Taliban’s trademark white flag.


Ex-Serb leader calls court a NATO puppet

THE HAGUE | Bosnian Serb military commander Ratko Mladic slammed the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal Thursday as a puppet of NATO, calling it “biased” against him and other Serbs.

Mladic is accused of masterminding Serb atrocities throughout the 1992-95 Bosnian War, which left an estimated 100,000 people dead.

Most of the killings are blamed on Serb soldiers and paramilitaries under his command.

He denies 11 charges, including two counts of genocide. His trial is scheduled to start May 14.


Police arrest Palestinians over clash at holy site

JERUSALEM | Israeli police arrested seven Palestinians on Thursday after confrontations with Jewish visitors at the Old City compound that houses the Al-Aqsa mosque in Jerusalem.

“A group of Jewish visitors were at the Temple Mount and were targeted by shouts and insults by Palestinians,” police spokeswoman Luba Samri said.

The walled compound, known to Muslims as Haram al-Sharif, is home to the third-holiest site in Islam.

The plaza also is venerated by Jews as the Temple Mount, the site where King Herod’s temple stood before it was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70.


Human rights group hits election investigation

ABIDJAN | Ivory Coast’s investigation into last year’s postelection violence appears to be hasty, one-sided and politically compromised, a human rights group said Thursday.

Human Rights Watch said the independent commission’s 17 members are all under the control of the government and the investigation into crimes committed appears rushed, having taken less than two months to complete.

The United Nations estimates that at least 3,000 people were killed after the 2010 presidential election in Ivory Coast.

For the first three months of the conflict, the perpetrators were overwhelmingly from the regime of former President Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to cede power after losing the vote. Once he was forced from power, troops allied with the government now in office carried out a wave of reprisal killings.

President Alassane Ouattara has promised to investigate the killings by both sides.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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