Archive for Thursday, June 17, 2004

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June 17, 2004

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Senegal

Terror suspect held hostage for ransom

The arrest in the Sahara Desert of a man believed to be one of North Africa's most-wanted terror suspects is snagged over a rebel group's demand for more money, an official close to the case said Wednesday.

Amari Saifi, an Algerian militant linked by Western officials to al-Qaida, is thought to be in the hands of a Chadian rebel group that captured him in March.

Diplomats said earlier that the rebels had contacted Algeria, France, Germany, the West African nation of Niger and the United States about handing over Saifi.

The official of a country involved in the case, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the rebels were holding out for the "highest bidder."

Saifi, the No. 2 of a violent armed Algerian Islamic extremist group, is wanted in the killing of 43 Algerian soldiers and the Sahara kidnapping of 32 European tourists, both last year.

India

Cease-fire offered to communist rebels

Authorities in the southern state of Andhra Pradesh announced a three-month cease-fire Wednesday in their campaign to crush communist rebels whose attacks have killed more than 6,000 people in two decades.

The People's War Group has demanded a six-month truce as a primary precondition for negotiations. The organization is one of the most powerful rebel groups in India after the Islamic militants fighting in the northern state of Jammu-kashmir. It was not clear whether the rebels had accepted the cease-fire offer.

Members of the PWG, which is active in five southern and eastern states of India, often attack rich landowners, saying they exploit landless farm workers.

They also target police, political leaders and administrative officials, accusing them of colluding with the landowners.

Washington, D.C.

King says Middle East accepting democracy

Jordan's King Abdullah said Wednesday that the Bush administration's push to promote democracy in the Middle East initially "frightened people" in the region, but now has unleashed a process that will be difficult to stop.

"The thing is, this is open debate that wasn't there three or four months ago," Abdullah said in an interview. "Once you open that door, it is very hard to shut it. So countries that are resistant to it are now having to look at the issues of reform."

Abdullah, who met with President Bush on Tuesday at the White House, offered an upbeat assessment of the administration's democracy initiative one week after it was embraced somewhat reluctantly by other nations that attended the Group of Eight summit on Sea Island, Ga. With the U.S. occupation of Iraq and its strong backing of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, the initiative was originally greeted with disdain.

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