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Archive for Tuesday, September 23, 2003

Briefly

September 23, 2003

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Pakistan

Terror chief's brother arrested in school raid

Pakistani police captured the younger brother of Hambali, Osama bin Laden's point man for Southeast Asia, in an arrest that may help unravel a tangled web of links between al-Qaida and the Jemaah Islamiyah terror group blamed for the deadly Bali bombings.

Rusman Gunawan, an Indonesian, was among 17 students detained Saturday in raids on three Islamic schools in the southern city of Karachi.

Hambali, 39, whose real name is Riduan Isamuddin, was Southeast Asia's most wanted man until he was arrested Aug. 11 in Thailand.

Southeast Asian security officials accuse Hambali of planning the bombings last October in the Indonesian resort island of Bali; the Bali blasts killed 202 people, mostly Western tourists. He is also accused of planning the Aug. 5 bombing of a hotel in Jakarta, in which 12 died.

Hambali is said to have trained under bin Laden in Afghanistan in the 1990s. In Southeast Asia, he is seen foremost as the militant who brought al-Qaida-style attacks to the region.

Belgium

Dutch foreign minister chosen to lead NATO

NATO selected Dutch Foreign Minister Jaap de Hoop Scheffer as the alliance's new secretary general Monday in Brussels, picking a diplomat-turned-politician to help ease tensions between the United States and key European allies over the Iraq war.

After a nine-month search, ambassadors from the 19 NATO nations agreed on De Hoop Scheffer to replace Britain's Lord Robertson, whose four-year term ends on Jan. 1.

De Hoop Scheffer, 55, showed his diplomatic skills earlier this year during the debate over Iraq as his government supported the U.S.-led war but avoided antagonizing France, Germany and other European opponents of the effort to oust Saddam Hussein.

Iran

Ministry agent charged in journalist's death

An agent for Iran's Intelligence Ministry was charged with murder Monday in the death of an Iranian-Canadian photojournalist from injuries she received while in custody.

This appears to be a compromise clearing Iran's government of any wrongdoing and blaming an individual agent of acting alone. However, Canada's foreign minister has said government agents would not act without orders from above.

The Tehran prosecutor's office said a judge investigating the case charged the intelligence agent with "semi premeditated murder." There was no immediate explanation of the charge.

Zahra Kazemi, 54, a Canadian of Iranian origin, was detained in June for taking photos outside a Tehran prison during student-led protests. After 77 hours of interrogation, she was rushed to a hospital's intensive care unit, where she died 14 days later.

Colombia

Downed U.S. plane hit by ground fire

A U.S. government plane that crashed over the weekend, killing the pilot, while on an anti-drug mission was apparently shot down, a spokesman for a U.S. company said Monday.

The U.S. State Department has sent a statement to DynCorp, a U.S. government contractor, saying "preliminary information indicates the aircraft was struck by hostile ground fire," company spokesman Chuck Wilkins said in a telephone interview.

The pilot, a Costa Rican citizen named Mario Alvarado, was killed in Sunday's crash of the OV-10 plane in northeast Colombia, Wilkins said. DynCorp, based in Reston, Va., is contracted by the State Department to fumigate cocaine-producing crops in Colombia using State Department aircraft.

Alvarado was the sixth U.S. government contractor to be killed in Colombia this year.

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